On Friday, April 28, 2023, Oakland-based organization S.H.A.D.E (Survivors Healing, Advising and Dedicated to Empowerment) hosted their 11th Annual Stop the P.I.M.P (Prostituting Innocent Minors for Profit) event. The event is a youth open mic for 13-25 year-olds. The evening showcased poets, musicians, and community resource organizations in Oakland and the larger the Bay Area.
S.H.A.D.E was founded as a survivors-led anti-human trafficking organization. The organization provides consulting, training, programming, and more to the community.
“This event is about bringing the issue to the young people and making sure they are educated about it so they can go and share with their peers,” S.H.A.D.E Founder and Executive Director Sarai T Smith-Mazariegos told Oakland Voices. “In reality, they use different language for the issue and we use different language. It’s about connecting the dots and creating a safe space for them to celebrate themselves and celebrate their talents, but also learn about the issue.”
This year was the first time S.H.A.D.E was able to host the event since 2019. Event organizer and youth advocate of S.H.A.D.E, Venus Morris, shared her reflections on being able to curate the space for the community. “I’ve been doing this event for 11 years….Holding space for community is very important,” Morris said. “We are healing and acknowledging things that we’ve been through, and not only embracing our trauma, but releasing it. When we get to write words, we’re casting spells….Even moreso when we’re able to voice it. That’s what open mics do for me and that’s what they do for the community.”
Morris’s presence illuminated the room as the emcee for the evening. Performers took the stage while sharing the importance of having a space to show up as artists. From singing and rapping, to spoken word, each performance moved the audience with an inspiring message.
The space also included blank canvases and supplies for attendees to create paintings and other art pieces. Family, friends, and community members enjoyed food, raffle prizes, and giveaways from partnering organizations.
RJ (Reproductive Justice) Summer passed out sexual health kits at the event. The RJ Summer program will be led by youth leaders to promote education on reproductive health in Oakland. Events will take place virtually and in person.
Founder and Executive Director of Dream Youth Clinic and RJ Summer, Dr. Aisha Mays, discussed the importance of the event. “It’s all about raising awareness around the sexual exploitation of young people,” Mays said. “We’re engaging young people as leaders and artists in the space to raise awareness around the coercion and brainwashing that goes into young people getting caught in the cycle of commercial exploitation.”
The Dream Youth Clinic, based out of the Roots Community Health Center in Oakland, serves youth ages 12-24 years old by offering medical services such as STD and HIV testing, exams, birth control, and more.
Staff members from BAWAR (Bay Area Women Against Rape) also attended to offer resources and information about their ABOVE (Achieving Balance and Overcoming Violent Environments) program. The ABOVE program offers support to youth ages 12-25 with intervention and stability services in an effort to counter the impacts of commercial exploitation and human trafficking.
S.H.A.D.E and the partnering organizations were founded by women, but staff in attendance emphasized their focus on supporting all people who are at risk or have been impacted by sexual violence. Girls, boys, and gender non-conforming youth showed up for the event.
Executive Director Smith-Mazariegos reflected on the importance of having a space where all youth can express themselves and heal from sexual violence. Smith-Mazariegos mentioned that in the years leading up to the pandemic, more boys started showing up to the event. “The boys were getting on the mic and sharing their trauma,” she said. “You know, that’s rare for boys. It really made you understand that [the youth] understood that this is their safe place and that is so key. We don’t have places like this. There are very few places where we can come together to talk about our trauma.”
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For more information about S.H.A.D.E, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. For referrals or crisis intervention, call 510-437-0192.
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