12 June 2010

Its My Life, LIVE WITH IT Presents: Michael Cory Davis, Artists United for Social Justice

ACTOR / WRITER / FILM MAKER -After a phone conversation with Michael Cory Davis, one word I want to use to describe him is "passionate". Michael's first inspiration to join the crusade for traffick victims was because of a girl named Svetlana. Now with a new movie coming out this fall, find out what else has him excited. The end of this post includes bits of our conversation.

Michael is a native New Yorker, born in Brooklyn to two Jamaican parents. As the middle of three children, Michael was raised in a very creative household with high academic standards. His journey into the world of the arts started from the young age of 9 where, at any given time, he was performing in school plays or writing and animating books. Michael received his first true thespian training in junior high school at Satellite West in Brooklyn, which led to his acceptance to the prestigious Fiorello H. Laguardia H.S For The Performing Arts.

Upon graduation, he was immediately offered recurring work on the daytime soap opera All My Children. In 1999, Michael left New York and moved to Los Angeles to further pursue his career as a “Triple Threat” actor, writer and director. Since relocating to LA, Michael has starred in numerous commercials, print campaigns and independent films, many of which have won awards.

"If you were going to make a movie about trafficking it wouldn't be G rated!" ... "We have to start talking to kids about things they already know."

In 2003 while shooting two feature-length films for the Sci-Fi Channel in Sofia, Bulgaria, Michael learned of the growing number of young girls and women forcefully taken from Bulgaria and other Balkan countries and exploited as prostitutes.

Upon his return to the U.S., devastated by a Bulgarian girl's story of being abducted, Michael was inspired to write and direct Svetlana's Journey, based on the true story of a 13 year old sex trafficking victim. Michael flew back to Bulgaria, secured corporate funding and directed the film in a week with non-English speaking Bulgarian actors. Michael also joined forces with the Bulgarian Annex of the United Nations, Face-to-Face International, an agency created to stop human trafficking and promote equal rights for women.

This film marks Michael's directorial debut. Svetlana's Journey was executive produced by Face-to-Face Bulgaria, co-produced by Michael and TopForm studios in Bulgaria, and sponsored by Mtel, the leading cell phone operator in Bulgaria.

Svetlana's Journey has gone on to win top honors taking the award for Best Short Subject at The Hollywood Film Festival and the HD Fest's Deffie Award for Best HD Short, Best HD Dramatic Short and Runner-up for Best Director in 2005. Svetlana's Journey also aired on Bulgaria's national television channel and truly fulfilled its mission as being an awareness tool.

In 2007, Michael produced and directed Cargo: innocence lost, a documentary that exposes the sex trade of children and women within the United States. Both films have been used by hundreds of national and international agencies, organizations, churches, and educational institutions.

Michael has recently formed Artists United For Social Justice, a non-profit organization with a mission to use various multi-media platforms to educate, enlighten, and empower people to take action and get involved in helping to eradicate social injustice.

Michael is the recipient of the prestigious People to People International (founded by Dwight Eisenhower) Make a Difference award and has been covered by various broadcast and print media outlets including on World News with Charles Gibson, CNN, NBC, ABC, KTLA, and Los Angeles Daily News, bringing light to the issue.


Late Friday night I was able to catch up with Michael in a phone interview. Its always good talking to people that are in the habit of taking action. They always seem the sharpest and if you listen ... they have ideas that never crossed your mind; they're inspiring and they stick out like a sore thumb. Michael is no different. The following interview includes some of his thoughts on America's human trafficking problems.

In the fight against human trafficking, its easy to notice that you're big on awareness. Have you gotten involved in any aspect of protection or prevention; the protection of victims and the type of prevention that keeps this crime from happening?

"When I make children aware of the effects of this crime with my movies or my talks, I'm also educating them which ends up being multi-pronged. When I do talk to kids, in some places a lot of them don't care if they get trafficked. They're interested in the material things the trafficker can offer. So I spend time showing them the effects and that thats not what they want. But to answer your question, I'm an actor/writer/director, I deal with the arts and multi media, so no I don't work with them directly, but the message comes across in my work."

In another interview you were asked to explain what ignited your passion for human trafficking. You mentioned looking into the eyes of a young girl named Svetlana and hearing her story about being abducted. That event took place a while back - what keeps you going?

"When I first decided to get involved with human trafficking I was in Bulgaria at the time making two movies for the Sci-Fi Channel, having a good time. Meeting a lot of cool people and just enjoying the country. At the time it wasn't a big deal. And when I realized what was happening to the women and girls there, I didn't want to do something ... but I had to. Now the problem is getting a lot of attention here in the America. When I was growing up in New York there were adult mentors around to support you ... educate and enlighten you. I think adult mentors are what kids need."

We have to un-peel the onion for kids! ... USE the media monster. Expose it for what it really is and use it as a tool to educate kids."

Before your successful career as an actor/writer/film maker kicked off, how supportive were your parents when you were pursuing your dream to be what you are today?

"My mom was more supportive than my dad ... and still is. My dad is the type of person that wouldn't hinder you if he didn't agree with what you were doing. But did he want me to be a lawyer ... Yes; because I was also great in academics. I always knew what I wanted to do. In junior high I decided to attend Fiorello H. Laguardia High School For The Performing Arts - I always knew I wanted to be in the arts. But I also believe that when people see your tenacity, regardless of the obstacles, you will be surprised at how supportive people become."

From what I've noticed, American media has only highlighted a few cases about it's country being involved in international human trafficking. How good of a job do you think America is doing about fighting human trafficking since its a major destination country for thousands of victims?

"Well, I think theres been a lot of progress as far as a global stand point about how many people are aware of human trafficking. More people are talking about it now; they aren't afraid to mention it. Where as when I first became interested in human trafficking, a lot of smaller and poorer countries didn't know what trafficking was. Now they're doing a lot towards the cause. There has been A LOT of progression over all and now there is momentum. There is also the Trafficking Victim Protection Act thats been effective in stopping human traffick. So Internationally: yes, there is a lot getting done. In the US: no. I think that the United States has done a poor job in policing human trafficking and taking care of the victims. Also, foreign nationals are treated better when it comes to victims receiving help than American citizens. Has a lot been done? YES, but there is so much more that we [can] do."

"If we can't stop human trafficking here, then who are we to try to police other countries? No; we should create an effective model that we've done, then give it to other countries for them to model after based on their resources ... because with a number like 300,000 children in slavery, a country with unlimited resources should be able to EASILY get a handle around it and make sure it doesn't keep happening."

Theres more, but you have to check back next week. Thats when I go over some of Michael Cory Davis' ideas on how to get your community involved in the fight against human trafficking, no matter where you are.