Peralta Community College District's Only Student-Run Publication
Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

    Pettigrew sheds light on human trafficking

    “What’ up, Oakland?” Withelma “T” Ortiz Walker Pettigrew kicks off her speech in the Laney Forum. After greetings and applause, she began sharing her story, and a captivated audience sat back and listened.
    The March 19 event on human trafficking awareness was another in a series of workshops and discussions in celebration of Women’s Herstory Month.
    Pettigrew’s speech began with a description of what it means to be a human trafficking victim, and what effect that, as well as other forms of abuse, can have on a person. 
    In order to highlight this, Pettigrew began asking questions to the audience. “Who has ever wanted someone to notice them,” she asked, “Who has ever succumbed to peer pressure? Who has ever trusted someone they shouldn’t have?”
    Ms. Pettigrew Talks to audience.Pettigrew frames human trafficking as a human right issue that affects people of all social classes. Sharing a quotation from activist writer Audre Lorde, “There is no such thing as a single issue struggle, because we do not live single issue lives,” Pettigrew drove home her point.
    Her story is a gripping one. Pettigrew fell into the arms of a man who promised her everything, and at the young age of only 11 years old this sounded like a dream come true. 
    Unfortunately, this was not the case, and up until the age of seventeen Pettigrew was trapped and abused, forced to sell herself on the streets of Oakland. As she related her fight to the fight of other women on the street, she revealed that the vast majority of them are trapped there under the hand of an oppressor. 
    “Don’t call them prostitutes,” she stated, “Prostitute gives the inclination that they are willing participants.” 
    Today, Pettigrew is one of the most widely recognized of the leaders and activists in the fight against human trafficking. Under her belt are several awards and achievements, such as being included in Forbes “30 under 30” list and as one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. 
    With her voice, a loud and widely heard one, Pettigrew is calling for change. “We need to change the language around this and stop normalizing it. These are not children that have been prostituted, that’s a terrible word,” Pettigrew spoke, “These men are not Johns… they are pedophiles and child rapists.”
    To conclude her speech, Pettigrew implored student attendees to take action, to use their education as a tool for change. “Your work, your major, could be important, could help somebody,” she encouraged audience members. 
    In terms of prevention, Pettigrew called attention to how important it is to love and support your child unconditionally. For young women, she told the audience that it is very important that a girl have a father figure, or other male role model in their lives. 
    Youth need self-actualization, Pettigrew concluded, and need to be exposed to safe, self-expressive activities. “Give them something to hold onto,” she urged.

    About the Contributor
    In the fall of 2019, The Laney Tower rebranded as The Citizen and launched a new website. These stories were ported over from the old Laney Tower website, but byline metadata was lost in the port. However, many of these stories credit the authors in the text of the story. Some articles may also suffer from formatting issues. Future archival efforts may fix these issues.  
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