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NAJEE’S NOTES: Human trafficking summit shines light on ugly topic

Last week I had the pleasure to accept an invitation to attend the Human Trafficking Summit sponsored by Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office held at Los Angeles Trade Technical College.

I decided to accept this invitation because the lead organizer was Kimberley Baker Guillemet, manager of the Office of Re-entry at City Hall. Guillemet and her team do great work on behalf of the city.

It’s not sexy, glamorous or controversial so it doesn’t get headlines or attention. I found it to be a first-class event that gave light to an uncomfortable subject that we don’t want to discuss in our community. I guess it’s easier to just ignore or look at with disgust and contempt the young women who sell their bodies for money along the Western, Broadway and Figueroa corridors of South L.A. and in the San Fernando Valley.

This summit helped increase awareness around human sex trafficking as well as improving our region’s response to the issue. It also included multi-disciplinary panels, tools to identify, address and heal after sexual trauma.

The highlight of the summit for me was the personal and emotional testimony of Rachel Thomas, who is a survivor of sex trafficking. Her story of survival in the streets and what she lived through had me in tears.

She is now a wife, mother, and graduate of UCLA. Guest speakers who also gave outstanding presentations included U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, state Sen. Holly Mitchell, City Councilwoman Nury Martinez and City Councilman Curren Price.

I’m not big on politicians. I’d rather protest them than praise them. But the elected officials I just mentioned are always in the trenches and do a great job for the people.

Martinez, who I don’t know that well, has made human trafficking a key issue in her office. She has been at the forefront of this issue in the Valley and has a bright political future. She could become mayor one day if her leadership and name becomes more known citywide.

Black Lives Matter L.A. is at it again. I said that I wasn’t going to give them any more publicity, but they can’t help themselves. The latest controversy they have created was this week at the City Hall celebration of African-American Heritage Month.

Matt Johnson, president of the Police Commission, was being honored for his many years of public service by “Our Authors Study Club” one of South Los Angeles’ most respected and cherished community groups.

Why Black Lives Matter would choose to disrupt and interrupt a Black History Month celebration is mind boggling. Not only was it just stupid, it was disrespectful to members of the black community and guests who were there to enjoy themselves.

Black Lives Matter L.A. has an attitude that they can walk around and do and say what they want. They don’t have the support of black leadership, the community or it’s elected officials.

Not one politician has ever signed on to support any of their ridiculous demands. No one in the faith community is ever going to forget what happened a couple of years ago, when they disrupted Mayor Garcetti’s South L.A. town hall meeting and disrespected and threatened Pastor Kelvin Sauls of Holman United Methodist Church with violence in his own sanctuary.

And now you have Black Lives Matter disrupting a black event put on by community members, most of them elderly. If you don’t have black elected leadership, faith leaders, and community members supporting you, who are you really leading?

Johnson, who has already taken out a restraining order against a Black Lives Matter member that is waiting to be heard by the court, now has to continue to worry about his family’s safety.

At the Jan. 31 Police Commission meeting a member of Black Lives Matter reportedly told Johnson “we know where you and your kids live.” That sounded like another threat to everyone who heard it.

That’s using the politics of fear and intimidation as you continue crossing the line. I know if we lose Johnson, who is a volunteer commissioner, it will be a major loss for this city. He could easily resign like former Commissioner Paula Madison. She got tired of the Black Lives Matter nonsense every Tuesday at the police commission meetings and wanted to spend her days in peace, relaxation and other public service.

No one should have to be in fear of the family  safety from BLM activists. Unfortunately, that’s what Johnson continues to go through and it’s not fair.

Anyone who knows me realizes that if Johnson wasn’t doing his job, I would go after him first. If you think I’m joking, check with Jackie Lacey’s’ office and see how I have treated her, because I, along with many other leaders, feel that she has betrayed the trust of our city.

From my vantage point, when the police murder someone unjustly, the National Action Network, for which I am the Los Angeles political director, is at the forefront challenging the police and holding them accountable. This includes our allies, the traditional civil rights groups and activists like the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, NAACP, Project Islamic Hope and others.

There hasn’t been one police shooting or police beating of anyone in South L.A. which we haven’t addressed in my 20-plus years of activism.

But, when an African-American murders another in our community, we’re also at the forefront of those issues, as well, with our allies in the gang intervention and peace movement, aiding and consoling grieving family members, holding vigils, peace marches and whatever else we can do to help bring peace to our hood.

That’s what separates us from Black Lives Matter L.A., which only shows up when a white cop kills a black person in a controversial shooting — which, on average is every few years at best.

Black Lives Matter is one dimensional and won’t be respected or taken seriously in the community if all they do is beg politicians for meetings, by protesting outside their homes, and ignoring the murders of black people in the community by other black people. Black Lives Matter won’t be taken seriously until they realize all black lives matter, no matter who the killer is.

It’s award season in Hollywood, and I want to take the time to mention and thank the NAACP Image Awards for always putting on a first-class show. This year I expect the show will be even better with Reginald Hudlin and Phil Gurin returning as the executive producers.

It was announced this week that Taraji P. Henson, Sterling K. Brown, Octavia Spencer, Trevor Noah, Janelle Monae and Issa Rae are the first group of talent scheduled to present at the 48th NAACP Image Awards.

The all-star celebration will be hosted by Anthony Anderson and will broadcast live from the Pasadena Civic Auditorium from 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 11 on TV One. A 90-minute pre-show will air from the red carpet from 4:30 to 6 p.m.  LeBron James will be presented with the NAACP Jackie Robinson Sports Award, and Harvard Law professor Charles J. Ogletree Jr. will be honored with the NAACP Chairman’s Award.

The NAACP Image Awards celebrate the accomplishment of people of color in the fields of television, music, literature and film and honors individuals or groups who promote social justice through creative endeavors. Winners were voted upon by NAACP members and will be announced when the envelopes are opened live on stage during the two-hour star-studded TV One telecast on Feb. 11.

Najee Ali

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