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San Clemente Journal

Kimberly McOwen Yim Rebel With a Cause

May 22, 2014 10:15AM ● By Don Kindred

Kim Yim

by Tyler Kindred

When I first met Kimberly McOwen Yim, I was a bit hypnotized by her persona. Blonde hair and light eyes are commonplace in beach towns, but her sophistication felt oddly out of place. Seemingly un-amused by the small talk of warm weather and coastline, when as the topic of global slavery arose, her green eyes could cut glass. We arranged for an interview, and an abbreviated transcript follows, discussing her role and authorship in the publicized phenomena Refuse To Do Nothing, as well as her position in the current abolitionist movement. 
 For those yet unfamiliar with the ongoing abolitionist movement, let me again introduce Mrs. Kimberly McOwen Yim, our portrait of the modern American hero-woman: untethered by motherhood, unspoiled by favorable looks, and undaunted by the pervading tide of indifference...
So many believe that slavery ended after the Transatlantic Slave Trade. What opened your eyes to the existence of slavery in the world today?
A film. That’s sad to think. The film “Called Response” is what first opened my eyes. I think I knew people were oppressed ... and I think I knew there were different cultural problems in the world, but I did not have the word ‘slavery,’ and the film completely changed my view

What have you found to be the biggest opponent in your fight against human trafficking and underground slavery?
I think indifference has been a huge opponent. I think just the general ‘I don’t want to know, because if I know, then I might be inconvenienced.’ And the co modification of our sexuality, our consumerism. Our consumerism mentality of looking at sexuality as a transaction. Where mostly women and children, and that would include boys, their dignity is reduced to a transaction. Back in the Transatlantic Slave Trade, a human’s life, even bought and sold as a slave, was estimated at $40,000. So human beings, even though they were bought and sold, actually were an investment and cost a lot of money. And now the average price is $90.    

The role of the church in spreading human rights is a point that is central to your book. What advantages might a church community have?
I think that many people in the church are already working with the most vulnerable. I think that without knowing it, many people who work in the church are doing prevention. From being a mentor to an at-risk teen or building homes or playgrounds or serving homeless. I think most of my friends that are involved in their churches are serving in some capacity, so the fight against human trafficking and modern day slavery is an extension of what they are already doing. I think the church has been more globally minded from its inception, always kind of looking out. So as long as the church remains looking out into the needs of the world, I think they will continue to make a tremendous difference.

What advice would you share with others who may be interested in spreading awareness?
Some advice would be to be persistent. People are going to think you’re crazy, I think it’s just kind of par. (laughs) You’re going to have to just except that to a certain degree. I would say, find someone else who would join with you. With that, I think it’s always more effective when you're doing things in community with other people. Something that helps shape some of the stuff we've done is, know what you’re asking of people. Do you want to tell people just for information? Or are you telling people because you want them to make a change in their lives? Or do you want them to join you? Or do you want them to give? Have in mind why you’re telling them. I think it helps with expectations. Something else I would advise is, it’s not quick. I think sometimes people have to hear something many times, from a variety of different voices for it to sink in as truth. I could speak to that on a variety of issues. Some of my friends have been involved in more healthy food production, (and those) kinds of things. I think initially, “food?... you just eat your food.” So I think for all kinds of things that people are really passionate, to be patient with people. I think it takes a number of touches, a variety of different voices, and it’s important to know what you're asking of them. I appreciate friends that are vegan, and they’re doing it for a variety of reasons, and some of them for very moral reasons. But when they’re sharing with me, there's not this assumption that tomorrow we’re changing. That would take a gradual change. But we need to know. So that would be my encouragement: to be persistent, be ok with people not thinking you have all your marbles together, finding other people to join with you and know what you’re asking for. Know why you’re having them come to hear and what you’re asking of them.

How have you seen the abolitionist movement change or develop since your involvement?
Well, I’m not seen as crazy (laughs). I think four years ago, it was like ‘What?’ I definitely think its gained traction, I think a lot more people are aware, I think that there’s been a lot more awareness in people going ‘Oh...yes, I know what you’re talking about.’ I think we’re seeing changes in our laws and our governments. Like Prop 35, what did it approve with an over 85% approval rating? That’s very telling that the general public is kind of getting in and wants to see changes. So that’s huge. New stricter state laws have happened in the last four years, and I think there’s a lot of hope. I think if anything, some of the concerns for people are: is it going to fall off of people’s radar? Is it just a cause of the moment, or are people really looking at this as long-term, true justice movement. And I think as long as we can look at it as in the same vein as the Transatlantic Slave Trade, where this is not a flash in the pan, where we’re gonna boycott something one day, or have a sleepover or something. But this is for the whole course of systemic global change. I think I find tremendous hope in what’s going on right now.  

Lastly, what ideas or messages would you like to convey to a person who may not feel directly affected by local or global atrocities?
My guess, is they will. If they haven't already, they will (laughs). Maybe the message I would say is, I think then people are missing out their purpose for being. I think that we weren’t just created to consume or to experience stuff for ourselves. But that we were really created to serve others. And I think there’s tremendous joy and peace and gratification and purpose when we work towards helping others in our world and help (make) our world what it ought to be. As we know it should be. And I think for those that haven’t been touched or haven’t felt that, I would think they should pray that they feel it. Because there's so much joy and purpose in life, in caring for our world and helping bring about how we know it ought to be. And that’s how we recognize injustice. We know when something doesn’t seem quite right, when things are not fair. And I think those are the beginning signs of the injustices that we see as kids. And so I think as we are willing to be inconvenienced, and willing to give our gifts and our talents and our time and our money towards helping bring about how the world ought to be, I think there’s tremendous joy and purpose in that. It definitely makes getting up in the morning a lot more fulfilling. 

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