In another first for Richmond Justice Initiative (RJI), Sara Pomeroy was invited to participate as one of four panelists for the Virginia State University’s 15th International Forum. The title of this year’s forum for the University was “Human Trafficking: A Global Dilemma”. Besides RJI Founder, Sara Pomeroy, the other panelists were Her Excellency UN Ambassador Simona-Mirela Miculescu; Mr. Ralph L. Cwerman, President and Co-Founder of the Humpty-Dumpty Institute; and Dr. Nana Derby, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at Virginia State University (VSU). VSU President, Dr. Keith T. Miller, opened the forum with a greeting. Dr. Ceslav Ciobanu, Professor of Economics and former UN ambassador of Moldova, served as not only moderator, but introduced panel members as well.
Mr. Cwerman was the first panel member to speak. His focus was on the struggles of Somaly Mam, a survivor of the Cambodian slave trade and now a prolific activist in the fight against human trafficking. Her Excellency Simona Miculescu of Romania then discussed the global dilemma of human trafficking by citing numerous statistics on the issue. She also discussed how human trafficking was affecting her country of Romania – a hot stop for sex trafficking due to the geographic position of the country – making it a gateway to Europe and Asia.
Dr. Nana Derby was the third panelist to speak. Her topic: “Resilience! The African Child’s Response to Labor Abuse”. Having grown up in Ghana, Dr. Derby spoke of the servitude and child labor she saw within her own country. She discussed how economic conditions allowed for the abuse of the traditional fosterage system of the country in such a way, that its children were exploited instead, and forced to live years of cruel servitude.
Lastly, Sara Pomeroy spoke – bringing the subject back to “Slavery in Virginia: Past & Present”. Sara did an excellent job in opening to the young audience and asking them how familiar they were with different trafficking terms. She then told the story of a Virginia victim and how easily a young person could find themselves in such a dilemma as being forced into sex trafficking. Sara discussed RJI’s mission, then went on to describe what slavery looked like in the past – compared to what slavery looks like today for the state. She pointed out that slavery was never really abolished – that it just has a new face. Sara ended by encouraging the students to get involved in the issue – that “everyone can do something” with regards to ending human trafficking.
Truly the highlight of the whole experience for Sara, was having the opportunity to dine with Her Excellency Simona Miculescu at the Jefferson Hotel the night before the forum. Her Excellency quickly put Sara at ease, and they found that they had a number of interests in common. One is the love for jazz music. Upon learning of this mutual interest, Her Excellency invited Sara to join her in New York with the promise of visiting some of her favorite places to hear jazz in the near future. – Tina Nyczepir