While the media as a whole has used the objectification of women to sell everything from cars to burgers, no other subculture has felt the wrath more than hip-hop. It’s not as if hip-hop hasn’t made it easy to become America’s scapegoat for the vivid sexual images in its music, music videos and even urban publications. In recent years, songs with a message have taken a backseat to more demeaning lyrics. Mainstream artists argue that it’s a perpetual cycle. The music reflects our current society, which often reciprocates what’s portrayed through videos.
In the past, celebrities like Lisa Ling and Oprah Winfrey have used their name to bring a face to the sexual exploitation of women and children—including human trafficking, rape and sexual abuse. The latest person to join this crusade is rapper Mr. J Medeiros.
“Everyone is afraid of accountability,” Medeiros, one-third of the recently disbanded hip-hop group The Procussions, says. “[Unfortunately,] there’s a stake in women’s bodies. It’s ridiculous that we get away with it in hip-hop.”
The harsh reality is that one in three women will be sexually victimized in their lifetime. Every 15 seconds a child is abused in the United States. By the time you’ve finished this article, another eight children will be added to that growing statistic, and more than 50 percent of those crimes will go unreported.
Take, for instance, the 10-year-old Australian aboriginal who was gang-raped by nine men between the ages of 14 and 26. Even though they all pleaded guilty, the sentences ranged from 12-month probation to suspended six-month jail sentences, with none of the convictions being recorded. The judge ruled that the 10-year-old “probably” agreed to have sex with all of the men—even though the legal age of consent in Australia is 12 years old.
“I don’t want to personalize [human trafficking], because I don’t want to be the poster child for it,” Medeiros says. “It’s more important that people understand that this is an epidemic.”
According to IAmComing.org, 800,000 women and children are raped, kidnapped and trafficked every year. Traffickers who are caught receive one to four years of jail time on average. In 2005, approximately 117 traffickers were caught worldwide. “There’s an injustice somewhere,” Medeiros says. “I wanted to take the anger I felt when I heard these stories and turn it into something positive.”
That positivity came in the form of a song called “Constance,” which appears on Medeiros’ solo album, Of Gods and Girls. It tells the story of a young girl named Constance who was forced into human trafficking. After posting the song online, Medeiros started to receive emails and MySpace posts of people wanting to share their story. Afraid that the marketing of his LP might diminish the importance of the Constance campaign, Medeiros created a website.
IAmConstance.org allows people to share their personal stories of human trafficking and other sexual crimes anonymously.
“I read Stumbling Toward Faith by Renee Altson, and it was an incredible book that inspired ‘American Fado,’ [on The Procussions’ 5 Sparrows for 2 Cents album]” Medeiros says. “That’s when the research into child pornography and human trafficking started. Now it’s become my mission and a part of
While IAmConstance.org is in its infancy, their goal is to link victims up with other nonprofits and websites that can give them professional guidance. “We’re just musicians,” Medeiros says. “We’re not professionals by any means. But we can get them to those people through our website.”
By connecting individuals with organizations like IAmComing.org and HumanTrafficking.org, victims can move on to the next step of recovery with some of the best people in that field. That’s one of the key mechanisms of IAmConstance.org—the website serves as the first step in recovery.
“Ultimately, we want the professional to have control of the website, and I can keep control of the entertainment end in hopes of making social change,” Medeiros says.
Perhaps the most interesting component of the Constance campaign is the platform Medeiros is using to educate the masses. While music doesn’t physically condone human trafficking, there is a strong correlation between the way women are viewed in the media and the view of women abroad. There’s a strong emphasis placed on women, especially exotic women, and their sensuality. By using hip-hop as his vehicle, Medeiros hopes to give a voice to an oppressed people and give hip-hop fans another option to listen to. Believing that music is a school that brings people together, he hopes the Constance campaign will resonate with mainstream hip-hop as well.
“There’s an extreme power in music,” Medeiros says. “It’s information-based and socially conscious music. I think people are tired of people complaining about things and not making changes. I want to show people there’s a different option.”
Medeiros hopes his website will resonate with both victims and those who know victims. This will help in educating and hopefully ending the degradation of women and children through sexual exploitation.
The Constance campaign is more than just Medeiros’ mission. It’s a segment of his faith. Through his work as a solo artist and previous work with The Procussions, the plight of all disadvantaged people, including women and children, is always present. “My spirituality is my compass,” he says. “It really points me in the direction of what’s right and wrong, what’s real and true.”
His truth lies in propagating the dangers of human trafficking and sex crimes through hip-hop. That’s not a bad trend to start.