Following in the footsteps of author Olivia A. Cole’s brilliant Women of Wednesday series, our own ongoing “An Extraordinary Impact” features people of color responsible for creating an extraordinary impact within their communities. By providing them with a platform to share their accomplishments, goals, and message, we hope to not only celebrate their achievements, but to galvanize support for their endeavors.
Victoria Pannell, Harlem
1. So what is it you’re doing and why are you so passionate about it?
I’m an advocate against human trafficking with a special emphasis on child sex trafficking. How do we have more slaves now, in the year 2017, than at any other time in history? I can’t go to bed in a safe and comfortable surrounding knowing little girls and boys are being kidnapped, sold, and raped over and over, day and night. How can we not be outraged when convicted traffickers get more time for selling drugs and weapons than children?
2. What made you decide to pursue doing this work?
At the age of 12, I filmed a public service announcement about a 13-year- old victim of human trafficking, then I went to Washington, DC to visit the girl I portrayed in the ad. She already had a baby. This was a child trafficked and raped as many as 10 times per day and impregnated before even becoming a teenager. I decided the day I met her that I would spend my life fighting human trafficking.
3. Who have been some of your biggest influences and inspirations?
When it comes to fighting human trafficking, it is Vincent Lyn, a rescuer of trafficked children. I’m inspired by our former first lady Michelle Obama and influenced in my activism by Linda Sarsour. Mrs. Sarsour is passionate in the causes she advocates for despite the brutal attacks she faces daily.
4. What would it take for you to consider this endeavor a success?
Although awareness about trafficking has increased, so has the number of human traffickers selling our children. I know I have been successful in my fight against trafficking when legislation is passed where traffickers receive life sentencing upon conviction and lose all present and future assets.
My mother and I prepared five bills and presented them to the office of Congressman Adriano Espaillat. If any of those bills pass into legislation then I will feel a sense of accomplishment and success. But right now, I don’t feel anything but frustration mixed with the determination to at least keep trying to put a huge dent in child sex trafficking.
5. How can interested parties support what you’re doing?
Stay on their politicians to support tough laws against traffickers. If you suspect a child is being trafficked, report it right away. If you know someone who is selling or buying children, then report it. In the next five years, I want to build a home for survivors of trafficking. When I start collecting funds to make that dream a reality….donate!!
To keep up with Victoria’s fight against child-sex trafficking, follow her on Twitter at @VictoriaPannell.
Are you making “An Extraordinary Impact” on your community and want to be featured in a future installment? Shoot us an email with your answers to the above questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.