Mr. Speaker, when the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan sailed westward past South America, he was struck by the serenity of the waters that lay before him. He then proclaimed this body of water Pacfíco, meaning ‘‘peaceful.’’
This Pacific Ocean was thus a fitting backdrop for a meeting of a group of people attempting to bring peace into the lives of those affected by human trafficking.
Last month, the Human Trafficking Radar Research and Data Roundtable hosted their annual Human Trafficking Research Conference. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean from their venue in Point Loma, California, individuals committed to ending human trafficking gathered to discuss and share important research and ideas.
The featured speakers of the conference included accomplished academics and professionals, leaders in their fields to combat human trafficking. Two of the speakers, however, delivered a strong message by their mere presence together at the conference.
Ebony Jones suffered sexual abuse as a young girl. Soon after her eighteenth birthday, she found herself a victim of modern day slavery. Since escaping her trafficker, she has become a strong advocate for victims of human trafficking. Motivated by her own personal experience, Jones has worked to spread her message, people outside of low-income backgrounds are not immune to exploitation by traffickers.
Armand King once spent time behind bars for his life of crime, trafficking young women. But now, he’s left his former life behind him. Armand is co-founder of Paving Great Futures, an organization that strives to drive at- risk individuals from a life of crime to opportunities of legitimate, respectable professions. King says he was lucky to be alive, and he relishes the opportunity to provide a unique and important perspective on human trafficking at the conference.
Together, near the very spot where the first Europeans landed in California several hundred years ago, Armand and Ebony urged the conference to pursue a new beginning: a world without human trafficking.
Mr. Speaker, America needs more individuals like Ebony Jones and Armand King coming together to discuss ways in which we can reduce or eliminate human trafficking altogether. This scourge on humanity traumatizes the lives of thousands of people around the world, and their perspectives and support are a valuable asset as we continue the fight against this heinous crime.
Above all, Armand and Ebony strive to bring to the world what Magellan saw in those serene waters all those years ago: peace.
And that’s just the way it is.