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PopChange: No Forced Labor on Jenny's Block

JLo receiving Amnesty International's "Artists for Amnesty" Award in 2007

If you thought 2011 was Jennifer Lopez’s busiest year to date, you’re probably right. For another 365 days at least. The backup dancer-dating, "On The Floor" pop goddess has three movies coming out (Parker, What To Expect When You’re Expecting, and Ice Age: Continental Drift) and a Greatest Hits album in the works as well. And of course she will be back on American Idol, plus she will premiere her new reality show Q'Viva on Univision. J.Lo's busy, work-filled year will officially pick up with Idol's return on January 18 and 19, with a "special presentation"of the season 11 premiere after the NFC Championship Game on January 22.

Do you know who else's work picks back up in January during NFL playoffs? Victims of human trafficking. No, I'm not changing the subject. We’ll get back to J.Lo shortly. Let me explain. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott told USA Today ahead of last year's Super Bowl in Dallas that "the Super Bowl is the greatest show on Earth, but it also has an ugly underbelly: It's commonly known as the single largest human trafficking incident in the United States."

Let's quickly investigate what this all means. First of all, this is the greatest show on Earth. Secondly, yup. The Super Bowl may be known for the advertisements (and Championship rings...anyone?), but booze and GoDaddy domains aren't the only commodities being advertised and sold that day. Among the thousands and thousands of ballgame attendees that weekend are sadly a growing group of commercially sexually exploited children. The president of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children estimates that 100,000 to 300,000 American kids, some as young as 12 years old, are at risk of being exploited in the sex trade each year, according to the same USA Today report.

So while some of us sit back on our sofas to catch the game (read: Madonna’s halftime performance), pop some chips and wait for Jennifer Lopez's Fiat commercial to come on for the 923rd time, others will be on the streets of Indianapolis manipulating young children, international and domestic, into sex and labor. It's the sad truth.

What can you do about it? Hit it, J.Lo:

"Do It Well" was Jennifer’s first single off of 2007's "Brave," her sixth album. David LaChapelle directed the video in which Jennifer Lopez starts off by "minding my own business, doing what I do." As she struts down the street, a video message of a distraught young boy washing dishes pops up on her cell, instructing her to save him from 10 Union Street. She forces her way into the location, which happens to be some S&M/animal fetish hotspot, looking for the poor kid.

Also, the song lyrics have nothing to do with this plot. Nonetheless, Jenny helps rid her block of a young victim of forced labor. Through all the ass-kicking and romp-shaking, she finds him squeezed in tight quarters among piles of dirty dishes before guiding him toward the club's exit.

J. Lo also stepped up to the human trafficking awareness plate in 2006’s full-length film, Bordertown. Aside from producing the film, Jennifer played a reporter from Chicago who took the risk of covering the rapes and murders of hundreds of underpaid women factory workers in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Simply making the film was a brave move. People close to La Lopez worried she was getting into something too dangerous, but she went ahead anyway.

"I said, 'You know, I just feel like this is screaming to be talked about,'" Jennifer recounted responding to them. "'I dunno. I think we should do it.' And then you do it, and it does change your life.'"

Now, let me be honest. I don't expect you knocking down the doors of Indianapolis’ S&M joints in search of young victims. Nor do you need to film a full-length movie. Why not? Because you actually don’t have to go far. It’s happening in your own backyard. Right now.

Take Chinny for example. After spotting what she suspected to be slave labor at one of her favorite restaurants in her hometown, she reported it to local officials. The restaurant happened to be part of a large ring of restaurants doing just that! She helped bring them down, without a fight and without filming anything, and only by simply being aware and informed.

You’re doing it well, Chinny. To learn more about what you can do visit Against Our Will's Take Action page. For more information, make sure to check out Free The Slaves and GEMS.

PopChange is a periodic ArjanWrites.com column that is written by Jose Iniguez, associate editor of MTV Act. In his PopChange column, Jose highlights pop music's boundary-pushing, action-taking, change-making tendencies. Follow him on Twitter and Tumblr.

January 11, 2012 in Contributor: Jose Iniquez, PopChange | Permalink