In my first year at Spelman, I became involved in the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) and its campus-based initiative, Better Together. Under the mentorship of Rev. Dr. Lisa Rhodes, I led the Spelman College Interfaith Student Council in addressing issues of sex trafficking through interfaith cooperation. The following year, I became a fellow in the Social Justice Fellows Program and, under the mentorship of Dr. Cynthia Neal Spence; I studied reactive and proactive efforts for eliminating the supply and demand of the commercial sexual exploitation of children. These experiences heightened my consciousness of the role that religion plays in the struggle for human rights. In my sophomore year I began to integrate religion and social justice advocacy into my extracurricular activities. As Congress Representative and Senior Intern in the Bonner Scholars Program, I facilitated conversation with Bonner Scholars on how faith sustains commitment to public service. Additionally, as a Lead Chapel Assistant in Sisters Chapel, I engaged a theology of social justice that challenged Spelman’s faith community to become more civically engaged. As a graduating senior, my analysis of this intersectionality examines sexuality within the African-American church as it relates to the causation of sex trafficking. Sex itself is a taboo topic within the church. The political and moral implications of sexually promiscuous women found in the church lead to continued ostracism and neglect. Such treatment has deterred the church from providing services to assist exploited victim-survivors in achieving spiritual restoration. This conflict requires a multifaceted solution.
Through coursework, volunteer services, and independent research, I have focused my social justice works to address the needs of women and girls whom the church has deemed sexually impure. Currently, I am conducting research on how religious leaders can integrate models of pastoral care and counseling into public and private services for victim-survivors of sex trafficking in the United States. My social justice advocacy and commitment were groomed outside of Spelman’s gates as well. The first was an internship with the Children’s Defense Fund in the Office of Youth Leadership and Development through which I assisted with the production of CDF’s national conference, Pursuing Justice for Children and the Poor with Urgency and Persistence. The second was an internship with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF) in the Office of Congressman Sanford Bishop, where I specialized on issues such as the abortion bill (H.R 1797) and the FAARM bill dealing with cost cuts for SNAP. I currently intern with Youth Spark, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to ending child sex trafficking.
Running Start’s Impact
I attended the Young Women’s Political Leadership as a sophomore in high school. Shortly after the retreat, I was asked to participate in the Women to Watch Awards and speak at the National Press Club. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined this little girl from Newark, DE standing before crowds to share her story—certainly not as a sophomore in high school. Speaking at the Women to Watch Awards showed me that I not only had a voice, but others were genuinely willing to listen to what I had to say—an opportunity all too commonly denied to young girls. I never took lightly the magnitude of that event. Because of the training and support I received from Running Start, I had everything I needed to build my passion of public speaking.
Speaking at the Women to Watch Awards planted a seed in me which others soon began to notice its fruit. By the end of my first year at Spelman College, I was asked to introduce Oprah Winfrey for Spelman’s 2012 Commencement Activities as a freshman. My sophomore year I was asked to moderate a panel discussion with women of the Committee of 200 entitled, “Doing Good by Doing Well: The Power of Business to Change the World.” In my junior year I spoke for convocation in honor of Leader Nancy Pelosi visiting Spelman. As a senior, I now choose to speak with a voice of social justice advocacy—addressing issues of the human rights of women and girls. In addressing such issues, I hope to be a champion for a world where a woman’s body is not only protected but ethically valued. As I prepare to go to divinity school, I am hoping to work at the intersection of government and religion – using my voice to shed light on the struggle for the human rights of women and girls round the world. All of this would not have been possible had Running Start not provided me the opportunity to open my mouth and witness the gift I never thought to unwrap.
Connect with Camille!
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