The Junior League of Birmingham (JLB) is hosting several virtual Anti-Human Trafficking Awareness Month events statewide throughout January. Led by the initiatives of the JLB Anti-Human Trafficking Committee, the free, educational events seek to promote awareness of the prominent issue and debunk common myths surrounding it. Alabamians are invited to participate in the “Human Trafficking Awareness: What You Need to Know to Help End It” event series, which includes: Human Trafficking 101 (Jan. 7), Social Media Predators: What Parents Need to Know About Online Human Traffickers, presented by Bark (Jan. 19) and a panel discussion, Truckers Against Trafficking and the Junior League of Birmingham Present: Be the Voice to Help End Human Trafficking (Jan. 26). The JLB statewide initiatives have been rolled out in partnership with the Junior League of Anniston-Calhoun, the Junior League of Mobile, the Junior League of Montgomery and the Junior League of the Shoals. All events are also presented in partnership with Regions.
Tasked with addressing ways to prevent and provide education around the critical issue of human trafficking in the Birmingham community, the JLB’s Anti-Human Trafficking Committee focuses on bringing awareness and encouraging engagement from three different sectors: the community at large, area college students and the legal and judicial community.
“Human trafficking is largely successful because of community apathy and denial of its existence,” said Julia Meyers, chair of the JLB’s Anti-Human Trafficking Committee. “That doesn’t mean it isn’t happening right under our noses - and on an enormous scale. With I-20 and I-65 as both major human trafficking corridors running through the Birmingham-metro area, this issue should hit home with those that live, work and play in or near Birmingham.”
Currently listed as the second-largest, fastest-growing enterprise in the world, human trafficking cases have been reported in every state in the United States, including Alabama. The Department of Homeland Security estimates the commercial sex industry generates $110 million each year in the Birmingham-metro area. This does not include illegal activity that occurs in massage parlors or strip clubs, nor does it include child trafficking estimates as that is more difficult to quantify.
From the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking (USIAT), 90 percent or more people that are prostituted people are actually being trafficked. Advocates of human trafficking believe it to be higher than that in Alabama.
“Ending human trafficking will require working together on a state and communitywide response, and The Junior League of Birmingham is committed to bringing awareness to this issue in any and every way possible,” said Toni Leeth, JLB president.
The various virtual informational events held by the JLB throughout January include:
Human Trafficking 101 - Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
Human Trafficking 101 features speakers Jessie Keating Hardy and Ellie Friedman, two JLB members serving on the Anti-Human Trafficking Committee who are attorneys in Birmingham. This virtual event seeks to begin proactive conversations and answer questions on how to combat trafficking. Topics will focus on how the sex trafficking business operates, how traffickers recruit and subjugate young women and children and what you can do to help put an end to this modern form of slavery.
Social Media Predators: What Parents Need to Know About Online Human Traffickers, presented by Bark - Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021 from noon to 1 p.m.
The JLB’s Internet Safety Training will feature Renee Abrams, the School Safety Manager from Bark, a parental control phone monitoring app designed to help keep kids safer online. Through her experience helping schools identify digital safety and implementing Bark safety solutions, Abrams will discuss the dangers of social media with trafficking and how parents can monitor their children’s online activity and protect them from online predators and human traffickers.
Truckers Against Trafficking and the Junior League of Birmingham Present: Be the Voice to Help End Human Trafficking - Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021 from noon to 1 p.m.
This panel provides the opportunity to hear from those who have witnessed trafficking first hand - including a trafficking survivor. Panel topics will focus on how everyone can be a part of the solution to this multi-billion dollar crime operation. Panelists for this event include Lt. Darren Beams of the Tuscaloosa Police Department and West Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force; Audrey Jordan, Assistant Attorney General for the State of Alabama; Dixie Shannon, Survivor and Certified Recovery Support Specialist; Julia Meyers, JLB Anti-Human Trafficking Committee Chair; and Susan Dold with Truckers Against Trafficking.
Throughout the past four years, the JLB’s leadership in this arena has helped reach thousands across the state to bring a greater understanding of this public crisis and to empower communities and organizations to action. Because of these efforts by the League, 34 area mayors have signed awareness proclamations which led to seven area municipalities declaring themselves as TraffickingFree Zones in 2020; Birmingham International Airport signage was installed into every bathroom stall across the airport; and multiple awareness events and trainings have been held reaching over 1,200 people. Partnering with other entities across the state, the League supported 2019's legislative efforts, including HB 261 that now requires all commercial drivers to take a human trafficking awareness class in order to obtain a license.
Most recently, the cities of Vestavia Hills and Trussville renewed their declarations as TraffickingFree Zones and also approved Human Trafficking Awareness Month Proclamations for January along with the cities of Alabaster, Chelsea, Bay Minette, Beatrice, Brent, Geraldine and Vincent. Others will take place in Hoover (Jan. 4), Gardendale (Jan. 5), Mulga (Jan. 5), Northport (Jan. 5), Mountain Brook (Jan. 11) and Birmingham (Date TBD). The League partners locally with the Child Trafficking Solutions Project to implement USIAHT’s TraffickingFree Zone status, as well as End It Alabama on a statewide level to encourage all municipalities to declare January as “Human Trafficking Awareness Month,” which has been proven to open the door for future training opportunities in those communities.
Additionally, with Human Trafficking Awareness Day taking place Jan. 11, the JLB will work with the Birmingham City Hall to further promote its Anti-Human Trafficking efforts.
The JLB Anti-Human Trafficking committee will take its expertise further into the state when it attends the END IT Alabama Summit Jan. 28-29. The JLB will collaborate with existing agencies in the upcoming year to put an end to human trafficking. A project of the Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force, END IT Alabama works to combat all aspects of human trafficking, including sex trafficking and labor trafficking, coordinate strategies to provide comprehensive response services for victims, focus on prevention efforts to end the demand for it and create awareness through education and community initiatives, and develop legislation to prevent, intervene and treat human trafficking.
The JLB also offers Anti-Human Trafficking training materials and education programs to the community at large, other Junior League organizations and college campuses throughout the nation.
The Anti-Human Trafficking program is one of the JLB’s 40 community projects addressing some of Birmingham’s most critical issues. For more than 98 years, the JLB has been a positive force for change in Jefferson County with its 2,200 trained volunteers collectively donating more than 55,000 hours of direct community service each year.
About The Junior League of Birmingham
The Junior League of Birmingham is an organization of 2,200 women committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women and improving the community through the effective leadership of trained volunteers. Its purpose is exclusively educational and charitable. As one of the largest volunteer service organizations in Alabama, the JLB has over 2,000 volunteers who contribute more than 50,000 hours of service annually.