Stop Sex Trafficking in Chicago

Stop Sex Trafficking in Chicago

Sex trafficking sounds like something that happens in other countries. But sex trafficking is happening right now in Chicago. Since 2012, the Cook County Sheriff’s Department has picked up more than 300 children forced into prostitution.

Mary BonnettCreative Activist Mary Bonnett (Producing Artistic Director) created and cofounded Her Story Theater.  Mary holds a BFA in Theater Arts, BFA in English Literature, MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University, England. She has won numerous awards for excellence and outstanding contributions in professional theater, writing, directing and theater education.

 

 

Why did you start Her Story Theater? I went into a kind of a third phase of my life. I’ve done theater and I have taught theater. When I stepped into this third, I don’t think final phase, I thought what can I do and what do I bring to the table?  I can direct and I can write and I can organize. And the next question being, “what is my passion?” Social Justice for women and children. So I created Her Story Theater, and decided to put it in Chicago’s backyard. And the mission is to shine bright lights on women and children in need of social justice and community support. It is three pronged: It’s raising awareness, getting an audience charged up to be proactive and then to raise funds for a partner, a Chicago partner, that’s doing great work on that specific cause.

 

The first one we did was a piece on homeless women and we partnered with Deborah’s Place which does residential care for homeless women.We interviewed about 30 women. And then I took the information and looked at  lots of research to see what the issues are and who is homeless. I selected characters to represent who is out there:  mentally ill, the runaways, domestic violence victims, migrant worker, the economically challenged, ex-con. We set it in a spa, a beauty spa, and salon, and we got real technicians in real time doing work, so the prisoner was getting her hair done, and the mentally ill was getting the facial, and the economically challenged was getting make-up, and so on. And so the audience would go from room to room. There would be a music cue to move people from cubicle to cubicle so they could hear the before and after stories. I had a wonderful photographer who took pictures of homeless on the streets and homeless who had been to Deborah’s Place. We sold art work to raise funds.

Since then we have tackled human trafficking called Shadow Town which was addressed to young girls. It was based on interviews with people involved with sex trafficking in Chicagoland, from undercover detectives, vice squad, social workers, therapists, johns, pimps, and the women and girls trafficked.

Uniquely woven with dance and music, this memory piece follows the lives of 4 young girls’, Marisol from Humbolt Park, Tatiana from the West side of Chicago, Samantha from Naperville and Ling Ling from China, and their journey into ‘The Life’ and modern day slavery. Did you know there are 18000 – 25000 children trafficked every day? The average age is 11.

The next one is Shadow town 11: The Johns, which is about the men who buy girls and what is costs. This second part shows the demand side, how it impacts the purchasers, their families and those trafficked. Human trafficking is big business. Globally, it’s a $32 billion economy that survives by feeding the desires of men who buy sex.                                                                                                                                          mad-sex-trafficking-play-shadow-town

Bonnett researched the play by interviewing Chicagoland trafficked victims and Johns. The Johns were diverse, financially and otherwise. Some were old, some young. Some had families, others didn’t.The one thing they had in common? Denial. Most of these Johns perceive these girls as wanting to be there,” Bonnett said. Few would admit that the girls they bought were underage despite perhaps knowing otherwise. As Bonnett said, “you know the difference between an 11-year-old and a 23- year-old.” “Never once in all those conversations with the Johns did they acknowledge their actions as potentially harmful,” she said.

Bonnett says that generally men buying sex don’t brag about their activities, but “one man told me he’d been married for 37 years and never got caught. He’d been buying sex for decades.”

“We particularly want men’s groups attending this play to start understanding the issue and how they can be part of the solution to this new modern-day slavery, to see how our current culture impacts our young men and women,” she added. Once awareness is raised, re- form will follow.. This nontraditional powerful drama has music and humor. Art and theater have long had the ability to facilitate social change, and the  “The Johns” will be that vehicle.

Shadow Town II: The Johns” opens at the Mayer Kaplan Theater, 5050 Church St., Skokie, on October 16 and runs through November 23. Check website for dates and showtimes. Order tickets online here. .” The cost is $50 and the proceeds benefit the Dreamcatcher Foundation.

I have long held the belief that theater is a powerful tool for social change. Stop Sex Trafficking in Chicago. Tell your friends and buy a ticket.

TEDx: It’s On Us

TEDx: It’s On Us

A week ago I was at an Engaging Speakers conference and someone mentioned that Naperville was looking for speakers for their TEDx talks. I immediately took action. I looked it up on google. I opened the application and called to ask about a deadline. They said just apply it may be for next year and they still have one or two spots open now.

Then it hit me, are you crazy. It is the wrong time, The Creative Activist isn’t’ done….the fear took over and old coping patterns returned with a vengeance. There is not enough food in my house to numb the feelings of terror and overwhelm. Shopping on HSN and QVC did not alleviate the “not good enough” messages that were looping in my head.

I talked with my coach and she that is good your recognizing your patterns. So I began to write and write and write. I have 39 pages scribbled in in my journal. I keep waking up at three AM with another download. My friend Sarah came over and she did some energy work on me. The lump in my throat, the hairball from hell, needed to move or there was no way I was going to be able to do this three minute video application. The burning in my throat and chest eased but it was still tight so she suggested start talking and I did. I felt better.  Expressing my truth, sharing it with another person is healing. Creative expression in whatever form is powerful medicine.

Then I asked, Kathy Eldon, of Creative Visions http://www.creativevisions.org/ who has given two TED talks what she thought. She said tell your story….they are looking for a heroes’ journey. So more panic, more food, numb myself with television.  I have shared my story of healing from childhood sexual abuse in numerous places but not on a big stage. I worry about how much I divulge. There seem to be two philosophies among speakers; just mention you were abused or paint a picture and experience.  Will my art work distract people or help them understand? It is so much easier to talk about the people I interviewed then myself.002

So I went back to my three year mission and vision statement that I wrote a few months ago.” Last month Hillary Clinton introduced me at the Clinton Foundation and I shared the “best creative expression practices “including Bajalia jewelry http://bajalia.com which employs women in India and Pakistan only if they agree to educate their daughters. One man came up to me afterwards and said I am going to change my business model. I can see the changes that are happening in churches and synagogues. They are creating safe spaces for people to share their stories of abuse or being an abuser. It is a community concern now not just a family problem. I have to tell you I had the biggest grin on my face last October when I saw football players’ wearing purple for domestic violence awareness. We are blessed to be living in a time where it is freely talked about and so many are committed to making a loving, peaceful, respectful and safe world for women and children. This or something better.”

Child abuse and domestic violence are all over the news recently. In a speech yesterday, the president announced “It’s on Us,” a nationwide public service campaign aimed at urging young people to do more to prevent campus sexual assaults. Mr. Obama called for a “fundamental shift in our culture” in the way women are treated and in the response to victims of sexual assault.

Commissioner Goodell said that effective immediately any N.F.L. employee or player who is found to have engaged in assault, battery, domestic violence or sexual assault will be suspended without pay for six games for a first offense. Second-time offenders will be banished from the league for at least one year.

It is time for me to step forward on whatever stage I command (hopefully TEDx: It’s On Us) and talk about the things that matter to me; creative expression and service which nurture self-esteem, resilience and healing.  We need to create more engaging education and awareness campaigns. We need to bring together community leaders, service providers, creatives and business people to create new initiatives that spark conversation.  Develop best practices that encourage safe, loving supporting communities where it is OUR collective problem. It is time for football players to wear blue (child abuse awareness) and purple (domestic violence awareness) and when someone asks what does this mean. What does this have to do with me?  We will have the answers. IT’S ON US.

Here is my first take for the application I would really like your feedback and create a talk that speaks to you where I can really be of service. Thanks so much

 

Creative Activists Change The Future

be the inspiration

Creative Activists Change The Future

We need leaders who can change the future. In these tumultuous times we need new  conversations that shift paradigms. We need new strategies and original ideas that  create  awareness and education about the need for social change and social justice.We are stepping into a new age of creative activism where we lead from a deep well of shared feelings, values and a global perspective. We are all connected.  It is no longer ok to ignore poverty, homelessness,mental illness, domestic violence or child sexual abuse and say it is  their problem. It is our problem. There is a cause and effect for everyone of these issues.

Imagine the cashier at the grocery store is scared her partner is going to kill her. Her mind is not on her work and she takes twice as long to do her job which affects your ability to get to work on time. Now your stressed. Her kids who have witnessed the abuse are in school and interacting with your kids. They may be biting or aggressive. They need counseling which they can’t afford so it costs you the tax payer more money to meet their needs. It is OUR problem.

What does the creative  activist look like?

  1. Center their lives around their passion and purpose
  2. They turn their challenges into opportunities
  3. They are committed to something beyond themselves
  4. They are courageous. They feel the fear and do it anyway.
  5. They are a role model, a mentor and a volunteer
  6. They practice compassionate listening
  7. Resilient and tenacious
  8. Live in integrity where their thoughts and actions are in alignment with their values
  9. They help, motivate and inspire others to reach their dreams
  10. Use their gifts and talents to make a difference, pay it forward, be of service
  11. They tap into their intuition
  12. They are appreciative and grateful
  13. Recognize the need for diversity
  14. They are authentic and honest
  15. They encourage originality, inventiveness and out of the box thinking to nurture self esteem and social change
  16. They build capacity and skills in other people
  17. They ask for help
  18. They clearly articulate their heartfelt vision
  19. They are curious, lifelong learners and ask what if questions                                                       earth-hug
  20.  See failure as a  teachable moment, just feedback
  21. They nurture their body, mind and spirit ( renewal and restoration)
  22. They are compassionate and empathetic
  23. They are optimistic: see things in color, variations and possibilities
  24. They encourage collaborations
  25. They live their legacy now

This is a call to action. Creative activists change the future. What is your big bold dream for change? Mine is to see football players wearing blue and purple for child abuse and domestic violence awareness. Twenty years ago who would have believed they would be sporting pink for breast cancer?  I would love to hear from you.