A look in the mirror

Sitting here doing some serious reflecting on my life. A necessary reflection that was placed on my lap by a force bigger than myself. This reflection was sparked by a question that was asked of me by a “Survivor Leader” a week ago. This question was asked of me and has been sitting at the tip of my mind like a kid at the edge of the pool extremely afraid to jump in. A kid sitting there watching his female peers swim in feeling refreshed and liberated from the heat that’s felt from the outside of the pool. Why not jump in that pool and cool off in the liberation of the water I ask myself. Why not get out of the heat that’s burning my back and causing sweat beads to roll down my face. The kid sits at the edge because honestly he doesn’t know how to swim and he’s afraid that if he jumps in he could possibly drown and nobody will help him. I mean damn, why would they? The water is for people that were in the game as the prostitute, the forced, defrauded, the coerced, the victim. The water of liberation is not for the monster, the perpetrator, the facilitator, the trafficker, the Pimp.

Yes I’m a former Pimp and still the question is asked. Am I a survivor of human sex trafficking also? Without going into the drawn out “My life was a struggle story” that many of us have and many have had worse than myself. Let me walk you through some bullet points of my life as I fast forward you to where I am today.

  • Born and raised in poverty
  • Father verbally and mentally abusive
  • Father in and out of my life until the age of 12 when he finally was gone for good.
  • At 12 years old my family, 4 women and myself left out on the streets homeless for 2 years. Living wherever we could until we had to get out. I had one blood sister who was diagnosed with a serious learning disability as a kid and two female cousins that my mother cared for because their mom was strung out on crack cocaine.
  • During this period I was lured into the neighborhood gang. It was appealing, welcoming, and gave me a sense of manhood and security. Heavily influenced by the rap music of the time which was all “Gangster Rap”.
  • At 13 years old my childhood best friend was murdered after I had seen him just two days prior. No counseling, therapy or even asked if I was ok.
  • 15 years of age my girl cousin gave me a quarter pound of Marijuana and I entered high school with a cassette case full of pre rolled joints for sale. All money made was turned over to my mom for gas and food for my family.
  • Freshmen year I met my best friend who steered me away from the gang life and on to girls, parties, and dressing nice. He introduced me to his foster brothers and friends. This group of seven formed a Clique. A cilque that was not for the typical gang mentality. We all had watched the slightly older generation in our neighborhood either die an early death or go to jail continuously. To even make it to 18 years of age was a miracle to us.
  • Unknown to me my mother had become addicted to drugs and had a drug dealer / user boyfriend move into our house. At this time I gave her the ultimatum that she would have to choose between me or him and the result was me living my life on the streets. Freshman year of high school I was living 60% with my new best friend and the clique, 30% with my girlfriend, and when I couldn’t find a place to sleep I’d go with my mom.
  • At 16 years old my best friends foster brother Lawrence, who was also my friend and fellow clique mate was shot and killed a year after he himself beat a murder charge. His funeral was the first ever that I attended. I will never forget kissing his hard cold forehead as he laid in that casket. Again not once asked even if I was doing ok or receiving any counselling.

Inevitable fate??

I was 16 going on 17 years old when I was first introduced to the subculture of pimping and prostitution. Sitting on the blade with my four closest friends watching a girl who was before this the girlfriend of my friend. We watched as she entered into a tricks car turning her first date. They had turned out to the game together both at 16 years of age.  At this point in time I would say at least 70% of my peer group, male and female had entered into “The Life”. The girls and guys that I had grown up with from childhood had entered the game thinking that this was a better option than what we were used to. Drug dealing and gang banging were not the lifestyles that we wanted. Pimping and prostitution was looked at as our best choice to finally make it out of the impoverished conditions that we had suffered through and watched our parents survive our entire life. No force involved on either side. We went into this epidemic together. Pimping and prostitution had become the cool thing to do. If you weren’t in the “Game” you were looked down upon by males and females. Gang members stopped gang banging to pimp. Nerds started to pimp. Good girls started stripping, escorting, and entered into prostitution. Once again we were all heavily influenced by the rap music that had now become more and more “Pimp and Hoe” related.

In 2002 I was arrested and charged with a federal conspiracy charge for distributing over 100 kilos of Marijuana in the southern district of Florida. Leading up to this day I had placed myself in many dangerous situations. It’s a miracle that I was able to walk away from many of them. This includes being robbed in the middle of nowhere with three guns to my head. An experience I will never forget. Now there I was at 21 years old serving my first prison term ever of 32 months. In that time I was housed at 8 different federal and state facilities throughout the US as I was extradited from California to Florida to get sentenced and then back to California after it concluded. A few months before I was released to come home I found out that my best friend Richard was murdered by 4 teenage kids who were on a shooting spree. Richard was murdered on the freeway while leaving a party. His car passenger, my other friend was shot in his side. The group of kids that killed my best friend had shot and killed a 16 year old boy from my neighborhood while sitting at a bus stop the same day. The child murderers had not known either victim. Where I’m from you are lucky to make it to 21 and 25 is an old age. At this point 3 of my closest friends had been murdered. Not to mention the countless associates that I had known who were killed. Richard’s death had impacted my life tremendously.

“I would say at least 70% of my peer group, male and female had entered into “The Life”. “. ”

ARMAND KING, MENTOR

After my release from federal prison I attempted to work a job and do right but with the distractions of the streets and my desire to catch up to my friends I was lured back into the game. It was easy for me to jump right back in. It was a lifestyle that I had known all to well and could easily get money being involved in. Why not? When I was finally burnt out of this illusion called the “Game” I had woke up to the realities of the trap that I too was in. A trap that many people were starting to wake up to or had already woke up to. Many of us started to make our exit and many had already stopped for many reasons. Death and incarceration were just two of the pitfalls that we came to know as a result of the game.

1997 to 2010 is the largest US domestic human sex trafficking epidemic time period to date. Although many may say that it’s bigger than ever currently. This is totally a false narrative. It only appears to be at an all time high now because average people are aware of it now. It’s become a heavily talked about topic. People are looking for it now. Please do not get it confused. Law enforcement has been aware what was going on and was aware when my peers were deeply involved. They just didn’t care. If you were not selling drugs or gang banging they didn’t want you.

Last year in 2017 two more of my best friends died. One to an overdose and the other was murdered on the blade in Texas. They were the last two of my friends that were still trapped in the life. Both barely hanging on and had no clue of anything else to do with their life. They had been in the game since they were kids and had no belief that they could do anything else with their lives. Out of my 7 core best friends in my clique there are only 3 of us left alive. One of the three has become a severe alcoholic and walks around town like a zombie which really leaves myself and one other. This all leads me back to the question. Am I a survivor of human sex trafficking? To first answer this question I searched Webster’s definition of what a survivor was and it reads;

  1. To remain alive or in existence : Live on
  2. To continue to function and prosper despite

You may not agree with the fact that I believe that I am a “Survivor” and that’s ok. We are all entitled to our opinions. From where I stand, my experiences, and my neighborhood I am not only a survivor of the largest pimping and prostitution epidemic but of drug addiction, gangs, incarceration and many of the other plagues that have affected impoverished communities throughout America. I’m sitting here at the edge of the pool at 37 years old looking at my arm tattooed with the names of my many lost friends. Realizing more than ever how blessed I am to be able to use my story and experiences to prevent others from going down the path we chose. Feeling FORCED by a society that didn’t see the value in us to provide adequate education, opportunities, and resources to our community. DEFRAUDED into thinking that we were not as valuable as the rest of society, and COERCED into believing that our only option other than sports, gang banging, and drugs was pimping and prostitution.

Regardless of how you feel I’m taking my dive into the water of liberation. I am more than just a survivor. I am a Survivor leader!