Marcia G. Yerman – Reporting – Reviewing – Reflecting
February 3, 2102
The first time I saw Rachel Lloyd was in 2005, the year of the 70th Annual Academy Awards. “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” had taken the honors for best song. Whenever I complained about that tune being showcased, people would remark, “Lighten up.” Yet when Lloyd addressed an audience in Soho about the issue of human trafficking, she mentioned “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,” using it to illustrate the disconnect between reality and the Hollywood version of life on the street .
Since then, while covering the topic of human trafficking, I have heard Lloyd talk at numerous events and panels. I have called her up for quotes and insights, like the time football star Lawrence Taylor was arrested. I had needed to get a lucid response on why the media was portraying an under-age trafficked girl as a “hooker.”
Lloyd always speaks the truth to power. It may be to a New York City police commissioner, or an affluent Manhattan audience learning for the first time that 13-year-old African-American girls in Bedford–Stuyvesant, Brooklyn are being bought and sold. Lloyd frequently notes that they are part of an estimated 200,000-300,000 adolescents who are at risk annually for commercial sexual exploitation in the United States.
Consequently, it was no surprise to me that the memoir Lloyd had penned, Girls Like Us: Fighting for a World Where Girls Are Not for Sale, an Activist Finds Her Calling and Heals Herself, would be a tough, gritty and brutally honest account. Lloyd traces how a difficult childhood led to a hair-raising journey that encompassed risk, recruitment, violent abuse, breaking free from sexual exploitation—and ultimately healing. She now is a top activist in the anti-trafficking movement.
Finding her purpose in working with girls “in the life,” Lloyd connects to those in crisis based on shared experiences, understanding without judgment, and respect. Founding Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS) in 1998, Lloyd went back to school to attain her GED, going on to receive a Bachelors degree in Psychology from Marymount Manhattan College and a Masters in Applied Urban Anthropology from the City College of New York. She has racked up numerous awards for her efforts, all while “owning her experience.”