Kids! I made it through week two! It’s a miracle! “Oh, you pansy! It couldn’t have been that bad.” But oh, it was.
Okay, it wasn’t bad, terrible, or worse. It was simply intense. We are, after all, here to abolish slavery.
I was freakin’ excited to start this week because, as I mentioned in my first blog, this second week was spent in San Francisco at the Investigator Academy. It meant getting my city fix and going back to school. But honestly, I was much more excited about the city part. So muchmore excited. Just sayin’.
And even though I do love school and was truly looking forward to getting back into an academic environment, albeit for 5 days, the topic of discussion was nothing to be excited about. I mean who really wants to learn about all the terrible ways people are trafficked and for what purpose? No one. No one wants to learn about this atrocity. But we need to. Everyone who attended the Academy this week and who has attended the Academy in the past and will attend in the future has acknowledged this fact. We know, we’ve learned, that just as duvets really do exist in Half Moon Bay so does human trafficking exist everywhere.
The Academy offers the opportunity to save ourselves. It’s designed to enlighten the community about human trafficking, teaches how to properly identify possible trafficking cases and how to deal with them (i.e. NOT the Liam Neeson way), and, more generally, shows us how to get involved in the movement to abolish slavery. We learn the way of the abolitionist.
While the program as a whole is wonderful I found the most rewarding parts to be those of the guest speakers: Minh Dang and Chie Abad, both trafficking survivors, and Lieutenant Jon Vanek of the San Jose Police Department. It is too easy to become terrified and defeated when we read or hear or think about the stories of victims and survivors. And it’s normal to feel this way. I have found myself in this sad place too many times. But listening to Minh and Chie share their stories with complete strangers so that they may further heal themselves and others and so that they may somehow find justice for everyone who has been, still is, and unfortunately, will be enslaved. They have so much strength, courage, and self worth despite all they have been through. It’s okay to feel helpless sometimes. But healing is possible. It was so wonderful to have my hope of one day slavery being something completely of the past reaffirmed. There’s no need to lose hope.
Mr. Vanek’s presentation about the relationship between law enforcement and human trafficking also renewed positivity. His presentation was ironically detailed, clear, informative, and motivational. I say ironically because, well, how many of us think the words “law enforcement,” “clear,” “informative,” and “motivational” go well in a sentence together? Most of us are guilty of being cynical of our law enforcement. And, sadly, in many (one too many) cases our cynicism is correct. But Sergeant Vanek’s presentation incited hope in justice. And I think that was most important lesson learned (or relearned) through the whole Academy: hope, hope, hope.
So it was an intense 5 days. Naturally, as educational and inspiring and hopeful as the Academy was we still had a very important concern: how in the world do we “decompress”? How do we not go crazy, lose hope, give up, lock ourselves and our loved ones away so that no one may harm us ever? Some people have their faith, some have a cold drink every once in a while, others keep their support system close. I found my therapy in the city. The city! San Francisco isn’t New York City. Nothing can ever replace my home. But this place is wonderful!
Monday I walked down Haight Street – amazing! Wednesday I went to the famous City lights bookstore!!!!! Books and a city and me together? It was magical. And Friday I had the privilege and honor to visit The Castro. I am from NYC folks. It’s not like I have never witnessed a strong and proud community before. But The Castro is different. It’s as if no one here had ever experienced hatred and prejudice for who they were or who they loved. They are so confident in who they are. They have so much hope despite the obstacles they have faced. Just like Minh Dang and Chie Abad. I am so damn proud to be a part of such a magnificent community.
I tell you folks – I love my home but I am falling in love with San Francisco!
Now, our shenanigans didn’t end there. As therapeutic as being in a city was for me my new friends and I, we needed to break out. And break we did. People, I tell you there was insistent laughter about nothing funny, two hours in Radio Shack attempting to activate Natalie’s phone, A LOT of singing and dancing – I even wrote an itty, bitty song about it. Guys this is serious. We gave Dr. Seuss, boy bands, the Royal Family, Sesame Street, and the previous three fellows all a damn good run for their money. It was epic.
So without further adieu I present to you the first three Acts of Break Out:
“This is the way we decompress, decompress, decompress. This is the way we decompress all the way to Van Ness.” Dr. Luz (Oh yea, I went there.)
Act I: A Knight Is Born
Act II: Becoming an American
*Tune in next week for the conclusion of this production. For a taste of Act IV please see the blog below (or above).