Holding a Story is Sacred…”Dixie Fund” helps Women Leave the Sex Industry

by Emily Mills

The weight of holding a story is a sacred one. Holding your own narrative, really owning your story is powerful. I learned how to own my story through an unlikely source. Commercial sex exploits, women working in the sex industry, invited me into the journey of self-discovery. Over a decade ago, I began reaching out, extending myself to women in strip clubs. Looking back, I know now why I was there. It wasn’t about saving “them”… it was about knowing myself. Through the sacred journey of holding their stories, I began to own mine.

Like many of the women I met, I too experienced childhood sexual abuse. I wasn’t sure how comfortable I was with this term. I was no victim. I was a survivor. I didn’t “need” anything from anyone. I would learn how to do life on. my. own. And this attitude is EXACTLY the story of a commercial sex exploit. What a perverted sense of pride I had found in “pulling myself up by the bootstraps”. My addiction bore the markings of religion, theirs the sex industry. What was the difference? Both of us used something to make us feel powerful. Needless to say, God has continued to save me daily through the work of Jesus Said Love, a ministry sharing the revolutionary love of Christ with women in the commercial sex industry. I have learned that I am she, and she is me…and we’re in this life together.

1.13 wild torchLast year, we embarked on our first gala-esque fundraiser, Wild Torch. A night carrying the story of the women we reach through the visual and performing arts. It was purely magical. This year, Wild Torch will blaze on April 11, 2016, at the Hippodrome. Our concept is to swim up the river a bit and through the arts answer the question, “Where does the life of a commercial exploit begin?” And while we can’t make grand assumptions and sweeping generalizations, the statistics and data are flooring:

  • The average age of entry into the commercial sex industry is 12 years old for a female.
  • Upwards of 80% of commercial sex exploits were sexually abused as children.
  • 70% of all human trafficking victims in the US come through the commercial side.
  • The number one risk factor for human trafficking is poverty.
  • 89% of women in the commercial sex industry say they want out but have no other means of survival.

For more facts and information visit: http://jesussaidlove.com/freeher-facts

While the data is gut wrenching, Wild Torch will display the remarkable story of three women who have beat the odds of the industry! Through powerful dance, song and film we will share and celebrate their resiliency! The funds raised this year will go toward The Dixie Fund, a transition fund for women escaping the industry. Through this fund we not only are able to alleviate financial crises due to leaving the industry, but also empower women with funding for entrepreneurial endeavors!

Last year’s funds went to refurbishing the new JSL headquarters at 1500 Columbus. This year, funds raised for The Dixie Fund will help us transition women out of the industry through educational programs and job training, employ former exploits, and launch businesses! Come carry fire with us at Wild Torch 2016! Find out more at www.wildtorch.com.

emily mills flippedEmily  Mills received her B. A. in Communications from Baylor University. While at Baylor, Emily participated in various opportunities to serve the marginalized and lead worship. This began her passionate pursuit to “put feet” on the songs she was singing.  In 2003, while leading worship at a conference for women exiting the sex industry, these two worlds collided and Jesus Said Love was born. Emily continues to lead worship around the country with her husband, Brett. They have three children: Hattie, Lucy and Gus. To learn more about Wild Torch, visit wildtorch.com or our website JesusSaidLove.com. Contact us at info@jesussaidlove.com.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.


Resolutions, Intentions, and Creating Wellness in 2016

by Jenuine Poetess

We’re almost two weeks into the New Year and for some, just hearing the word “resolutions” can cause eyes to roll and groans to emit. I know. It has become rather cliché. Even so, there is value in a ritual of reflection—gazing back on what we’ve accomplished and how far we’ve come, and there is an important humility in recognizing ways we have yet to stretch, grow, and become. A new year, new week, new month, new day are all great times to reflect, recalibrate, and resume our movements toward what it is that makes us come alive.

SCribblesAs an artist, fresh starts can look like raw clay, blank canvas, empty pages, a quiet studio, an open stage, a fresh roll of film (er…uh…or an empty memory card), a furnace of molten glass, a beautiful blank wall, skeins of untouched yarn, newly tilled soil, or folds of new fabric. Just the thought of any of these sends my heart trilling with the aroma of possibility.

Whether or not you are an artist (and not-so-secretly, I believe everyone can accomplish their work with artistry from mechanics to accountants, from care-givers to morticians) I challenge you to consider your creative health and how you will intentionally nourish this part of you throughout 2016.

art tablesWill you take in a night at the Waco Symphony or maybe attend or even participate in a Waco Community Band concert? Maybe you’ll spend some time at the Martin Museum of Art, or the Art Center of Waco, or the Anthem Studios—maybe you’ll attend an opening, or maybe you’ll head over on your lunch break, just an intimate rendezvous between you and art. Will you visit the theater, taking a play by Waco Civic Theater or a concert by the Central Texas Choral Society or enjoy a dose of laughter medicine at an improve show with the Brazos Theatre Group, maybe you’ll support emerging artists and see a show at Baylor or MCC or at Waco High, University High or Midway ISD?

Maybe you’ll hit the streets and meet new neighbors at Art on Elm Ave. or Waco Cultural Arts Fest enjoying all the fullness of free arts programming in Waco and maybe you’ll purchase a print, or a set of earrings, or a new mug, or an original art piece.  Maybe you’ll buy a Creative Waco tote hand-painted by a local artist, maybe you’ll by two—one for you and one for a friend. Maybe you’ll take a flower-arranging workshop at the World Hunger Relief Farm, or help out with the Urban Gardening Coalition.

art bagsstory tellerMaybe you’ll knit or crochet tiny hats for new babies, scarves for refugees, or blankets for an elder with the Waco Knitters & Crocheters. Maybe you’ll listen to some stories, even try your hand at your own at the Heart of Texas Storytelling Guild. Will you check out Maker’s Edge and laser cut, 3D print, or wood burn a fascinating piece for your home? Maybe you’ll stop by Central Texas Artist Collective’s painting in the park station one breezy day in the spring, or finally work up the courage to exhibit your work at Tea2Go or Rufi’s Cocina.

Maybe you’ll make your own ornament and learn a bit about blowing glass next December at Stanton Glass Studio. Maybe you’ll decide it’s time to finally get serious about that book you’ve always wanted to write and you’ll join In the Words of Womyn writing circle or maybe you’ll tackle NaNoWriMo with the Central Texas Writers’ League or take a workshop with the Heart of Texas Romance Writer’s. Maybe you’ve been quiet long enough and you’re ready to get up and perform at Waco Poets Society monthly open mics and maybe you’ll take in some world renown poets at the Beall Poetry Festival this spring.

glass ballMaybe you’ll volunteer at any number of community arts events or make a financial contribution so that we can all keep creating. Maybe you’ll help share events on social media, telling your friends and neighbors about arts and cultural opportunities nearby. Maybe you’ll make it a regular outing with a partner, some friends, or co-workers at Painting with a Twist or Practically Pikasso. Maybe you’ll bookmark this post so when you have a day with no particular plans, you’ll have some ideas for how to paint the town!

waco poetsMy goodness the arts are blooming in Waco! Even with all these options, I’m sure I didn’t capture them all. But that’s okay, this way you can do some exploring with an art adventure of your own—whatever you find, please be sure to share it with us so we can enjoy it too! I hope whatever your goals for 2016, that they include the arts, in any way, shape, form, or expression.

Thrive on!

Jenuine Poetess August 2014Jenuine Poetess is an artist, visionary, and community organizer. In 2010, she founded In the Words of Womyn (ITWOW)an international, grass-roots, written and spoken-word arts project with chapters throughout Los Angeles, CA; Waco, TX; and Lebanon.  Jenuine is the founder of Waco Poets Society and co-founder of the Central Texas Artist Collective.    She writes, organizes, and creates rooted in the fierce conviction that holding intentional space, access, and opportunity for all people to foster their creative health is a matter of justice and is a vital asset to the sustainable thriving of communities.  She currently lives and poems in Central Texas where she enjoys finding new ways to disrupt the homeostasis of her city.  You can contact her at: jenuinepoetess@gmail.com.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.