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Dr. Millicent Knight, new board member Dr. Millicent Knight, OD, FAAO, FAARM, FNAP, is senior vice president, customer development group, at EssilorLuxottica, where her team oversees eye care professional education, professional relations, and sales force training in North America.

New Friends New Life announces the induction of four new board members for the 2022-2023 term, effective April 1: Dr. Millicent Knight, senior vice president, customer development, EssilorLuxottica; Cheryl Monroe, vice president controller and treasurer, Mary Kay, Inc.; and Elena Sacca Smith, group manager, Office of Social Innovation, Toyota North America. They join previously announced Erin Nealy-Cox, partner at Kirkland & Ellis and former U.S. Attorney, Northern District of Texas. Additionally, Tracy Young, founder and principal, TDY Partners, will serve as the Circle of Friends President and Zeke Fortenberry, attorney for victims, Fortenberry Firm PLLC, as the Men’s Advocacy Group Board Chair.

"These dynamic corporate leaders bring incredible new expertise from across the Dallas business community to New Friends New Life,” said Tracey Nash-Huntley, Board Chair. "Because we know the problem of sex trafficking is systemic at its root, the solution must be collaborative. Without question, their leadership, commitment, and compassion will be valuable assets to each of our three boards. Together we will continue to educate and increase awareness of the prevalence of sex trafficking right here in our Dallas community, while also providing direction and support for the ongoing work of New Friends New Life empowering and restoring the lives of the formerly trafficked and sexually exploited women and girls we serve.”

The new board members join a diverse board of community representatives including Tracey Nash-Huntley, NFNL Board Chair, community leader; Robin Bagwell, community leader; Nancy Best, business and community leader; Adam Cannon, Chief Brand Officer, G6 Hospitality, LLC; Sherri Daniel, Certified Public Accountant; Dr. Cole Edmonson, DNP, RN; Chief Clinical Officer, AMN Healthcare; Kelley Grayson, Regional VP, Provider Network Solutions; Wendy Messmann, Regional Investment Executive, US Trust, Bank of America; Paulette Miniter, Associate Attorney, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP; Jane A. Rose, General Counsel, Irwin R. Rose & Co.; Christa Sanford, Partner, Baker Botts, LLP; Shelly Slater, community leader, WFAA Special Contributor; Gail Turner, community leader, SMU affiliation; Jessica Turner-Waugh, actor & voice-over artist; and Katherine Wynne, business and community leader.

For more information, visit newfriendsnewlife.org or call (214) 965-0935.

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NEW BOARD MEMBERS 2022-2023

Dr. Millicent Knight, OD, FAAO, FAARM, FNAP, is senior vice president, customer development group, at EssilorLuxottica, where her team oversees eye care professional education, professional relations, and sales force training in North America. She has an extensive background in the eye care industry with hospital-based ophthalmology/optometry and is the former owner of two optometric practices. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including optometrist of the year and young optometrist of the year by the National Optometric Association and the Illinois Optometric Association. She has volunteered for eye care missions around the world including North, South, and Central America, as well as Haiti and Thailand and is a mentor to young women in the eye health industry. She is also a member of the Dallas Chapter of The Links, Incorporated and is active working with their STEAM Academy of 7th to 12th grade girls of color.

Cheryl Monroe is vice president controller and treasurer of Mary Kay Inc., with oversight for consolidated financial reporting, accounting services, and treasury operations.  Since 2000 she has served in multiple roles in Finance at Mary Kay, including internal audit, financial reporting, and forecasting.  She serves on the Florida State University Libraries Advancement Board and joined the Mary Kay Ash Foundation board of directors in 2022.  The Mary Kay Ash Foundation raises and provides funds to find a cure for women-related cancers and an end to gender-based violence against women and girls.

Elena Sacca Smith is the group manager for the Office of Social Innovation at Toyota North America, where she oversees the company’s corporate social responsibility strategies, communications, measurement, and operations to advance the company’s social impact and diversity and inclusion efforts. She is host of The CauseGirl Podcast, inspiring women to feel good by doing good; a fellow at the Aspen Institute and serves on the Executive Forum for Boston College’s Center for Corporate Citizenship. She is also on the board of directors for Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas and is a lifetime member.

Erin Nealy-Cox is a partner at Kirkland and Ellis and the former United States Attorney for the Northern District of Texas. She represents corporations, boards of directors, and executives involved in complex multi-jurisdictional disputes and high-stakes investigations and is a member of the firm’s Government, Regulatory & Internal Investigations Practice Group. She has been recognized nationally for her pioneering efforts to eradicate human trafficking and was nominated for Texan of the Year by The Dallas Morning News in 2020 for her efforts.

NEW AUXILIARY GROUP LEADERS

Tracy Young, the new Circle of Friends president, is the founder and principal of TDY Partners, a communications, public, and government affairs consultancy serving clients at the local, state, and federal level. She previously worked for the George W. Bush Institute; the Laura Bush Foundation for America’s Libraries; the Texas Charter Schools Association; Texas House Speaker Joe Straus; the George W. Bush Administration; the U.S. Department of Education; and for Education Secretary Margaret Spellings. Young volunteers as a court-appointed special advocate (CASA), supporting children in foster care, and supports A21.

Circle of Friends supports the mission of New Friends New Life through volunteerism, community awareness, and fundraising.

Zeke Fortenberry of Fortenberry Firm PLLC, is the new Men’s Advocacy Group chair. He is an attorney and advocate for victims and has handled more than 160 jury trials. He teaches trial advocacy and has served as an adjunct faculty member at Southern Methodist University School of Law. He has lectured at the National Institute of Trial Advocacy and is a speaker and presenter across Texas. Fortenberry served as chair of the board for the Texas Young Lawyers Association and is a volunteer with Children’s Advocacy Center as well as a supporter of local law enforcement organizations.

The Men’s Advocacy Group was created to mobilize men to take action against sex trafficking and exploitation by raising awareness through advocacy, education, and volunteerism.

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About New Friends New Life:
Founded in Dallas, Texas, in 1998, New Friends New Life (NFNL) restores and empowers trafficked and sexually exploited teen girls, women and their children, and drives awareness of the issue and its prevalence. By providing access to education, job training, interim financial assistance, mental health, and spiritual support, New Friends New Life helps women and their children overcome backgrounds of abuse, addiction, poverty, and limited opportunities. In 2021, NFNL served 312 members. NFNL also educates the community and works to eradicate the epidemic of human trafficking through advocacy, legislative reform and strategic partnerships that address systemic causes. In 2018, NFNL opened a drop-in Youth Resource Center (YRC) in partnership with the Office of the Governor to serve trafficked and high-risk teen girls. Since its opening, we have served 442 girls. In 2015, NFNL organized its Men's Advocacy Group to engage men in the fight against sex trafficking and exploitation. For more information, visit http://www.newfriendsnewlife.org.

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Erin Nealy Cox, P.C. Nealy Cox is widely known for her leadership and pioneering efforts to combat sex trafficking on both the supply and demand sides as well as her groundbreaking work to provide financial restitution to victims.

Nealy Cox is widely known for her leadership and pioneering efforts to combat sex trafficking on both the supply and demand sides as well as her groundbreaking work to provide financial restitution to victims

New Friends New Life announces Erin Nealy Cox, has been appointed to its 2021-2022 Board of Directors. A fierce advocate against sex trafficking, the former United States Attorney for the Northern District of Texas is a partner in Kirkland and Ellis’ Dallas and Washington, D.C., offices. She represents corporations, boards of directors, and executives involved in complex multi-jurisdictional disputes and high-stakes investigations and is a member of the firm’s Government, Regulatory & Internal Investigations Practice Group. Her practice focuses on matters arising from alleged violations of state and federal laws, including fraud, cybersecurity, public corruption, national security, workplace compliance, and issues involving board governance. 

“We are incredibly honored to have Erin Nealy Cox, an extraordinary ally in the fight against sex trafficking, as the newest member of New Friends New Life’s Board of Directors,” said Tracey Nash-Huntley, Board Chair. “Without question, her leadership, commitment, and compassion combined with her innovative work to fight sex trafficking will be a huge asset to the board as we provide direction and support to NFNL’s chief executive officer, Bianca Davis, as she leads the agency forward.”

“I have long admired the work of New Friends New Life as they work tirelessly to help women and their children overcome backgrounds of abuse, addiction, poverty and limited opportunities,” said Erin Nealy Cox. “NFNL has long served as a vital resource to our community by providing access to education, job training, interim financial assistance, mental health and spiritual support to victims of human trafficking.  I am honored and excited to join them in this mission.”

Nealy Cox has been recognized nationally for her pioneering efforts to eradicate human trafficking through the efforts of the North Texas Trafficking Task Force. While working with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) to revamp the task force, she attacked sexual exploitation from multiple angles, including the demand side. In June 2020, the trafficking task force shut down CityXGuide, a leading source of online ads for sex trafficking, and used the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) to charge its owner with reckless disregard of trafficking. Additionally, she charged sellers as well as buyers and instituted a system to see restitution for victims. Nealy Cox was nominated for Texan of the Year by The Dallas Morning News in 2020 for her efforts.

Throughout her two and a half decades in public service and private practice, she has successfully tried numerous cases in federal courts. She has served at the highest levels of the Department of Justice as United States Attorney, in her role, she was recognized nationally for her work in developing strategic responses to benefit the eight million residents of the North District of Texas. In addition to her work to eradicate human trafficking, she was also recognized nationally and locally for her efforts to combat domestic violence through gun control initiatives. Prior to her appointment as U.S. Attorney in 2017, she served as a senior advisor at McKinsey & Co.; managing director at Stroz Friedberg; Chief of Staff and Senior Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General in the DOJ’s Office of Legal Policy in Washington, D.C.; and Assistant U.S. Attorney in the North District of Texas. Nealy Cox graduated with a BBA in Finance from The University of Texas at Austin and a JD from SMU School of Law.

Nealy Cox joins a diverse board of community representatives including Tracey Nash-Huntley, NFNL board chair, community leader; Robin Bagwell, community leader; Nancy Best, business and community leader; Adam Cannon, VP of brand management, G6 Hospitality, LLC; Sherri Daniel, certified public accountant; Cole Edmonson, DNP, RN; chief clinical officer, AMN Healthcare; Kelley Grayson, VP, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas; Ashlee Kleinert, community leader; Wendy Messmann, regional investment executive, US Trust, Bank of America; Paulette Miniter, associate attorney, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP; Jane A. Rose, general counsel, Irwin R. Rose & Co.; Christa Sanford, partner, Baker Botts, LLP; Pat Schenkel, community leader; Shelly Slater, community leader, WFAA Special Contributor; Gail Turner, community leader; Jessica Turner-Waugh, actor & voice over artist; and Katherine Wynne, business and community leader.

For more information, visit newfriendsnewlife.org or call (214) 965-0935.

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About New Friends New Life:
Founded in Dallas, Texas, in 1998, New Friends New Life (NFNL) restores and empowers trafficked and sexually exploited teen girls, women and their children, and drives awareness of the issue and its prevalence. By providing access to education, job training, interim financial assistance, mental health, and spiritual support, New Friends New Life helps women and their children overcome backgrounds of abuse, addiction, poverty, and limited opportunities. In 2020, NFNL served 330 members (clients). NFNL also educates the community and works to eradicate the epidemic of human trafficking through advocacy, legislative reform and strategic partnerships that address systemic causes. In 2018, NFNL opened a drop-in Youth Resource Center (YRC) in partnership with the Office of the Governor to serve trafficked and high-risk teen girls. More than 100 girls visited the YRC during its first year. In 2015, NFNL organized its Men's Advocacy Group to engage men in the fight against sex trafficking and exploitation. For more information, visit http://www.newfriendsnewlife.org.

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New Friends New Life

New Friends New Life (NFNL) is a recipient of a $10,000 grant from the Texas Bar Foundation. Funds will support the Legal Advocacy Fund designed to cover legal fees that sex trafficking survivors face, including court costs for legal processes like criminal record expungement. At NFNL, 65% of members (clients) have a criminal record as a direct result of being trafficked – a barrier that prohibits survivors from finding jobs, obtaining housing, and becoming stable, contributing members of the community.

“Navigating the criminal justice system is an intimidating process for survivors who are often without the financial resources or legal understanding to know what to do next,” shares Bianca Davis, Chief Executive Officer of New Friends New Life. “Support from the Texas Bar Foundation through the Legal Advocacy Fund helps to remove some of the most critical hurdles our women face, paving the way for them to become gainfully employed, thriving members of the community.”

The Legal Advocacy Fund is a critical component of the Barrier Removal Initiative underway at NFNL that includes the development of an on-site Legal Advocacy Clinic. Criminal charges represent a traumatizing reminder of sex trafficking survivors’ past abuse and a seemingly insurmountable barrier to achieving better housing, establishing a career, and meeting other goals. With a Legal Advocacy Clinic, new members of NFNL Women’s Program will meet with an onsite paralegal to review their criminal backgrounds and create a legal action plan. The addition of a Legal Advocacy Fund will help remove economic barriers for survivors to achieve independence by assisting with legal fees.

Since its inception in 1965, the Texas Bar Foundation has awarded more than $23 million in grants to law-related programs. Supported by members of the State Bar of Texas, the Texas Bar Foundation is the nation’s largest charitably funded bar foundation.

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About New Friends New Life:
Founded in Dallas, Texas, in 1998, New Friends New Life (NFNL) restores and empowers trafficked and sexually exploited teen girls, women and their children, and drives awareness of the issue and its prevalence. By providing access to education, job training, interim financial assistance, mental health, and spiritual support, New Friends New Life helps women and their children overcome backgrounds of abuse, addiction, poverty, and limited opportunities. In 2020, NFNL served 330 members (clients). NFNL also educates the community and works to eradicate the epidemic of human trafficking through advocacy, legislative reform and strategic partnerships that address systemic causes. In 2018, NFNL opened a drop-in Youth Resource Center (YRC) in partnership with the Office of the Governor to serve trafficked and high-risk teen girls. More than 100 girls visited the YRC during its first year. In 2015, NFNL organized its Men's Advocacy Group to engage men in the fight against sex trafficking and exploitation. For more information, visit http://www.newfriendsnewlife.org.

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New Friends New Life Luncheon Luncheon Honorary Co-Chairs Tonya and Charlie McKinney; ProtectHER Award recipients Dirk and Jessica Nowitzki; Luncheon Co-Chairs Jan Osborn and Trina Terrell-Andrews; NFNL CEO Bianca Davis

Courageous trafficked survivors shared personal stories; American Airlines, Dr. Monique W. Morris and surprise honorees Jessica and Dirk Nowitzki received the 2021 ProtectHER Awards

 

Attendees of this year’s hybrid New Friends New Life luncheon not only benefited from the empowering words of Academy Award-Winner Lupita Nyong’o, but they also gained new perspective into the lives of those who are sex trafficked from the personal stories of five courageous graduates of the nonprofit’s program – each of whom was present at the luncheon. These women, now members of a new Alumni Circle, help ensure that survivors always have a voice while serving as mentors for the women and girls in NFNL’s program.

The a cappella voices of Kings Return opened the program, setting the tone for what was to be a powerful day. Luncheon Co-Chairs Jan Osborn and Trina Terrell-Andrews introduced the video of the sex trafficking survivors, followed by remarks from NFNL CEO Bianca Davis. Davis applauded each survivor for their courage, commitment, and successes while highlighting the importance of “community” and the organization’s transformational program. “This year, I listened to a member share that her first day at New Friends New Life was going to be the last day of her life,” shared Davis. “She had tried, and she was tired. But she didn’t end her life that day. In fact, she is about to enter Phase 4 of our program, and she is a star.”

Dr. Monique W. Morris, president and CEO of Grantmakers for Girls of Color, was honored with the first ProtectHER Award for her work as a transformative voice for girls of color impacted by sex trafficking. She is an award-winning author and social justice scholar with three decades of experience in the areas of education, civil rights, and juvenile and social justice. Unable to attend in person, Dr. Morris shared her remarks in a recorded video. “I am honored to be in community with New Friends New Life and proud of the work we do to impact the lives of others. New Friends New Life is about transformation and reclamation, and it is beautiful.”

Patrick Sanders, director and senior attorney at American Airlines, accepted his company’s ProtectHER Award for its work in the fight against sex trafficking. Since January 2020, the company has provided awareness training for their team to recognize how human trafficking intersects with the travel industry; provided care kits for women in the program; and most recently provided pro-bono legal services, in partnership with Jones Day, to expunge criminal records of women in the NFNL program. “We continue to be so impressed by the work of New Friends New Life and the lives that are saved every day, and are truly grateful for this honor,” said Sanders. “To hear the personal stories of survival today, and to know we played a role in the expungement of one of those survivors was an emotional moment for me and our team here today.”

Honorary Co-Chairs Tonya and Charlie McKinney were invited to the stage to help introduce a surprise awardee. Charlie began by sharing that he was going off script and stated how much of an impact the program of NFNL has made on them. He specifically recognized the table of survivors who had just shared their personal stories and successes.

Jessica and Dirk Nowitzki were announced as the recipients of the third ProtectHER Award for the work of their foundation which focuses on the well-being, health, and education of children; their donations to critical social service agencies during the pandemic; and their understanding that social ills – including sex trafficking – are often the result of vulnerabilities of early childhood.

“This is a great honor for our foundation,” said Nowitzki. He then shared a personal story of his arrival 20 years ago in Dallas. “Exiting the plane, I was greeted by hundreds of fans with Dirk signs. I thought, they are already embracing me, and they don’t even know me. It was at that moment I knew I was going to do my best to do my part to make this a better community. It was years later I learned those were all Mavs employees, but the seed was already planted! We started the foundation in 2001, and we have been doing amazing work collaborating with amazing people. I’m excited to continue the work of the foundation and look forward to the next 20 years.”

Jessica Nowitzki continued, “Collaboration and partnership are key and what we have tried to do all of these years. Without sponsors and collaborators, we can’t do what we do in the community. New Friends New Life is one of the key components making a change in our city. Your presence today is so important. To make a difference we all have to do this together.”

NBC 5’s Laura Harris introduced virtual guest Lupita Nyong’o, a Kenyan actress, producer and author, known for her Academy Award-winning performance in 12 Years a Slave. She starred in Jordan Peel’s Us and is soon reprising her role in Marvel’s Black Panther 2. She executive produces the YouTube Originals family program, Super Sema, which depicts Africa’s first kid superhero and features her voice in a two-part episode. She is also a New York Times Bestselling author for her children’s book, Sulwe, which recently won an Emmy Award.

In a recorded conversation with Harris, Nyong’o shared her story and what empowers and motivates her. She was raised by parents who were involved in the world – her dad, a politician, fighting for democracy, and her mother, a world class humanitarian who takes on other people’s issues with a big heart.

“I observed them put people first and sacrifice themselves for a larger idea – those examples affected me, giving me the blueprint of what life is about. You have a life to lead – do what you want to do and what enriches the world you live in. This sense of purpose is in all of us – if you listen close enough.” 

Nyong’o shared that she was not clear for a long time about what her purpose was but feels driven by a desire to change the narrative and offer a new perspective, especially in her role as an actor and storyteller. She continued by saying, “the pursuit of clarity is valid in and of itself.” After graduating with her undergraduate degree, she returned to Kenya to reflect, knew she wanted to act, and applied to graduate school.

“Reflection is such an important part of discovering what your purpose is,” Nyong’o added. “You can so easily get into the rut of living and just trying to survive that you forget to take a step back, take stock and design your life.”

She touched on her children’s book, Sulwe, which she referred to as an autobiography of her life with magic in it. “I grew up very uncomfortable with the color of my skin and experienced discrimination. I wrote a children’s book to affect the way children see themselves before the world tells them what their worth is. Ultimately, in our adult lives we are seeking to heal our childhood wounds, and this was one of the ways I went about healing my own.”

The actress also discussed her experience narrating Serengeti, a nature documentary shot in Kenya. She realized this was a watershed moment when she reflected on the fact that she had never heard a nature documentary done in an accent that was not British or American; she had never heard a female narrator; and she had never heard an African accent – even though filming was on that continent.

When asked about her workout videos, she shared she believes in a strong body, strong mind, and had a good role model as a child – her aunt played the Jane Fonda workout videos, and they exercised together every other day.

She described her Oscar moment, unsure if she heard her name called in her head or aloud, and then worried about falling as she walked up the stairs in 40 meters of fabric. “I was washed with gratitude – a girl from Kenya who had this dream that seemed so unattainable that my mother protected, and my father encouraged, and now it’s come to fruition.”

She emphasized that we don’t necessarily belong where we are from – that’s just a starting point. “The more we understand that, the more we can do with it. We belong on this earth the second we get here.”

For her final remarks, she shared she had been thinking about the gift of curiosity. “When people are oppressed, the first thing taken away from them is freedom to be curious. I want to impart on people to hold on to your curiosity – it’s what keeps you engaged in life, youthful and growing, and when you let it go, that’s when you start to die. I am grateful for my career which forces me to be curious. When I start a role, I know nothing, and that exercise in being uncomfortable in what you don’t know and seeking to know it, keeps my brain sharp and my heart beating – it keeps me looking forward to a new day.”

Luncheon attendees included Kimberly Clifton; Katherine Coker; Elizabeth Gambrell; Tracey Nash-Huntley; Ashlee and Chris Kleinert; Wendy Messmann; Pat Schenkel; Beth Thoele; Dr. Melissa Tonn; Gail and Dr. R. Gerald Turner; Jessica Turner-Waugh; and Katherine Wynne.

Media sponsors were NBC5, PaperCity, and The Dallas Morning News.

Visit www.newfriendsnewlife.org/luncheon.

 

About New Friends New Life:

Founded in Dallas, Texas, in 1998, New Friends New Life (NFNL) restores and empowers trafficked and sexually exploited teen girls, women and their children, and drives awareness of the issue and its prevalence. By providing access to education, job training, interim financial assistance, mental health, and spiritual support, New Friends New Life helps women and their children overcome backgrounds of abuse, addiction, poverty, and limited opportunities. In 2020, NFNL served 330 members (clients). NFNL also educates the community and works to eradicate the epidemic of human trafficking through advocacy, legislative reform and strategic partnerships that address systemic causes. In 2018, NFNL opened a drop-in Youth Resource Center (YRC) in partnership with the Office of the Governor to serve trafficked and high-risk teen girls. More than 100 girls visited the YRC during its first year. In 2015, NFNL organized its Men's Advocacy Group to engage men in the fight against sex trafficking and exploitation. For more information, visit http://www.newfriendsnewlife.org.

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New Friends New Life Launch Party NFNL CEO Bianca Davis, Luncheon Honorary Chairs Charlie and Tonya McKinney, Luncheon Co-Chairs Trina Terrell-Andrews and Jan Osborn

American Airlines and Dr. Monique W. Morris were announced as the 2021 ProtectHER Award recipients at the New Friends New Life Annual Luncheon Launch Party, hosted by New Friends New Life on September 22. The award recipients will be honored at the annual New Friends New Life luncheon, featuring a virtual conversation with Lupita Nyong’o on October 8, 11:30 a.m., at the OMNI Dallas Hotel.

American Airlines will be honored as a ProtectHER Award recipient for its commitment, in partnership with Jones Day, to helping remove the barriers of a criminal record obtained as a direct result of trafficking and exploitation partnership in the fight against human trafficking and child exploitation. In 2020 American began a partnership with NFNL, aiming to raise awareness of human trafficking and support the needs of victims and survivors in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Additionally, their legal team launched a new pro bono program to enable members of the team to volunteer to provide free legal services to people in need. In partnership with attorneys at Jones Day, American participated in an initiative led by the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office, providing legal help to Dallas-area residents ? including human trafficking survivors ? who were qualified to have offenses expunged. Expunging the records of these victims opens the door to a fresh start including better employment and housing as well as education.

Dr. Monique W. Morris, Ed.D., an award-winning author and social justice scholar with three decades of experience in the areas of education, civil rights, juvenile and social justice, will be recognized as a ProtectHER award recipient for her work educating the community on the disparities facing girls of color –a demographic that is disproportionately trafficked and exploited. Dr. Morris is president and CEO of Grantmakers for Girls of Color, committed to building a world in which all girls and gender-expansive youth of color are healthy, safe and thriving and fully empowered to dream and shape their desired reality on their terms. Her enlightening book and documentary, PUSHOUT, has demonstrated how the criminalization of Black girls in schools pushes girls out into the streets into trauma and violence. Her work has been profiled by MSNBC, CSPAN2, The Washington Post, The New York Times, NPR, and PBS, among other national and local print, radio, and television media.

“This year’s ProtectHER Award recipients are doing life-changing, impactful work, critical to our mission to improve the lives of trafficked and exploited women and girls who need our voice,” said Bianca Davis, CEO, New Friends New Life. “In addition to their extensive training program identifying and stopping traffickers, American Airlines is giving our members a new start on life by providing pro-bono legal services to expunge their records. Dr. Monique W. Morris is providing a transformative voice for young girls of color impacted by sex trafficking. By working together, we can continue to safeguard the rights of women and girls who are at-risk or have already suffered the trauma of human trafficking.”

Luncheon Co-Chairs Trina Terrell-Andrews and Jan Osborn joined Honorary Chairs Charlie and Tonya McKinney in generating excitement about the upcoming luncheon while visiting with the 70 attendees throughout the evening.

“We are so pleased to have Tonya and Charlie as this year’s honorary chairs,” said Bianca Davis, CEO, New Friends New Life. “For many years they have demonstrated an incredible commitment to the youth of this community, ultimately helping them find confidence, make good decisions, and change the trajectory of their futures – a perfect complement to the goals of our programs at New Friends New Life.”

Launch party guests, including Robin Bagwell, Brad Cheves, Kimberly Clifton, Ashlee and Chris Kleinert, Jane Rose, Pat Schenkel, Beth Thoele, and Gail Turner, enjoyed gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches from Ruthie’s Rolling Café, ice cream from Baldo’s, and wine courtesy of Starpower. Tours of New Friends New Life were provided throughout the evening. Guests also had the opportunity to learn more about the luncheon's raffle items, including a “Travel to Your Dream Destination” package with 250,000 miles from American Airlines; “Treat You and Yours,” including fresh flowers delivered to your home every other month for a year from Garden Gate; an Isabella Guillien portrait; and $2,000 from Eiseman Jewels; and “Tasty Gourmet Gathering,” a two-hour grilled cheese party for 50 people hosted by Ruthie’s Rolling Café food truck.

NFNL CEO Bianca Davis recognized sponsors, host committee, staff, board, and co-chairs, the ProtectHER Award recipients and introduced Luncheon Co-Chair Jan Osborn, who has been involved with NFNL for more than 20 years and shared her personal story of the early days of the nonprofit.

Underwriting sponsorship opportunities begin at $2,500, and individual tickets are available for $250. A limited number of virtual access-only tickets can be purchased for $100. To reserve your sponsorship or seats, please visit www.newfriendsnewlife.org/luncheon, email events@newfriendsnewlife.org or contact Senior Development Director Priya Murphy at 214-217-8652.

Luncheon media sponsors are The Dallas Morning News, PaperCity, and NBC 5. Additional sponsors include Nancy and Rand Best, Ashlee and Chris Kleinert, Highlands Residential Mortgage (Empress Sponsors), Tracey Nash-Huntley and David Huntley, Tonya and Charlie McKinney, Pat and Pete Schenkel/Gail and Dr. R. Gerald Turner; and Beth and Chuck Thoele (Peacock Sponsors).

“Texas ranks second in the highest number of trafficking victims in the country, and the Dallas-Fort Worth area has the second-highest number of victims in the state,” added Davis. “When organizations and individuals such as these join the fight against sex trafficking, it fortifies our ability to empower survivors, hold traffickers and buyers accountable and prevent this $99 million crime from thriving in our community. We congratulate each of this year’s recipients on a job well done and appreciate their ongoing commitment to make a difference.”

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About New Friends New Life:
Founded in Dallas, Texas, in 1998, New Friends New Life (NFNL) restores and empowers trafficked and sexually exploited teen girls, women and their children, and drives awareness of the issue and its prevalence. By providing access to education, job training, interim financial assistance, mental health, and spiritual support, New Friends New Life helps women and their children overcome backgrounds of abuse, addiction, poverty, and limited opportunities. In 2020, NFNL served 330 members (clients). NFNL also educates the community and works to eradicate the epidemic of human trafficking through advocacy, legislative reform and strategic partnerships that address systemic causes. In 2018, NFNL opened a drop-in Youth Resource Center (YRC) in partnership with the Office of the Governor to serve trafficked and high-risk teen girls. More than 100 girls visited the YRC during its first year. In 2015, NFNL organized its Men's Advocacy Group to engage men in the fight against sex trafficking and exploitation. For more information, visit http://www.newfriendsnewlife.org.

(PHOTO CREDIT:  LISA STEWART)

 

Join us for the luncheon on October 8! To become a sponsor or purchase a ticket, click here.

 

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Lupita Nyong'o Academy Award® Winner Lupita Nyong'o, champion of women and girls around the world, to headline New Friends New Life Annual Luncheon on Oct. 8.

“A Conversation with Nyong’o” will be presented virtually at this year’s hybrid event

New Friends New Life (NFNL) announces Lupita Nyong’o, Academy Award® winner, executive producer, New York Times best-selling author, and advocate for women and girls around the world, will headline the New Friends New Life Annual Luncheon that will be held on Friday, October 8 at 11:30 a.m., at the OMNI Dallas Hotel, 555 S. Lamar St. A hybrid event giving guests the opportunity to attend in-person or online, the luncheon will feature an in-person program, along with “A Conversation with Nyong’o,” presented virtually.  Luncheon co-chairs are Jan Osborn, founder of Dallas Doing Good, and Trina Terrell-Andrews, CEO of the Mark Cuban Heroes Basketball Center.

Lupita Nyong’o is a Kenyan actress, producer and author. For her role in 12 Years a Slave, Nyong’o received the Academy Award® as well as the Screen Actors Guild® Award, the Critics’ Choice Award, the Independent Spirit Award, and the NAACP Award. For her starring role in Jordan Peele’s Us, Nyong’o received a Screen Actors Guild nomination, the NY Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress, and an NAACP Award. Upcoming, she will star in Marvel’s Black Panther 2 and Universal’s thriller The 355.

“New Friends New Life is both honored and excited to bring our supporters and friends together once again to celebrate the triumph of women and girls, and there are few voices more triumphant than that of Lupita Nyong’o,” said Bianca Jackson, CEO, New Friends New Life. “Exuding beauty, strength and courage, Lupita’s passion and message perfectly aligns with our mission to help restore and empower those who have been marginalized and minimized. By being her authentic self, she gives voice to the hopes and dreams of women and girls everywhere.”

Currently, Nyong’o executive produces the YouTube Originals family program, Super Sema. The animated series depicts Africa’s first kid superhero and features Nyong’o’s voice in a two-part episode. She is also currently filming Black Panther 2: Wakanda Forever.  Additionally, she will co-produce and feature in Born a Crime, as well as executive produce and star in Apple TV’s Lady in the Lake. Past credits include Black PantherLittle MonstersQueen of?KatweStar Wars: The Force AwakensStar Wars: The Last Jedi, and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Recently, she played “Julieta” in The Public Theater’s bilingual audio adaptation of Romeo y Julieta alongside Juan Castano. Nyong’o earned a Tony® nomination for her Broadway performance in Eclipsed. Her debut children's book, Sulwe, is a?New York Times?#1 Best Seller.

Underwriting sponsorship opportunities begin at $2,500, and individual tickets are available for $250. A limited number of virtual access-only tickets can be purchased for $100. To reserve your sponsorship or seats, please visit www.newfriendsnewlife.org/luncheon, email events@newfriendsnewlife.org or contact Senior Development Director Priya Murphy at 214-217-8652.

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About New Friends New Life:
Founded in Dallas, Texas, in 1998, New Friends New Life (NFNL) restores and empowers trafficked and sexually exploited teen girls, women and their children, and drives awareness of the issue and its prevalence. By providing access to education, job training, interim financial assistance, mental health, and spiritual support, New Friends New Life helps women and their children overcome backgrounds of abuse, addiction, poverty, and limited opportunities. In 2020, NFNL served 330 members (clients). NFNL also educates the community and works to eradicate the epidemic of human trafficking through advocacy, legislative reform and strategic partnerships that address systemic causes. In 2018, NFNL opened a drop-in Youth Resource Center (YRC) in partnership with the Office of the Governor to serve trafficked and high-risk teen girls. More than 100 girls visited the YRC during its first year. In 2015, NFNL organized its Men's Advocacy Group to engage men in the fight against sex trafficking and exploitation. For more information, visit http://www.newfriendsnewlife.org.

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Virtual New Friends New Life Luncheon Luncheon Co-Chair Jane A. Rose, Honorary Co-Chairs Eric and Elizabeth Gambrell, and Luncheon Co-Chair Jessica Turner Waugh

From trafficking survivor and luncheon speaker Cyntoia Brown-Long to ProtectHER Award Recipients Natalie Nanasi and Brittany K. Barnett, to an exciting announcement of a new life-changing partnership with the Dallas District Attorney’s Office, the 2020 New Friends New Life (NFNL) Luncheon, presented virtually on September 18, featured a consistent and powerful message emphasizing the critical need for criminal justice reform to ensure victims of sex trafficking have a path toward restoration. A testament to unwavering community support and involvement, the virtual luncheon was a resounding success as the agency adjusts to raising funds and educating the community amid a pandemic.

Luncheon Co-Chairs Jane A. Rose and Jessica Turner Waugh and honorary co-chairs and community advocates Elizabeth and Eric Gambrell kicked off the luncheon reiterating that while it seems the world seems to have slowed with COVID-19, sex trafficking and exploitation of women and girls is still happening, and prevention and intervention models provided by New Friends New Life are critical. NFNL Board Chair Ashlee Kleinert added, “While the realities of COVID-19 are heartbreaking, the successes and perseverance of NFNL staff and members are a testament to all that is good in our world.”

Arrested at the age of 16, Cyntoia Brown-Long was a juvenile sentenced as an adult to life in prison for killing a man who solicited her for sex. She served 15 years before receiving a commuted sentence by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam.  She is the author of Free Cyntoia: My Search for Redemption in the American Prison System and the subject of a documentary about her life.

“I always felt like everything was my fault, and I was ashamed,” said Brown-Long. “Some of the biggest lies I was told had to do with my value as a person. I was told that my identity as a person was determined by other people and what I did for them. While in prison, I decided to take back my life, and I enrolled in a college program, surrounded by a community of people who believed in me. I received two college degrees and earned two 4.0s.  I am living proof that a new life is attainable.”

Brown-Long empowered viewers to take all the things they share with friends and tweet about, and put that energy into something positive, making things happen. “When young girls are trafficked, they go through so much, they are tired, they react, and they can easily snap out of trauma,” added Brown-Long. “We need to have compassion. They are defending themselves and their right to survive and be free. Let’s not throw them away and lock them up. Let’s provide them with a support community, rehabilitate them and help them re-enter the community.”

“The public needs to understand the history of these women and the trauma they may have suffered,” added Jessica Brazeal, chief programs officer, New Friends New Life. “New Friends New Life provides a clear way out, nurturing a deep multi-generational impact that breaks the cycle of abuse and exploitation.” (It’s Not a Choice Animation)

The Dallas District Attorney’s Office recently partnered with New Friends New Life on a new initiative to help break this cycle of abuse. NFNL Board Chair-Elect Tracey Nash-Huntley announced the new pre-trial intervention agreement in which a woman who is arrested on a prostitution misdemeanor will be offered the opportunity to enroll in the Phase 1 of the NFNL women’s program. Upon successful completion, her case is eligible for immediate expunction. “This is life-changing because a criminal record is one of the largest barriers these women face to gaining new employment and making a new start,” added Nash-Huntley. “This is what reform looks like.”

Natalie Nanasi and Brittany K. Barnett were recognized as the 2020 ProtectHER Award recipients for their tireless work for criminal justice reform. Nanasi, director of the Judge Elmo B. Hunter Legal Center for Victims of Crimes Against Women and assistant professor of law, Southern Methodist University, organizes pro-bono legal defense for victims of sex trafficking. She became a lawyer to help people and is proud of the center’s partnership with NFNL. “The women we help from NFNL have been debilitated by poverty and trauma since an incredibly young age. They are not the type of people who should be punished. Helping them to get their records cleared not only serves justice but also helps them to move forward and heal. I can think of no better use of a law degree. I dedicate this award to these women as well as the teams of SMU law students who do the hard work.”

Barnett, an attorney, author, co-founder of the Buried Alive Project, and advocate for criminal justice reform, is the daughter of a formerly incarcerated mother and knows the impact of mass incarceration. She has also founded Girls Embracing Mothers, dedicated to empowering girls with mothers in prison. Barnett helped secure her mother’s freedom as well as dozens of others serving life without parole in federal prisons with outdated drug laws. “The work that we have to do is much more than reform,” said Barnett. “We cannot keep rescuing people and restoring them to poverty. We must completely reimagine what criminal justice reform means to us.” She thanked NFNL for the work they are doing and for “amplifying the voices of victims to create empathy and love.”

NFNL Interim Executive Director Bianca Jackson emphasized that sex trafficking is a crushing global issue and empowered viewers by stating that every one of us can make a difference. “Now more than ever, support of sex trafficking survivors and vulnerable teens in the Dallas community is critically needed as many of our members are facing economic and emotional setbacks in wake of the COVID-19 crisis.”

The event concluded with a special thank you from Tracey Nash-Huntley, “Thank YOU for taking a stand for her.”

Special thanks to all New Friends New Life Luncheon sponsors, including media sponsors The Dallas Morning News, NBC 5, and PaperCity magazine.

 

 

 

About New Friends New Life:
Founded in Dallas, Texas in 1998, New Friends New Life (NFNL) restores and empowers formerly trafficked and sexually exploited women, teen girls and children. By providing access to education, job training, interim financial assistance, mental health and spiritual support, New Friends New Life helps women, teen girls and children overcome backgrounds of abuse, addiction, poverty and limited opportunities. In 2019, NFNL served 372 members (clients). NFNL also educates the community and works to eradicate the epidemic of human trafficking through advocacy, legislative reform and strategic partnerships that address systemic causes. In 2018, NFNL opened a drop-in Youth Resource Center (YRC) in partnership with the Office of the Governor to serve trafficked and high-risk teen girls. More than 100 girls visited the YRC during its first year. In 2015, NFNL organized its Men's Advocacy Group to engage men in the fight against sex trafficking and exploitation. For more information, visit http://www.newfriendsnewlife.org.

 

 

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Brittany K. Barnett, ProtectHER Award Recipient Barnett is an attorney, author, and entrepreneur dedicated to reform of the criminal justice system.

New Friends New Life Announces 2020 ProtectHER Award Recipients and Decision to Pivot to Virtual Event Format Amidst COVID-19 

New Friends New Life (NFNL) announces the 2020 ProtectHER Award Recipients:  Natalie Nanasi, director of the Judge Elmo B. Hunter Legal Center for Victims of Crimes Against Women and assistant professor of law, Southern Methodist University, and Brittany K. Barnett, author, entrepreneur, and attorney committed to pro bono work and reform of the criminal justice system. The award recipients will be honored at the Friday, September 18 New Friends New Life Annual Luncheon, 11:30 a.m., which will now be held in a virtual format to ensure the safety of supporters during COVID-19.

Cyntoia Brown-Long, a sex trafficking survivor and advocate for criminal justice reform, will headline the luncheon, co-chaired by NFNL Board of Directors Members Jane A. Rose and Jessica Turner Waugh and honorary co-chairs and community advocates Elizabeth and Eric Gambrell.

“As we navigate the production of a virtual luncheon experience, our team embraces this new format with creativity and excitement for the new opportunities it presents, including an expanded reach of our mission,” said Kim Robinson, CEO, New Friends New Life. “We are excited to welcome our speaker and honor our award recipients, who together shine a light on the importance of criminal justice reform and the many injustices faced by those who are trafficked. 

ProtectHER Award Recipient Natalie Nanasi, an assistant professor of law and the director of the Judge Elmo B. Hunter Legal Center for Victims of Crimes Against Women at Southern Methodist University, supervises law school students’ representation of survivors of gender-based violence in a broad range of legal matters as well as systemic advocacy and policy work. Prior to arriving at SMU, she was a practitioner-in-residence and the director of the Domestic Violence Clinic at American University, Washington College of Law (WCL). Before joining the faculty at WCL, she was the senior immigration attorney and pro bono coordinator at the Tahirih Justice Center, where she represented immigrant women and girls fleeing human rights abuses such as female genital cutting, domestic and sexual violence, forced marriage, and honor crimes. Nanasi also served as counsel in the landmark asylum case of Matter of A-T- and as an Equal Justice Works Fellow from 2007-2009, with a focus on the U visa. Prior to her work at Tahirih, she was a law clerk to the Honorable Lynn Leibovitz of the District of Columbia Superior Court. Nanasi researches and writes at the intersection of immigration, gender, and feminist legal theory. She received her J.D. from the Georgetown University Law Center, where she earned an Equal Justice Foundation fellowship for her work at the South Asia Human Rights Documentation Center in New Delhi, India, and assisted in representation of HIV-positive immigrants at Whitman Walker Clinic Legal Services. Prior to her legal career, Nanasi was a rape crisis counselor and supported single teenage mothers at a transitional residence facility in Boston. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas and the Dallas Area Rape Crisis Center.

“As a community partner with the legal center, New Friends New Life has referred many survivors to Natalie and her team, who have provided the assistance they so desperately needed,” added Robinson. “In 2019, 75 percent of our members had a criminal record of some kind – a formidable barrier for them to finding conventional employment, housing, and building a new life. We are thrilled to honor Natalie, who is making a critical difference in their ability to make a fresh start.”

“The criminal records that New Friends New Life’s clients carry are a direct result of the trafficking they have endured. From theft to drug and prostitution convictions, none of their interactions with the criminal justice system have occurred outside of the context of their victimization,” said Nanasi. “It is an honor to help survivors navigate the legal system and work with them to clear their records, and I am humbled to be recognized for standing beside these brave women.”

ProtectHER Award Recipient Brittany K. Barnett is an attorney, author, and entrepreneur dedicated to reform of the criminal justice system. Her memoir, A Knock at Midnight, will be published on September 8. While working several years as a corporate attorney, Barnett was committed to pro bono representation of clients in federal prison under draconian drug laws. Her dedication resulted in freedom for many with federal drug offenses, including seven clients who received executive clemency from President Barack Obama.

As the daughter of a formerly incarcerated mother, Barnett knows firsthand the impact of mass incarceration is far reaching, devastating families and entire communities. Barnett founded two nonprofits: the Buried Alive Project, which works to dismantle life without parole sentences handed down under federal drug laws and Girls Embracing Mothers, dedicated to empowering girls with mothers in prison. Barnett is also the founder of XVI Capital Partners and Milena Reign, social enterprises devoted to shifting the paradigm to show the world-changing impact that formerly incarcerated people can have when they have access to resources.

She is a graduate of SMU’s Dedman School of Law and previously served as the associate general counsel at ORIX USA Corporation focusing on mergers and acquisitions and general corporate matters. Prior to her legal career, Barnett earned her license as a Certified Public Accountant and worked for international accounting firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting. She has been featured nationally on multiple news platforms, including television and print and has earned many honors, including being named one of America’s most Outstanding Young Lawyers by the American Bar Association.

“It is inspiring to see Brittany challenging systems at every turn,” shared Robinson. “Her resilience and determination have helped her overcome obstacles that could have easily made her a product of her environment.  Instead, she is breaking through barriers on behalf of others, changing lives in the process. We are delighted to be able to celebrate her achievements.”

“Many of the women of New Friends New Life have had to face the criminal justice system in some shape or form. It is critical that women and girls directly impacted by sex trafficking and incarceration are empowered and at the center of any movement and work surrounding them,” said Barnett. “Women and girls and their diverse stories and perspectives are too often ignored but are critical to drive impactful change. It is an honor to be a recipient of the ProtectHER Award and help amplify the voices of these amazing women.”

NFNL Luncheon speaker, Cyntoia Brown-Long, was arrested at the age of 16, a juvenile sentenced as an adult to life in prison for killing a man who solicited her for sex. She served 15 years before receiving a commuted sentence by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam.  The author of Free Cyntoia: My Search for Redemption in the American Prison System and the subject of a documentary about her life, Brown-Long is passionate about shining a light on the injustices faced by women and children in American prisons. (See attached document for more information on Ms. Brown-Long.)

“This year has presented additional challenges for our community. Survivors have endured a burden of emotional and economic loss. They have become more vulnerable to traffickers who are highly adept at capitalizing on their economic hardships for survival,” shared Robinson. “Additionally, a staggering increase in online sexual exploitation has been reported.  While we cannot physically be together on September 18, we can unite virtually, working together to serve as a catalyst for change. Please join us on September 18 to ‘stand for her’ and help us restore hope to so many trapped in this illegal industry.”

Underwriting sponsorship opportunities begin at $2,500, and individual tickets are available for $100 each. Guests will receive a link to view the luncheon, with sponsors also receiving sponsor gift boxes and digital package benefits.  To reserve your virtual seats please contact Bianca Jackson, chief development officer,  at 214-217-8650, visit www.newfriendsnewlife.org/luncheon or email events@newfriendsnewlife.org.

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About New Friends New Life:
Founded in Dallas, Texas in 1998, New Friends New Life (NFNL) restores and empowers formerly trafficked and sexually exploited women, teen girls, and children. By providing access to education, job training, interim financial assistance, mental health and spiritual support, New Friends New Life helps women, teen girls and children overcome backgrounds of abuse, addiction, poverty, and limited opportunities. In 2019, NFNL served 372 members (clients). NFNL also educates the community and works to eradicate the epidemic of human trafficking through advocacy, legislative reform and strategic partnerships that address systemic causes. In 2018, NFNL opened a drop-in Youth Resource Center (YRC) in partnership with the Office of the Governor to serve trafficked and high-risk teen girls. More than 100 girls visited the YRC during its first year. In 2015, NFNL organized its Men's Advocacy Group to engage men in the fight against sex trafficking and exploitation. For more information, visit http://www.newfriendsnewlife.org.

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Cyntoia Brown-Long, speaker (photo credit-Flip Holsinger)

 

Arrested at the age of 16 for killing a man who solicited her for sex, tried as an adult, and sentenced to life in prison, Brown-Long served 15 years before receiving a commuted sentence

 

New Friends New Life (NFNL) announces Cyntoia Brown-Long, a sex trafficking survivor and advocate for criminal justice reform, will headline the New Friends New Life Annual Luncheon on Friday, September 18 at 11:30 a.m., at the OMNI Dallas Hotel, 555 S. Lamar St. Event co-chairs are NFNL Board of Directors Members Jane A. Rose and Jessica Turner-Waugh. Community advocates Elizabeth and Eric Gambrell will be recognized as honorary chairs.

Arrested at the age of 16, Cyntoia Brown-Long was a juvenile sentenced as an adult to life in prison for killing a man who solicited her for sex. She served 15 years before receiving a commuted sentence by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam.  The author of Free Cyntoia: My Search for Redemption in the American Prison System and the subject of a documentary about her life, Brown-Long is passionate about shining a light on the injustices faced by women and children in American prisons.

“New Friends New Life is honored to bring Cyntoia Brown-Long to Dallas to share her message of survival, hope, and transformation and to create greater awareness of the injustices faced by trafficking victims,” said Kim Robinson, CEO, NFNL.  “While we have made great strides in the way lawmakers and society view those forced into modern-day slavery, there is much work to be done, and it is critical that we continue having these conversations.”

“Cyntoia’s message illustrates the need for constant evaluation and courageous change within our justice system to support sex trafficking victims who are facing a myriad of extenuating circumstances that leave them trapped in this illegal industry,” stated Luncheon Co-Chair Jane A. Rose.

“Knowing that the average age that a girl is trafficked in the United States is 15 years old, it is imperative that our community understands that the prevention and intervention models provided by New Friends New Life are critical. Without these support systems in place, any of the 400 girls trafficked in Dallas every night could end up with a story as harrowing and unfathomable as Cyntoia’s, or even worse,” Luncheon Co-Chair Jessica Turner-Waugh added.

Brown-Long was born to an alcoholic, teenage mother who was also a victim of sex trafficking. When her birth mother realized she could no longer care for her, she was adopted by a loving mother; however, she struggled throughout her childhood, heavily influenced by the world around her. A sense of isolation, low self-esteem, and alienation drove her straight into the hands of a predator, and she was trafficked during her early teenage years. At age 16, she was arrested for killing a man who solicited her for sex. She was tried as an adult and sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole for 51 years. Her trafficker was never arrested. In prison, Brown-Long’s life took a dramatic turn when the prison education principal took her under her wing and introduced her to a spiritual path. She encouraged her to build a positive life in prison and to resist the negative influences that lead to despair. While in prison she earned her GED, an associate and a bachelor’s degree, both with a 4.0 GPA, from Lipscomb University. Her journey includes a PBS documentary about her life, a profound encounter with God, an unlikely romance (now her husband – musician and entrepreneur Jamie Long), and, eventually, a commuted sentence by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam.  She received unprecedented national and international support from social media advocates, pastors, and celebrities and was released from prison in Nashville, Tennessee, on August 7, 2019.

Her memoir, Free Cyntoia: My Search for Redemption in the American Prison System (Atria Books), written while in prison, documents her early years and the 15 years she was incarcerated and takes readers on a coming-of-age spiritual journey.  Set against the shocking backdrop of a life behind bars and the injustice of sentencing sex-trafficked juveniles as adults, Brown-Long struggled to overcome a legacy of birth-family addiction and a lifetime of being ostracized and abandoned by society.

Brown-Long and her husband, Jaime, founded the Foundation for Justice, Freedom, and Mercy. In January 2020, the Vera Institute of Justice recognized Brown-Long as one of the Best of Justice Reform honorees.  She is also a 2020 Nominee for the NCAAP Literary Image Award and has been featured as a guest columnist for The Washington Post. Brown-Long is a volunteer mentor to young girls through Epic Girl, a program in Nashville that empowers girls to reach their full potential through educational programs, mentoring, counseling, and community activities.

The team at New Friends New Life is monitoring the status of COVID-19 within the community and is working in full compliance with the OMNI Dallas Hotel regarding limited seating capacity and multiple additional CDC safety measures.

Underwriting sponsorship opportunities begin at $2,500.  A limited number of individual tickets at $250 each and above will be made available in August. To reserve your table, please contact Bianca Jackson, 214-217-8650, visit www.newfriendsnewlife.org/luncheon or email events@newfriendsnewlife.org.

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About New Friends New Life:
Founded in Dallas, Texas in 1998, New Friends New Life (NFNL) restores and empowers formerly trafficked and sexually exploited women, teen girls and children. By providing access to education, job training, interim financial assistance, mental health and spiritual support, New Friends New Life helps women, teen girls and children overcome backgrounds of abuse, addiction, poverty and limited opportunities. In 2019, NFNL served 372 members (clients). NFNL also educates the community and works to eradicate the epidemic of human trafficking through advocacy, legislative reform and strategic partnerships that address systemic causes. In 2018, NFNL opened a drop-in Youth Resource Center (YRC) in partnership with the Office of the Governor to serve trafficked and high-risk teen girls. More than 100 girls visited the YRC during its first year. In 2015, NFNL organized its Men's Advocacy Group to engage men in the fight against sex trafficking and exploitation. For more information, visit http://www.newfriendsnewlife.org.

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New Friends New Life Annual Luncheon NBC5's Laura Harris interviews Jada Pinkett Smith

Hollywood Trailblazer and New Friends New Life Luncheon speaker Jada Pinkett Smith was first inspired to advocate for those impacted by sex trafficking in 2011 when her then pre-teen daughter Willow watched a documentary at school and told her there were children her age being sold for sex in the United States. Pinkett Smith did not believe it until completing her own research, making her an immediate advocate against the practice. Since then, she has remained passionate to fight what has become the “new age of slavery” and “an epidemic in our country.”

Interviewed on stage by NBC 5’s Laura Harris, Pinkett Smith captivated the New Friends New Life Annual Luncheon audience of nearly 1,000 on October 11 at the OMNI Dallas with personal stories, experiences on the streets with victims of sex trafficking, and advice on important ways to parent and educate our children.

Luncheon Co-Chair Couples Christa and Ketric Sanford and Shelly Slater and Clayton Huffstutter teamed with Honorary Chairs Amy and Joe Crafton as the leadership for this year’s event, demonstrating that sex trafficking is not a women’s issue, it’s a human issue that must be addressed by both men and women.

Texas First Lady Cecilia Abbott and Methodist Health System were honored as the 2019 ProtectHER Award Recipients for their leadership in the fight against human trafficking. Mrs. Abbott was recognized as for her leadership and advocacy for the victims of human trafficking. Most recently, she partnered with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) as the voice of a public service announcement building upon the statewide “Be the One” anti-human trafficking campaign. The goal is to educate viewers on the most common signs of trafficking found in TABC-licensed establishments such as bars and restaurants. Methodist Health System was honored for the outstanding efforts of the medical staff of Methodist Dallas Medical Center’s emergency room and Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program to combat human trafficking by recognizing and assisting patients who are victims.  In April 2018, an emergency room triage nurse’s training and intuition led to the arrest and prosecution of a human trafficking ringleader and the rescue of approximately 20 trafficking victims held captive in a house just a few miles from the hospital.

During the luncheon, a special video highlighted the partnership of fashion designer Abi Ferrin, who is employing women from New Friends New Life to design and make scarves for her scarf project – using remnant products from the fashion industry. A pop-up shop at the luncheon provided an opportunity for guests to shop for scarves and support this new, successful endeavor.

“Investing in women unseen is the best thing you can do,” said Ferrin. “This project has given me more joy and inspiration than I’ve had in years.”

New Friends New Life CEO Kim Robinson shared, “While we may want to dismiss this as an issue that only happens in other countries, we know in fact that it’s happening right here in our own backyard. Today our economic empowerment initiative has a 90 percent enrollment increase, and there have been over 1,400 drop-in visits to our Youth Resource Center. Additionally, 125 new women were welcomed into the program this year. And now we have a waiting list of women who need our services.”

As Pinkett Smith took the stage, she told the audience, “I applaud each of you as this is a beautiful turnout for this important cause.  New Friends New Life is doing phenomenal work. Trafficking is becoming a very sophisticated crime, so it is crucial to have conversations such as this.”

“We are all vulnerable, and it’s a big mistake to think trafficking happens to certain type of girl,” she continued. Pinkett Smith talked about being 11 or 12 and running the streets while her mother, a nurse, was working. She also recounted a trip she took to Italy at the age of 20 and the hotel valet trying to lure her to spend the day on a boat with him. Her instincts kicked in, she called her mother, and her mother told her not to go.

She stressed that parents need to keep their children close, mentor them in the ups and downs of growing up, educate them about the dangers of online conversations and use open communication.

“I am very open with my daughter and want her to know there is nothing she will experience that I haven’t already.  There is no judgement here, and we can get through this together.” She added that how we love our children is very important. “Traffickers’ language isn’t really very different to what we use at home, and we must create a distinct difference in what love looks like.”

At one point during the conversation Pinkett Smith became emotional recounting conversations she has had with young girls on the streets and what they endure. “A lot of girls don’t make it,” added Pinkett Smith. “When I look out into this audience and see this many people, it fills me with joy. These young women need our help. We can heal our own souls by helping women have a second chance.”

Media sponsors were NBC5, PaperCity, and The Dallas Morning News.

Visit www.newfriendsnewlife.org/luncheon.

www.newfriendsnewlife.org/scarf

 

Employment partnership program:  www.newfriendsnewlife.org/partnership

 

 

About New Friends New Life:


New Friends New Life, founded in 1998, restores and empowers formerly trafficked and sexually exploited women, teen girls and children.  By providing access to education, job training, interim financial assistance, mental health and spiritual support, New Friends New Life helps women, teenage girls and children overcome backgrounds of abuse, addiction, poverty and limited opportunities.  For more information about New Friends New Life, visit  www.newfriendsnewlife.org or call (214) 965-0935.

  

PHOTOS BY TAMYTHA CAMERON