Monday, September 12, 2011

Saving Our Girls from Oakland's Streets

Interview with Writer Harry Williams
'Straight Outta East Oakland 2: Trapped on the Track'

Rev. Harry Williams signing his book.
Photo Credit: Jenee Darden
Author and minister Harry Williams II knows how to do an author’s book reading. I have not yet read his latest book “Straight Outta East Oakland 2: Trapped on the Track” but he delivered on the theatrics when he read excerpts to the cramped room at the World Ground Café in Oakland when I heard him in the Spring. The non-profit MISSSEY hosted the joint authors showcase which featured Rachael Lloyd.  She gave a riveting presentation as well. She has so much heart. I’ll give a review of her book soon. Back to Williams,  his novel is about a reformed crack dealer named Firstborn. He returns to Oakland to take Crayon, 15 out of prostitution after her grandmother pleas for his help. Much of the energy Williams gave during the reading is rooted in passion for the atrocity going on Oakland streets, particularly the sexual trafficking of girls and young women. Again, there are CHILDREN, being sold on the streets of Oakland for sex.  Williams is working with MISSSEY to end the problem. There was a lot of activity going on after the readings, but I managed to sneak in a quick interview with Harry Williams. FYI: "The Track" is a street in Oakland where sex trafficking is extremely prevalent. 

CF: How did you get interested in the subject of child trafficking?
 I live here in Oakland. You can’t live in Oakland and not be aware that people are being bought and sold like chattel like in the 18th century. You can’t go to the supermarket and not see women and sometimes men caught up in human trafficking. Being that I live here, and I care about my community and as a person of faith it’s impossible not to have a concern for the world around us.

Talk about the main character of your book Firstborn Walker. Where did you get the inspiration for that character?
Firstborn Walker is several people that I know, myself included. When I was young, I was very naïve and made some very bad decisions that led me to make even more bad decisions. But I came to a place in my life where I realized that God loved me, He had a plan for my life. Not only my life, but for the lives of the people around me and I needed to give something back.



I look at Rachael Lloyd from GEMS and Nola Brantley of MISSSEY. There are lot of women involved in trying to get girls off of the streets. What do you see is your responsibility as a man in trying to end this atrocity on Oakland’s streets?
Each one of the women is our daughter. If you have a movement that has no men, it will lose its impact. I believe we have to have men who women can see as a real man, who’s not there to take advantage of them but to love them as a brother or sister. Also, we need to go back and tell our brothers that the exploitation is not the perfect male-female relationship. So much of the problem comes from the way that men see women that has been perpetuated for many years. You need to have some men that say “I own that. I’m changing and I want you to change with me. “

You’re involved in the church which is how I was first introduced to you.  Rachael Lloyd talked about going to a church and being judged when she was trying to get her life together. What is the church’s role in this?
I’m going to [answer to] what is the African-American church’s response. If you went out to The Track in Oakland, you would see 80 to 90 percent of the women out there are African American. But few of the people I have met in the abolition movement look like me. Jesus’ primary teaching is we should love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength and love our neighbor as ourselves. How can you possibly feel comfortable as a believer to ride past people caught up in human trafficking when you’re told to worship a God who says you should be concerned about your community? It will change when the black church owns this problem and devote revolutionaries within the church and go out and make a difference.


Is there a hesitancy to get involved because this problem is related to sex and we know how the Black church gets when it comes to sex? Like Rachael Lloyd said, sometimes people blame the girls for getting into the situation.
The problem is much deeper than someone making choices. Sometimes the choices have been made for them. Some of these women have been sold like a pack of cigarettes to somebody on the street. Even if you do have that blanket of judgment, that doesn’t allow for that explanation.  As a believer you have to love as Christ loved and he was always moved with compassion. That was hallmark of his ministry. He could never look at someone who was suffering and not be moved.

Like the story of Mary Magdalene.
Yes and the woman at the well.  

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