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Calvary Baptist Holds Third Annual Book Bag Give Away

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Students show off they’re brand new free Book-Bags with supplies at Calvary Missionary Baptist Church’s Third Annual Book Bag Give-Away.

By Michael Daniels
Journal Staff Reporter

On Saturday, August 10, 2019, more than 200 central city students and their parents participated in Calvary Missionary Baptist Church’s Third Annual Book Bag Give-Away at the church located at 702 Collingwood Blvd.

The giving away of book bags was really only a small part of what was a much larger community event. However, providing the students with book bags with supplies, so they could be prepared for the first day of school was the main objective of the day.

(L-R) Calvary’s Pastor Rev, Floyd Smith Jr. with Lana Pearson and her sister Japzery and her new Book Bag, TPS CEO/Superintendent Dr. Romules Durant, with Tyler Jackson and his new Book Bag, and Mascot The Black Panther: Mr. David Miles and Deacon Willie Tucker: Book Bag Give Away Chairman at Calvary Missionary Baptist Church’s Third Annual Book Bag Give-Away.

Dr. Romules Durant, CEO/Superintendent of Toledo Public Schools, who was present for the activities, explained why students having a book bag on the first day of school is so important. He said, “Kids really don’t own much in life, unlike adults who when they buy their first house or car, have pride in the ownership. For kids, on the first day of school, their pride in ownership is their book bag and supplies. It is something they own and they do a show and tell with the other kids”.

“The worst scenario is when on the first day of school the teacher says ‘let’s get started, take out your pencil and write this down,’ and one kid doesn’t have any supplies, while all the rest of the kids do. This can lead to anxiety and depression for a student on the first day of school because they don’t have their proper school supplies to get started with the class. Having their own supplies brings about a sense of anatomy and a sense of pride and ownership,” he said.

Beside free Book-Bags, there were free clothing give away, free face painting, free horseback riding, and free food. There was also entertainment from the Party Crashers (a Character for Hire Service) they brought along a Mascot the famous comic book character, The Black Panther (David Miles). He mingled with and amused the kids, while passing out Super Hero stickers, to all of the young people. For spiritual uplifting there was Gospel music from the Glass City Disciples.

Glenwood Elementary student D’Marria Johnson found a pretty brand new dress at the clothes giveaway and a book bag at the Calvary Missionary Baptist Church’s Third Annual Book Bag Give-Away.

Also, all the free Book-Bags came fully stocked with all the needed school supplies and were ready to go. All you had to be is a school-aged student and you qualify for a free book-bag!

Deacon Willie Tucker, the church chairman for the Give-Away explained, “This whole thing started when we used to have a community picnic and we gave away five bicycles. There was a little boy who really wanted a bicycle but he didn’t get one, and he was so disappointed. So, one of our sponsors suggested we give away something where a lot more kids could benefit from our events, and he suggested a book-bag giveaway. So that’s what we did and this is our third year doing so, and it’s been very successful. This year, we will give away over 200 book-bags with supplies”.

“That sponsor, Williams Homes, who suggested we give out book-bags is still with us today, along with some of our other sponsors.  As, we as a church, reach out to serve the community around us. We are grateful to our sponsors for their help and donations. God has blessed us and we are just passing that blessing on”, said the Deacon.

Invited to attend by Calvary Baptist Church The Members of The Party Crashers (a Charter for Hire Service) enjoy the Church’s Third Annual Book Bag Give-Away.

Rev. Floyd Smith Jr., the pastor of Calvary Missionary Baptist Church commented about the giveaways saying, “Our title is Calvary Missionary Baptist Church, and what missionary means is that we must reach out beyond these four walls into the community and try to bring people to Jesus Christ. We also try help with their spiritual needs as well as with their physical needs”.

Providing soulful Gospel music for the Book-Bag Give Away were the Glass City Disciples.
Not only did the kids get free Book-bags they also enjoyed free horseback rides at Calvary Missionary Baptist Church’s Third Annual Book Bag Give- Away.
(L-R) Calvary’s Sister Sheilatt Green, Sister Jewel Parker, and Herb Gabriel enjoy freshly grilled hot dogs served by Calvary’s First Lady Robin Wilson-Smith at the Book-Bag Give-Away.

“I believe with this give-away, we touching some lives and we are giving the kids what they need to be successful. If we can plant that seed, even a little bitty mustard seed will grow into a great big giant tree. That’s is what we are trying to do today, plant those seeds,” said the pastor.

Books 4 Buddies has give-away for students at LMHA Weiler Homes

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Books 4 Buddies has give-away for students at LMHA Weiler Homes | The Toledo Journal
Ambassador, and spokesman for Books 4 Buddies, Mondo Arce, right, and Jordan Topoleski, read to the children.

By Jurry Taalib-Deen
Journal Staff Writer

“I don’t let me kids read from the internet, unless it’s school related. I want them reading from an actual book,” Maryah McIntosh told The Toledo Journal on Wednesday, July 25.

Ms. McIntosh was one of many parents, who attended Books 4 Buddies event, held at the Weiler Homes, on Toledo’s east side. Throughout the year, the organization hosts similar events around Toledo. The object is to encourage literacy through reading actual books. The event was a collaboration between Toledo Public Schools (TPS) and Lucas County Metropolitan Housing (LMHA).

Books 4 Buddies has give-away for students at LMHA Weiler Homes | The Toledo Journal
Leticia Bermejo said, “I want my son, Xavier Johnson, to love reading like I do. So I thought this event would be good to further encourage him.”

In addition to giving away books, free food, face painting, games, and a boxing lesson made up the day’s agenda.

Mondo Arce, 17, is the spokesperson, as well as an Ambassador for Books 4 Buddies.

“Events like this are so important,” he said. “When you read from a book, instead of your phone, you avoid distractions like texts messages, social media updates, etc. Although books may be considered old fashion, they still work. And it’s important that kids have role models encouraging, and showing them the importance of reading a book,” Mondo said.

Books 4 Buddies has give-away for students at LMHA Weiler Homes | The Toledo Journal
Dr. Romules Durant, superintendent for Toledo Public Schools, and Laneta Goings, founder/president of Books 4 Buddies discuss ways of encouraging children to read during the summer months.

Jordan Topoleski, 18, is also an Ambassador for Books 4 Buddies. He said that, many people may not have the resources to buy and keep books in their homes; therefore, their effort helps fill a much needed void.

“Over the years since I’ve been in the program, I’ve got a better perspective on the entire city, and not just where I live,” he said.

 

Books 4 Buddies has give-away for students at LMHA Weiler Homes | The Toledo Journal

Joaquin Centron Vega is vice president of assets management for LMHA. He said, “We like to take pride in our community by helping to provide positive things for it, especially for the children.”

“This event encourages kids to read during the summer months,” said Dr. Romules Durant, superintendent for TPS. “We’re always looking for ways to encourage literacy,” he said.

Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union shows appreciation by honoring members from the community

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Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union shows appreciation | The Toledo Journal
HONOREE'S LEFT TO RIGHT THOMAS STOVALL JR, JESSICA LaValley, WILLIAM RIDDLE, ANN

By Jurry Taalib-Deen
Journal Staff Writer

The staff of the Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union honored members from the community who’ve helped make the union a success during its 22 years of existence. That show of appreciation took place on Saturday, November 17 at the Pinnacle in Maumee, Ohio, at the Union’s Appreciation Banquet.

Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union shows appreciation | The Toledo Journal
FIRE CHIEF BRIAN BYRD SPEAKS TO AUDIENCE AFTER BEING AWARDED

Honored guests included Chief Brian Byrd, Toledo Fire Department, First lady Sheila Cook of New Life Church of God in Christ, Bernard ‘Pete’ Culp, retired school administrator, Jessica LaValley, nonprofit expert, Randy Oostra, chief executive officer of Promedica, Ann Riddle, executive director of Northwest Ohio Scholarship Fund, Celeste Smith, community and minority health supervisor at the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department, Michelle Fleetwood, wife to David Fleetwood, head of Local 500, and Tommy, and Tina Butts, business owners.

Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union shows appreciation | The Toledo Journal
SUZETTE COWELL CEO TUFCU

Suzette Cowell, President/CEO of Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union, told those in attendance that the honorees have helped make the union a success over the years, and felt it was necessary to publicly honor those individuals.

“I believe in giving people their flowers while they’re still alive,” she told her audience.

Ms. Cowell further shared the trials the union went through over the years, some of which, may seem hard to believe, she said.

Ms. Cowell spoke of the many obstacles that her, and the other founders had to go through to get established.  Closing down, and receiving bad press from Toledo’s daily newspaper, were just two obstacles the union faced during its infancy.

Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union shows appreciation | The Toledo Journal
R&B SOUL SINGER KEITH WASHINGTON

But it was the honorees that helped make the transition from infancy, to a fully established financial institute within the African American community.

Although it was the credit union honoring members of the community, the honorees quickly praised Ms. Cowell.

“The union is honoring us, but we should be honoring them,” Chief Byrd said. “They’re using their skills, and abilities to empower others who were blatantly denied by other financial institutes,” he said.

“After 22 years of existence, the Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union is proof that black businesses can survive, and thrive,” said Pete Culp.

Twenty three “Silent Soldiers” honored at Black History Celebration

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The Silent Soldiers The Toledo Journal

Mt. Nebo Missionary Baptist Church, under the guidance of Dr. Cedric Brock, held its 18th annual Black History Celebration banquet last Sunday, March 3, 2019 at the Premiere Banquet Complex and honored, the “Silent Soldiers”. These are those who have been selected as accomplishing, so much, behind the scenes. This year almost 600 people attended the event hosted by the Mt. Nebo’s Voice of Hope Outreach Ministry as they celebrated the theme of “Stepping out In Faith.”.

Dr. Cedric Brock and Larry Jones, of Indiana was the
master of ceremonies.

After the introduction of this year’s honorees, from Deacon Alan Crawford, the church’s First Lady, Debra Brock, performed a musical selection. The many sponsors were thanked and then Nicolle Brown offered a special presentation as Nikketa Sugarfoot.

The Youth Ministry performed following dinner and then Sister Geraldine of St. Paul AME Zion Church made the presentation of honorees which are as follows:  Dr. Karen Adams-Ferguson, MD; Barbara Allison; Marcella Cook,; Collette Crosby; Barbara Crowell; Mary Dunning; Michelle Furr; Chris Gayle; Vickie Green-Horsley; Julia Holt; Michael Key; Laverne Knighten; Levon Rayford; Freddie Roberson; Lorena Roberts; Carolyn Robinson; Gertrude Robinson; Sharisse Rowell; Edward Sanders; Norma Savage; Adrian Thomas; Rita Winfree and Alberta Witcher.

Dr. Cedric Brock and First Lady Debra Brock of Mt. Nebo Missionary Baptist Church.

This annual event started as a dinner held in the church dining area, 18 years ago, with an attendance of about 150 people. It rapidly out grew that space and has been held in much larger banquet rooms for more than a decade.

Dr. Brock said, “We celebrate the “Silent Soldiers” who have been faithful to the community at large. We give them their flowers while they can smell them.” The Voice of Hope Outreach Ministry is the brainchild of Dr. Brock who sponsors the banquet to honor the unsung heroes of the city and surrounding communities. Throughout the years, the ministry has sponsored a number of community services, such as: Radio Outreach (1520 AM and 95.7 FM); Adopt A Haircut Ministries at Poor Clark’s Barbershop; Adopt A Belt Outreach; Coat Give-Away; Good Friday Ham Give-Away; Back To School Give-Away and Weekly Broadcast NOW Network.

The master of ceremonies for this year’s event was conducted by Larry Jones of Indiana Avenue MBC.

Lee Johnson, Jr. celebrates birthday with family and friends

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Lee Johnson Birthday DSC_4136 | The Toledo Journal

On Friday, November 23, 2018, was a day that turned out to be an exciting evening for Lee Johnson, Jr., as he celebrated his birthday with over 40 family and friends, with some coming from out-of-town.

As the youngest and only brother of seven siblings, Lee has five sisters (one is deceased) who celebrated with him and they are Malinda and Yvonne Johnson, Tena Morales, Darlene Booth and Deloris Johnso-Coogler. His cousins, GG and John came from Chicago, Illinois and there were many of his nieces, nephews a great nephew, brother-in-laws, along with a host of other relatives and friends, in attendance.

Although, Mr. Johnson is a Scott High grad, he celebrated his special day with the Libbey all class grads’ annual cabaret in the Garden Lake Banquet Hall. And, as a coincidence, a friend he grew up with, Diane Parker, who attended Libbey, (husband Sylvester) was there and her birthday was on the same day.

Lee said, “I would love to thank my Johnson family, who I was impressed with and friends, plus Francine Coogler-Boyd, for helping me to have a very awesome time and we wish you a Happy Holiday”

As a native of Toledo, Mr. Johnson is a faithful union member of Laborers Local 500.

United Missionary Baptist Church celebrates 35th anniversary

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United Missionary Baptist Church celebrates 35th anniversary | The Toledo Journal
The Anniversary Committee with, from left, guest speaker, Pastor Roderick Pounds, Rev. Robert Bass, senior pastor, and Julia Holt, founding member, and chairperson of the Trustee Board.

By Journal Staff Writer

For 35 years, the members of United Missionary Baptist Church, 2705 Monroe St, have been worshipping God, and inviting others to that worship. On Sunday, October 14, they celebrated their 35th anniversary by recognizing how far they’ve advanced as a congregation, and where they still, have yet to go.

Participating in the celebration were some of the members of Second Baptist Church in Akron, Ohio. Their Pastor, Roderick Pounds served as the keynote speaker.

Spearheading that celebration was Julia Holt, chairperson of the Trustee Board, and charter member of United Missionary Baptist Church. She told The Toledo Journal what keeps her actively involved at her church. “The members are very loving, and we work well together, plus, they have a genuine love for God,” she said.

As an extension to their anniversary celebration, the members hosted an afternoon fundraiser to further continue church renovations, as well as add to their scholarship fund, and continue their community outreach programs.

Entitled, “A Taste of Culture,” the fundraiser consisted of members of the church dividing up in four groups, with each group taking one of four regions, of the United States. The group then, preparde dishes that are indigenous to that particular region. Attendees would have the opportunity to taste those particular dishes. Further, each group would highlight the history of African Americans from that particular region of the country.

Rev. Robert Bass has been the head Pastor for 15 years. He said the anniversary celebration gives the members the opportunity to reflect on the challenges of the past 35 years, which helps them better map out, their future endeavors.

“One of the biggest obstacles we had to overcome is paying off a 30 year mortgage, in 16 years, with less people than we originally had,” he said. Rev. Bass said that being free of a mortgage, frees up the minds of the congregation, and puts them in a better position to focus on outreach programs, for example.

Rev. Bass further stated that, one of his short term objectives is having the church serve as a technological, and community focal point. “I want this church to be the center piece of the community, where people can come turn to, and get any kind of help they need,” he said.

Martin Luther King Academy hosts father son retreat

Martin Luther King Academy hosts father son retreat
Fathers and their sons, in the school’s cafeteria, just before they began the activities of the night.

BY Jurry Taalib-Deen
Journal Staff Writer

Fathers played chess, basketball, wrestled, or just enjoyed a good movie, while eating a snack, with not only their sons, but other boys, at the second annual Father, Son Day. The event was held at Martin Luther King Academy for Boys, 1300 Forrest Ave., on Friday, May 17.

The brain child of Willie Ward, principal, and Sheila A. Cook, family community school resource and outreach director, the two wanted to have an event that would, somewhat mirror their yearly, Mother and Son dance.

Martin Luther King Academy hosts father son retreat
Even the teachers took time out to get involved. Jeremy Atkins far left, para professional, and Luke McKinley, rolls out the wrestling mats to teach a few basic moves to the boys.

Officially kicking off the start of the event, Principal Ward expressed to the fathers, who were gathered in the cafeteria with their sons, how grateful he was for them attending the event. He said their involvement with their sons sends a powerful message, and he welcomed them to visit the school.

“Today is their day,” Ms. Cook told The Toledo Journal. “Tonight is about them enjoying each other,” she said.

She said that, although men are more hesitant at revealing how they really feel, Ms. Cook said a father had expressed to her how happy he was about the event. “He told me that he works so much, he doesn’t get to spend the time he wants with his son, and tonight’s event gives him that opportunity.”

Ms. Cook is hoping that the event will encourage more fathers to become more involved at the school. But at that particular moment, she expressed a great deal of satisfaction with the turnout.

Martin Luther King Academy hosts father son retreat
Andre Munn, right, shows his nephew, Shamarion Patterson, how to play chess at the expense of Delrico Wallace.

“I think this is a great event,” said Marvin McCray who was playing basketball with his son. “This encourages more fathers to become active at the school. It’s also a good time for those of us who haven’t met the principal, or our son’s teacher, to finally meet them,” he said.

“I’m here to spend time with my son, at his school, and meet some of his friends,” said Broderick Manahan. “I’m also here for the other boys. I want to encourage them that they can do anything, and that all things are possible,” he said.

Martin Luther King Academy hosts father son retreat
Broderick Manahan shows his son, Triston, he still has a little skill left in him

” I just love spending time with my dad,” said Mr. Manahan’s son, Tristan.

NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet focuses on getting people to vote

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NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet | The Toledo Journal
Members of the NAACP stand with the honorees. From left is, Michael Alexander, first vice president, Rev. Willie Perryman, accepted the award for Rev. Dr. John Roberts, Anita Madison, committee member, honorees, Dr. Crystal Ellis, Tina Butts, and David Fleetwood, with Ray Wood, president.

By Jurry Taalib-Deen
Journal Staff Writer

With the current political climate in the United States, the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, NAACP, themed their 103 Freedom Fund Banquet, “Defeat the Hate-Vote. ” Held in the Great Hall of the Stranahan Theatre, 4645 Heatherdowns Blvd, African Americans’ oldest Civil Rights organization focused their event on celebrating accomplishments of young people, and using their expertise to encourage others to get politically involved.

NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet | The Toledo Journal
Kristian Brown, left, media personality, and Tyrone Riley, Toledo Councilman for District 4, recognize the winners of the Crispus Attucks Essay Contest.

Partnering with Councilman, Tyrone Riley, and the NAACP recognized the winners of the Crispus Attucks Essay Contest that, Mr. Riley founded, and hosts annually. Over 100 young people throughout the county, male and female, black, and white, participated in the contest. Of the 100, 14 were selected as the winners, with each splitting a cash prize of $2000.00.

NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet | The Toledo Journal
During her talk, Zuri Hall, co-host of E! News, used humor, and personality to drive home messages such as financial literacy, and the importance of voting.

Then, the organization awarded four individuals with the Freedom Fund Award. Honorees were selected based on community activism, as well as their impact, and the longevity of that impact within the community. The 2018 recipients were Dr. Crystal Ellis, former Toledo Public Schools, TPS, Superintendent, Tina Butts, business owner, and community activist, David Fleetwood, head of Laborers Union Local 500, and Rev. Dr. John Roberts, senior Pastor of Indiana Missionary Avenue Baptist Church.

“Being the Superintendent of TPS was the most rewarding job I had,” Dr. Ellis told the audience after receiving his award. “When I was in that position, I didn’t look at color; I saw all the children as my children,” he said.

When Ms. Butts received her award, she thanked the NAACP, and quickly applauded those whom she works with, for getting people registered to vote.

NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet | The Toledo Journal
Applauding the honorees were people from all diverse political, and employment backgrounds.

Serving as the keynote speaker of the event was Zuri Hall, co-anchor of E! News and former host of a variety of MTV shows, as well as Toledo native. In a talk seasoned with humor, and a cheerful personality, the 30 year old spoke about her life in Toledo, and ultimately in Hollywood, where she would host her first television show at the tender age of 25.

Ms. Hall told the audience that most people would think, because she attended Ohio State University on a full scholarship, graduated, and started working in Hollywood, she was financially literate, but she quickly dispelled that belief.

She spoke of being in debt, which started in college with getting credit cards, and racking up that debt. Ms. Hall said that debt followed her to Hollywood, and continued to stress her out.

NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet | The Toledo Journal

“Thank God that the NAACP offers courses in financial literacy, so others don’t have to go through what I experienced. Financial education lays the ground work for freedom,” she said.

Ms. Hall also encouraged all people to educate themselves on political candidates, and issues. She said when she first voted in 2008 for then, Senator Barack Obama, she was excited. But when it came time to vote in the midterm elections, two years later, she didn’t have a clue about candidates, and issues.

“Now I study candidates and issues like I was back in college,” Ms. Hall said.

“Our big push this year is getting people out to the polls to vote,” Ray Wood, president of the local chapter of the NAACP told The Toledo Journal. “Part of our effort in encouraging people, especially young people, to vote is utilizing, and recognizing the talents of our young people, like Zuri Hall,” Mr. Wood said.

International Human Trafficking Conference exposes, fights the dark world of sex trade

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International Human Trafficking Conference | The Toledo Journal
Dr. Celia Williamson, left, director of the Lucas County Human Trafficking Coalition, talks to conference attendees, Dr. Jesse Bach, and Lisa Belton.

By Jurry Taalib-Deen
Journal Staff Writer

“Purchasing someone online, from the dark web, for sex trafficking, is as easy as buying a pizza,” Dr. Jesse Bach, of Cleveland State University, told The Toledo Journal. Dr. Bach, on long with numerous professionals from around the world, presented their research about Human Trafficking, and how to combat it, during a two day conference, held on Thursday, September 20, and Friday, September 21, in the University of Toledo’s, Lancelot Thompson, Student Union.

Over 100 workshops were conducted addressing issues either, indigenous to Toledo, and the United States, or more specifically, in countries such as India, or on the continents of Europe, and Africa.

Several workshop topics were, “Romance and Manipulation,” “Characteristics of Federal Offenders Sentenced for Child Molestation and Sentencing Outcomes,” “Early Childhood Sexual Abuse and Foster Care: A Survivors Perspective,” and “Parents as Perpetrators: Intergenerational Sex Trafficking in Rural India.”

Dr. Celia Williamson, director of the Lucas County Human Traffic Coalition said the ripple effect of the conference has been felt around the world. Laws have been enacted, task forces developed, and programs put into place to help victims, and apprehend perpetrators. One of her goals, she said, is to live stream the conference in parts of the world, such as Africa, that’s plagued with human trafficking,

On the topic of the local Pastors accused of human trafficking, Dr. Williamson said, some church members seem to be more concerned with how the girls, who were trafficked, contributed to their situation, as opposed to the fact that Pastors were involved with underage girls for the sex trade.

“No matter what, the lives of the children come first. If the Pastors are found guilty, some can pray that their souls go to heaven, but their asses are going to jail,” she said.

Motivated by the fact that her stepfather was a human trafficker, was a social worker who, asked that her identity be kept anonymous. She said she grew up watching her stepdad manipulate, and abuse her mom. She learned first-hand the tactics, and language used by perpetrators of human trafficking.

“Traffickers will say things such as, ‘No one else will take care of you, or your daughter, but me.’ Traffickers will also become the main supplier of toys, school supplies, and other things, in a child’s life, in order to keep the mom dependent, and loyal to him.”

Dr. Tyffani Manford Dent, a licensed psychologist, has been working in the field of sex trafficking for over 20 years, conducted a workshop on, “Not #MeToo: How Gender-based Work and Micro/Macro-aggressions Impede Trafficking Survivors of Color from Accessing Services.”

International Human Trafficking Conference | The Toledo Journal
Dr. Tyffani Manford-Dent explains how the #MeToo movement has intentionally neglected African American women who are victims of sex crimes.

She explained that, although the #MeToo movement was developed by an African American woman, for African American women, once it went nationally, and accepted by white women, African American women haven’t gained the benefits of it.

Dr. Manford-Dent said the services, and benefits that have come about, due to the movement, have been geared toward white women.

Counseling, and other services for the victims of any type of sexual crime, has been established in white suburban areas. Even those who work in the field are recruited from white suburban areas, Dr. Manford-Dent said.

“Sadly, some survivors lives, white suburban women, are more valued then African American women who are survivors of sex crimes; which is all deliberate,” she said.

“The first step at resolving this problem is recognizing it exist; only then can we move forward to resolution,” Dr. Manford-Dent said.

Over 500 Local High School Students Attend UT Human Trafficking Conference

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Members of the Young Women for Change student organization at Toledo Early College High School.

By Leah Williams

The University of Toledo hosted over 500 local high school students from public and parochial schools on Wednesday, September 18 as a part of their Annual International Human Trafficking and Social Justice Conference.

The conference, which celebrated its 16th year, has welcomed high school students to campus for the last six years. Anna Schramm, Research Assistant at the University’s Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute, said that conference organizers were purposeful in creating an opportunity to address teenagers.

Educator Leah Hudson, center, with students from Jones Leadership Academy attending the conference.

“Six years ago, when we decided to start the high school day, we realized that these were the people we were really needing to get in front of because they’re the ones who are confronting this issue; their friends might be dealing with it, they might come in contact with it,” Ms. Schramm said. “So, we really wanted to make them aware of [human trafficking] and then hopefully they learn something and take it back to their schools and spread the word.”

The day for the high schoolers started en masse with a Human Trafficking 101 session presented by Kizzy Williams, a Toledo area social worker and victim advocate, who provides legal advocacy services to victims of sex and labor trafficking. During the session, Ms. Williams spoke to the students about relationship warning signs, victim grooming, and how predators use social media to target vulnerable youth.

Kizzy Williams presents Human Trafficking 101 during the conference.

Among the sea of students and teachers in the Thompson Student Union Auditorium was Community Activist and Educator Mona Al-Hayani, who attended the conference, with nearly 50 students from Toledo Early College High School. This included members of the Young Women for Change student organization who will be presenting along with Al-Hayani in November at the Ohio State House for the Ohio Human Trafficking Prevention Youth Summit.

“It’s so important to have students come to conferences talking about human trafficking and the risk factors and how social media plays into tracking vulnerable youth,” Ms. Al-Hayani said. “Our students think that they’re invincible. Conferences like this makes them see that they are vulnerable.”

Sarah Sahmarani, senior student and president of Young Women for Change at Toledo Early College, said it was important for students to attend the conference especially for those who identify as female. Ms. Sahmarani said that young women needed to be active in the fight against human trafficking.

Mona Al-Hayani poses before the morning breakout sessions begin.

“It’s really important to empower women and girls to stand up and realize that they have a voice and can make a difference. They can make a change and stand up for themselves,” she said.

Following the opening group session, the high school students’ day rounded out with pre-selected breakout sessions, lunch, and the naming of winners from both the spoken word and visual art contest.

Art contestant and Maumee High School junior Jadyn Greisiger wrote that her digital art piece was meant to highlight the misconceptions that all human trafficking victims are female and victimized by strangers. She said that many victims are males and most people being trafficked were manipulated and abused by people they had come to be in relationship with on some level.

“Sadly, things such as ‘You have nowhere else to go’ or ‘No one else will love you’ and even physical abuse are used to keep the victim captive and vulnerable,” Ms. Greisiger wrote. “I tried my best to show that sex trafficking and abuse isn’t always as black and white as many people view it to be.”

The final two days of the conference were sold out and the University of Toledo saw nearly 1200 people attend 75 breakout sessions that focused on diverse topics including research, direct services, legal and law enforcement, and survivor stories. Dr. Celia Williamson, Distinguished University Professor and director of the University’s Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute said the following in a statement to the press.

“We are proud so many people want to learn about human trafficking. Our conference brings sex and labor trafficking out of the shadows and helps end abuse. More than ever before, we have the opportunity to educate, collaborate, and save lives,” Dr. Williamson said.