Women’s History Month

In honor of Women’s History Month and this year’s theme, “Providing Healing, Promoting Hope,” we asked the AC Community to share some of their thoughts, insights, and experiences about the biases and stereotypes they have encountered as women – and survivors – to help spark an important conversation to #BreaktheBias.

Below are the perspectives of three AC graduates and extraordinary women who came together on the topic.

As an AC graduate, I want to speak up and explain how capable my fellow graduates are, but I fear I might come across as rude or disrespectful. 

-Anonymous Survivor

At AnnieCannons, we assume positive intent, and whenever there appears to be a gap (either in communication or expected behavior), we do our best to both understand ‘why’ that gap occurred and ‘how’ we can solve it. When one AC graduate, SuperGirl, got to thinking about Women’s History Month and some of the overlapping ‘gaps’ in understanding and respect for women and survivors, she thought to do something about it.

With her enthusiasm for problem solving, or flexing her genius muscles as we like to call it, SuperGirl inspired me (LadySadies) and our teammate, Ajay, along with other fellow graduates to solve this ‘bug’ (or ‘problem’) of gaps in understanding and respect for survivors. We attributed this bug to misconceptions and lack of survivor-sourced information, so together, we came up with a plan.

Our bug-solving strategy is to break bias and bridge understanding of what being a survivor means to us by sharing some of our insights and experiences. To do so, we’ve come up with a series of short phrases and graphics to help others know us and our abilities a bit better. We would like these truths to replace any narratives anchored in bias or misconception that limit who survivors are or what we can achieve. We hope our words will be understood respectfully and also be well-received. 

One of the first things to know about us is…

…”We exercise our Genius Muscles!”

References to exercising our genius muscles are commonly heard in the AC training program. “Exercise your genius muscles” is an encouraging phrase that recognizes learning something new might feel uncomfortable and encourages the listener to tap into their resilience and continue trying to understand new and challenging material–simply wanting to understand and wanting to learn are influential to successfully acquiring skills and insights. We’re glad that you’re reading our post, as it shows you might want to learn and understand more about us, our insights and our experiences, and for that, we are grateful, truly.

We wanted to share this phrase because sometimes folks are surprised to learn that we survivors exercise our genius muscles. We are smart, capable, skilled individuals from diverse backgrounds, all on unique healing journeys. Being accepted into the AC training program attests to our intellectual capacity. 

This is exemplified in the words of a survivor from our recently completed, 7th cohort:

“When you’re around people for so long who don’t believe in you, you start to believe that you’re incapable. I’ve spent so much of my life having to figure out everything on my own and being in environments that were unsupportive to my overall well-being. Being in the AnnieCannons training program and their first national, all-virtual cohort, I’m now experiencing this amazing, compassionate environment where people not only see my potential, but also, people see how hard I’m working and how much I have to offer. It has elevated my healing journey beyond words. Because of the incredible support from everyone at AC, I’ve realized how powerful my ability is to utilize my tools, resources and my inner strength to creatively solve problems and overcome challenges. 

Everything the teaching team, especially Magical (my team lead) and Bella in her role as CDC (Career Development Coordinator), said to inspire and support me along the way was to tap into the confidence, intelligence and resilience I already have within me and they showed me how to apply that to coding. Learning to code with AnnieCannons has enabled me to realize that all of the strength and abilities needed are already within me to accomplish my goals and expand my dreams. I see now that not only am I capable, but everything that I’ve gone through has given me a unique and valuable perspective that I get to bring to the tech industry.

I’ve moved away from asking myself ‘how to keep surviving’ and started asking myself ‘how to start thriving.’ I’m so excited for my journey in tech onward.”


Healing journeys all look different, but we are grateful that our journeys brought us to AnnieCannons, to folks who are supportive, encouraging, uplifting, and understanding. Since you’re reading this, we think you probably share these qualities too, so we are grateful for you and want you to know that all of the ways you demonstrate support and kindness matter and contribute meaningfully to the days and lives of others, even if they are too shy to say so. As survivors, we are more than capable of flexing our genius muscles, and do so regularly to overcome the challenges we face. It’s not always easy to show up and keep afloat among external and internal ‘currents’ or ‘challenges.’ That’s why the phrase we will share with you next-time is: “keep swimming.”




Ethical Storytelling Initiative: Morys

Back in August 2021, we introduced to you Morys, a trafficking survivor participating in our software development training program.

His story was the first we featured in the AnnieCannons Ethical Storytelling Initiative, our survivor story series that centers around the voices, motivations and aspirations of individuals impacted by human trafficking and other forms of gender-based violence. 

Morys first came to AnnieCannons after losing “any tangible connection to [his] future” and searching online, day and night, for any help to get his life back. He described AnnieCannons as a “lifeline” and “the missing piece,” where he quickly found a community of people who understood, and accepted, him as he was. 

Although he wasn’t initially sure he had the discipline to succeed in the program, his doubts were quickly dispelled, and replaced by self-discoveries and visions of a future with boundless possibilities. 

“Training has been a beautiful challenge. One of the most exciting [things] isn’t just finding out what I love…it’s also learning what I don’t like to do. From learning new software to language libraries, I’m constantly narrowing my focus. I better understand the programmer I’m going to be each and every week.”

Since starting on his journey earlier this year, Morys has logged more than 500 hours of coding training. Recently, he built his own practice website as he continues to strengthen and hone his skills─and confidence─as a budding software engineer. 

When asked what has surprised him the most about his experience at AnnieCannons so far, Morys replies, “that I’m still here. I’ve spent my life sprinting and now I am running a marathon. I wasn’t sure I could work so hard at one thing until I was already doing it.” 

His key to showing up? Fun. “I’m a creator. I’m building myself up, I build things with my mind, and I’m building myself a future.”

Morys is now in the third and final phase of AnnieCannons training program where he’s learning how to develop web applications. After that the sky’s the limit, though, he currently has his eyes on becoming a full-stack developer ─ a programmer that can work on both the Front End (or client side) of applications as well as the Back End server side. In doing so, Morys will have mastered a wide range of programming skills that gives him flexible work and earning opportunities. 

But, he’s in no rush to settle into one job and wants to continue his education by earning a Computer Science degree while doing freelance development work. He says, “I want to be my own boss for a year, or five, before I make any long term commitments.” 

When asked to describe how his life has changed since starting AnnieCannons’ program, Morys replies:

“I no longer feel self conscious or less-than when I am discussing my goals with friends and family. I’m able to confidently speak with sureness about what I have accomplished, what I am doing now, and what I hope to create. My life feels purposeful.”

For more information about our training program, or to become a referral partner organization, contact info@anniecannons.com. Our next class is tentatively scheduled to launch in Fall 2022.

AnnieCannons 2021 Holiday Reading List

Have a little time off over the holidays to read a book or two? Here’s a list of books AC staff, graduates, and trainees are reading with links to Goodreads. We’ve got something for everyone! From self-help transformational reads, historical studies on racism, and an intro to eastern spiritualism, to a powerful, tragic and beautiful memoir of a Korean woman surviving tragedy and forging her own identify and a beautiful children’s book, we hope you find something of interest.

What are you reading? Post it and tag us on social media and we’ll check it out! 

Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour For fans of Sorry to Bother You and The Wolf of Wall Street—a crackling, satirical debut novel about a young man given a shot at stardom as the lone Black salesman at a mysterious, cult-like, and wildly successful startup where nothing is as it seems.

There’s nothing like a Black salesman on a mission.

An unambitious twenty-two-year-old, Darren lives in a Bed-Stuy brownstone with his mother, who wants nothing more than to see him live up to his potential as the valedictorian of Bronx Science. But Darren is content working at Starbucks in the lobby of a Midtown office building, hanging out with his girlfriend, Soraya, and eating his mother’s home-cooked meals. All that changes when a chance encounter with Rhett Daniels, the silver-tongued CEO of Sumwun, NYC’s hottest tech startup, results in an exclusive invitation for Darren to join an elite sales team on the thirty-sixth floor.

After enduring a “hell week” of training, Darren, the only Black person in the company, reimagines himself as “Buck,” a ruthless salesman unrecognizable to his friends and family. But when things turn tragic at home and Buck feels he’s hit rock bottom, he begins to hatch a plan to help young people of color infiltrate America’s sales force, setting off a chain of events that forever changes the game.

Black Buck is a hilarious, razor-sharp skewering of America’s workforce; it is a propulsive, crackling debut that explores ambition and race, and makes way for a necessary new vision of the American dream.

It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be By Paul Arden

It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be is a handbook of how to succeed in the world: a pocket bible for the talented and timid alike to help make the unthinkable thinkable and the impossible possible.

The world’s top advertising guru, Paul Arden, offers up his wisdom on issues as diverse as problem solving, responding to a brief, communicating, playing your cards right, making mistakes, and creativity – all endeavors that can be applied to aspects of modern life.

This uplifting and humorous little book provides a unique insight into the world of advertising and is a quirky compilation of quotes, facts, pictures, wit and wisdom – all packed into easy-to-digest, bite-sized spreads. If you want to succeed in life or business, this book is a must. 

How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America by Clint Smith Poet and contributor to The Atlantic Clint Smith’s revealing, contemporary portrait of America as a slave owning nation 

Beginning in his own hometown of New Orleans, Clint Smith leads the reader through an unforgettable tour of monuments and landmarks-those that are honest about the past and those that are not-that offer an intergenerational story of how slavery has been central in shaping our nation’s collective history, and ourselves.

It is the story of the Monticello Plantation in Virginia, the estate where Thomas Jefferson wrote letters espousing the urgent need for liberty while enslaving over 400 people on the premises. It is the story of the Whitney Plantation, one of the only former plantations devoted to preserving the experience of the enslaved people whose lives and work sustained it. It is the story of Angola Prison in Louisiana, a former plantation named for the country from which most of its enslaved people arrived and which has since become one of the most gruesome maximum-security prisons in the world. And it is the story of Blandford Cemetery, the final resting place of tens of thousands of Confederate soldiers.

In a deeply researched and transporting exploration of the legacy of slavery and its imprint on centuries of American history, How the Word Is Passed illustrates how some of our country’s most essential stories are hidden in plain view-whether in places we might drive by on our way to work, holidays such as Juneteenth, or entire neighborhoods—like downtown Manhattan—on which the brutal history of the trade in enslaved men, women and children has been deeply imprinted.

Informed by scholarship and brought alive by the story of people living today, Clint Smith’s debut work of nonfiction is a landmark work of reflection and insight that offers a new understanding of the hopeful role that memory and history can play in understanding our country.

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner
An unflinching, powerful memoir about growing up Korean American, losing her mother, and forging her own identity.

In this exquisite story of family, food, grief, and endurance, Michelle Zauner proves herself far more than a dazzling singer, songwriter, and guitarist. With humor and heart, she tells of growing up one of the few Asian American kids at her school in Eugene, Oregon; of struggling with her mother’s particular, high expectations of her; of a painful adolescence; of treasured months spent in her grandmother’s tiny apartment in Seoul, where she and her mother would bond, late at night, over heaping plates of food.

As she grew up, moving to the East Coast for college, finding work in the restaurant industry, and performing gigs with her fledgling band–and meeting the man who would become her husband–her Koreanness began to feel ever more distant, even as she found the life she wanted to live. It was her mother’s diagnosis of terminal cancer, when Michelle was twenty-five, that forced a reckoning with her identity and brought her to reclaim the gifts of taste, language, and history her mother had given her.

Vivacious and plainspoken, lyrical and honest, Zauner’s voice is as radiantly alive on the page as it is onstage. Rich with intimate anecdotes that will resonate widely, and complete with family photos, Crying in H Mart is a book to cherish, share, and reread.

Reinventing yourself: overcome your anxiety and fear when faced with life’s problems and challenges
by Mario Alonso Puig

We all face obstacles and problems in life which often brings us to a standstill. Many people do not know what to do when their relationships go wrong, for example. Others would like to be more daring, more decisive or more successful. Yet, something gets in the way and they finally give up. When faced with adverse or unfamiliar circumstances, our natural reaction is to become anxious and negative.
A No.1 bestseller in Spain already (over 30,000 copies sold since May 2010), this book is designed to transform your outlook to life. By examining how the human brain works and seeing what is hidden in the depths of our minds, the author demonstrates how we can transcend the limits that our mind sets us. And consequently, we can control and overcome those automatic reactions (of fear and anxiousness) when faced with obstacles and problems in our daily lives.
Reinventing yourself does not mean becoming someone different, but instead, it means bringing our real self to the surface. It is in this new area of possibilities where creativity flows, along with the confidence and energy to transform our outlook to life. 

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

In one of the most important and beloved Latin American works of the twentieth century, Isabel Allende weaves a luminous tapestry of three generations of the Trueba family, revealing both triumphs and tragedies. Here is patriarch Esteban, whose wild desires and political machinations are tempered only by his love for his ethereal wife, Clara, a woman touched by an otherworldly hand. Their daughter, Blanca, whose forbidden love for a man Esteban has deemed unworthy infuriates her father, yet will produce his greatest joy: his granddaughter Alba, a beautiful, ambitious girl who will lead the family and their country into a revolutionary future.

The House of the Spirits is an enthralling saga that spans decades and lives, twining the personal and the political into an epic novel of love, magic, and fate.

The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff

The Wisdom of Pooh.

Is there such thing as a Western Taoist? Benjamin Hoff says there is, and this Taoist’s favorite food is honey. Through brilliant and witty dialogue with the beloved Pooh-bear and his companions, the author of this smash bestseller explains with ease and aplomb that rather than being a distant and mysterious concept, Taoism is as near and practical to us as our morning breakfast bowl.

Romp through the enchanting world of Winnie-the-Pooh while soaking up invaluable lessons on simplicity and natural living.

For younger readers:

You Matter by Christian Robinson

They All Saw a Cat meets The Important Book in this sensitive and impactful picture book about seeing the world from different points of view by Caldecott and Coretta Scott King Honoree Christian Robinson.

In this full, bright, and beautiful picture book, many different perspectives around the world are deftly and empathetically explored—from a pair of bird-watchers to the pigeons they’re feeding. Young readers will be drawn into the luminous illustrations inviting them to engage with the world in a new way and see how everyone is connected, and that everyone matters. 

Ethical Storytelling Initiative: “Mari”

*Mari is a 34-year-old “grateful woman in sobriety” who loves thrifting and supporting slow fashion and sustainability. She also loves sudoku puzzles and, even before joining AnnieCannons, had “an affinity for coding since early Myspace days.”

Yet, rather than pursuing her love for code, Mari found herself fighting addiction and an eating disorder at the age of 15, conditions that stemmed from sexual trauma. By the time Mari was a high school senior, she was living on her own. It was during this time period when she met someone who recruited her into “the life.” 

Mari is not alone. Evidence shows that addiction, among other risk factors, can increase an individual’s vulnerability to being trafficked, and is used as a “tool of coercion” by traffickers to entrap and control their victims. At the same time, substance use disorder can serve as a lifeline for victims’ survival, and a means to help them cope “with the physical and psychological traumas of being trafficked.” Mari concurs, recalling that her addiction and eating disorder “helped me to disassociate from the person I had to be in order to survive.” 

By the time Mari discovered AnnieCannons, she had already gotten out of the life, found sobriety, and earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Social Work while working at a local shelter for trafficking survivors. Yet, she was also facing financial challenges and the constant fear of being “found out” at every job she had. Mari describes her acceptance into AnnieCannons as a life-defining moment. 

“I freaked out!” she recalls, when learning about AnnieCannons. Yet, it wasn’t until the first virtual cohort was offered earlier this year that her coding dream became reality. “I had a tough relationship with the internet due to the nature of my exploitation, and I feared that I wouldn’t be taken seriously in a male dominated industry…but when I saw what AC did, I knew it was my way in.”

It was only six months ago that coding was akin to magic for Mari: a mysterious, supernatural power that was impossibly out of reach. Since then, she has mastered digital literacy, built websites, and is now learning how to create web applications. While she still considers coding to be “magical,” she admits she has also “seen behind the curtain of OZ” and fully embraces her transformation into a “coding magician.”

When asked about what she looks forward to in the next stage, Mari wants to explore ways to incorporate her love of social work and programming. She aims high, and aspires to “work with local nonprofits that show young girls and nonbinary kids how rad STEM is and how it can be accessible to all.” 

Today, Mari is honoring both her passion and her younger self by pursuing this dream.

“My journey at AnnieCannons has been empowering and rewarding. Every step I take forward is a small reminder that I can do things I never thought possible. The pain of my past feels the freedom of my present, and I am so proud of how far we both have come and where we are headed.”

*Name has been changed to protect the survivor’s identity and privacy.

Our 2021 Ethical Storytelling Initiative was developed in partnership with the Dressember Foundation.

October Newsletter

October 2021

Letter from the CEO


There is so much happening at AnnieCannons and we’re really excited to tell you all about it! Check out below our new app, ReferAll, created to help survivors navigate the systems of services in their area. In addition to this exciting new software product, we are honored to be featured as a social enterprise leader in Georgetown University’s Business for Impact report on how businesses can create jobs for all. In the training program, our coding training collaboration with the HYPE Center is up and running with talented young people deep in the world of coding and loving it. Lastly, our fabulous collaboration with Futures Without Violence has just wrapped-up with the launch of their new website addressing interpersonal violence and exploitation, and you can see it live.

Thank you so much for your ongoing support!

Until next time, stay safe and well,

Laura Hackney, CEO

ReferAll – Changing the Landscape

Transformational relationships are one of the most important assets that help survivors leave and remain free from trafficking. Those can include relationships with service providers. ReferAll is an app, built by AnnieCannons, committed to making these important connections between survivors and providers. By the end of the year, AnnieCannons will have built, tested and launched our prototype designed to match survivors with the providers they are eligible for and offer the resources they want.

ReferAll needs the right connections! If you’re a provider serving survivors, or just know of organizations that are a fit for our platform, email us at referall@anniecannons.com

Watch this video for more information on ReferAll and how it changes the landscape for survivors of trafficking who are seeking services.

Together we can build exit ramps from exploitation.

Business for Impact Features AnnieCannons as
Employment Social Enterprise Leaders

AnnieCannons is featured as an Employment Social Enterprise Leader in the new release of the Jobs for All: Employment Social Enterprise and Economic Mobility in the United States, and at the virtual event held by Business for Impact at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. Our very own Laura Hackney joined other nonprofit and corporate leaders to share insights on how companies can build inclusive workforces and support economic mobility for people traditionally excluded from jobs.

The unfortunate truth is that for many Americans, the American dream has never been within reach as structural barriers related to race, disability, and other factors have limited economic opportunities for millions of potential workers. AC is changing that.

Don’t miss this must-read report!

We Can’t Wait!

Cohort 8 kicked off the website development unit on Monday, October 4th at HYPE Center. Students came back from a break after our digital literacy class ready to get to work learning HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. In the first week, students excelled their HTML skills, By Thursday, they were able to create a simple website with an image, a table, a form, nested lists, and plenty of links – all in less than an hour! Students are offered the opportunity each day to practice, review, repeat. Next week, we will start our journey into CSS, where students will finally be able to control the layout of their websites, as well as add some pizazz with color and background images. We can’t wait!

Photo by Eliot Reyna on Unsplash

Futures Without Violence Website, Designed by AC, Is Live

Check out the latest website created by our software engineers in partnership with Futures Without Violence, a health and social justice nonprofit whose mission is to heal those among us who are traumatized by violence today – and to create healthy families and communities free of violence tomorrow.

You can see it here!

Ethical Storytelling Initiative at AnnieCannons

Earlier this year, we entered into an exciting new partnership with the Dressember Foundation to explore meaningful, impact-driven ways to support and empower survivors who have experienced human trafficking and other forms of gender-based violence.

Dressember is a global movement that combines the power of fashion and creativity to fight human trafficking and fundraise for change, and has raised more than $13 million to support anti-trafficking work worldwide since 2013. 

Like AnnieCannons, Dressember is committed to centering survivor voices at the core of their work. As part of this collaboration, we will be sharing survivor stories and launching the AnnieCannons Ethical Storytelling Initiative, a recent but long-awaited effort to propel the voices from our community, forward.

Follow along with us as we listen to, learn from, and honor survivors on their journey to becoming software engineers.

“I’m a part of a community of individuals who understand me, and accept me as I am…it is the missing piece. Learning to code has made me whole. I didn’t know that I had such a strong work ethic, or that I have great study habits. I’m not treated like a victim here, I am treated like a burgeoning genius.”

Meet Morys. Age 33. 

He is a trafficking survivor and one of AnnieCannons’ newest trainees. He is a self-described learner, discoverer, and adventurer.

He describes his life calling to be experiencing “newness,” with a passion to “discover things I know nothing about…I want to see everything I can in my lifetime.”

Morys joined our training program earlier this year as one of 12 participants, and the first to identify as a cisgender man across the organization’s seven cohorts. 

He had been relocated 3,000 miles to a residential program for male trafficking survivors, and had been searching day and night for resources and guidance, any assistance to help get his life back. His goal? To live a life that made him “untraffickable.”

Among a host of tactics that traffickers employ to exploit individuals, Morys describes one of the key methods: isolation. 

“I was systematically cut off from personal connections and resources until all I had left was my traffickers. And without a connection to the world around me, all I was left with was decisions made by somebody else.”

At the time he found AnnieCannons, Morys was “homeless, broke, out of touch with friends and family and suffering catastrophic health issues” that nearly took his life. It was through sheer accident that he discovered AnnieCannons, through a Google search.

“When I saw the site, I saw not just a lifeline, but an entire learning environment that would catapult me out of my situation and into the life that I wanted for myself.”

His raw talent for programming was undeniable. During his initial screening test, Morys not only displayed keen intellect but a passion for learning. He excelled at the logical, visual-spatial, and focus-based exercises─key indicators for success in coding.

He brought these talents into the classroom and has shown up, day after day, with steadfast commitment. Last month, Morys successfully conquered digital literacy, the first stage of AnnieCannons’ training, and is now facing his next challenge: building functional websites. 

Morys channels his newfound passion for code with memes and self-discoveries that he generously shares with his classmates, even going as far as wishing for more assignments. When asked how the journey at AnnieCannons has been so far, Morys describes it as “glorious.” 

“This is the happiest I have ever been in my entire life. Thanks to AnnieCannons, I don’t feel scared or confused about what tomorrow brings. I know in my heart that I’m on a journey that will take me to places I never thought possible. I no longer see barriers, I see ladders and staircases and elevators. I can do anything I want for the rest of my life and nothing is going to stop me.”

Stay tuned for more updates on Morys and other AnnieCannons participants along their software engineering training journey.

June 2021 – Updates


I am extremely honored and thrilled to be writing to you in my new role of Chief Executive Officer at AnnieCannons. The success and growth of this organization is fueled by you, our larger AnnieCannons community of partners, supporters, clients, donors, and all-around champions. Thank you for continuing to walk with us on this journey to end cycles of exploitation and abuse through economic empowerment.

I am also incredibly grateful for our staff, graduates, and all of the trainees at AnnieCannons. What a team! Progress is made through the consistent and thoughtful actions of the everyday. These actions make the world a more just and equitable place, and this is demonstrated in spades at AnnieCannons. I couldn’t be more proud to continue this work alongside such talented and passionate individuals.

Here are some updates!

Cohort 7

Our current training cohort, led by our stellar teaching team, successfully completed Digital Literacy and started the second module, Website Development. Our trainees will start working with today’s most in-demand web technologies through project-based learning and interactive curriculum modules. 

Part of the journey of a trainee includes learning about the software development lifecycle. How do technology companies build successful products from just ideas into code? Our product team visited the classroom to lead our trainees through a product workshop. This workshop gave trainees the chance to propose ideas for new technologies that could address issues they have faced or seen in their own communities. The product team took these amazing ideas and helped trainees craft their plans into a Product Requirements Document, helping them with the first step in creating a new piece of software.

Summer of Coding

This summer is gearing up to be one of the busiest yet for our talented group of engineers. We have a number of new client projects that are moving from design to development, and we are revamping our sales pipeline to be able to better accommodate and support projects in early phases of growth. 

We will be doing some application launches this fall, and can’t wait for you all to see what we are building!

Career Development Coordinator

We hired our first Career Development Coordinator at AnnieCannons. Thanks to funding from our wonderful partners at GrantTank, we were able to hire a position that has been just a dream at AnnieCannons for several years. 

Our Career Development Coordinator (affectionately known as the “CDC”) is focused on broadening and deepening the support and services we offer trainees and graduates of our program, in the classroom and on the job. While our teaching team provides technical instruction and our product team supervises paid work performed by graduates, the CDC is helping our trainees and graduates succeed when they are experiencing issues, as diverse as housing insecurity to time management difficulty.

This week, the CDC launched our one-on-one coaching program to provide individual support and to identify areas where third-party experts are needed to support both individuals and the whole community. We are so thrilled about this role as well as the amazing work already underway.

Many Thanks

Thank you again for continuing to support AnnieCannons. In the next several years, AnnieCannons will continue to reach more survivors, train more world-class software engineers, develop more interesting and purposeful products, and re-shape the way we all view the workplace and the world. We have always been reaching for the stars, and we are just getting started.

Look forward to many more announcements to come. 

All best,
Laura Hackney

Announcement from AnnieCannons

I am writing to let you know about some important leadership changes taking place at AnnieCannons.

Jessica Hubley, our remarkable co-founder, has stepped down after six incredible years as CEO. Jessica has been a driving force behind AnnieCannons’ growth and a visionary leader who has inspired us all. She has advocated continuously to advance the position and elevate the voices of survivors. We are profoundly grateful for the unceasing efforts she has made on behalf of AnnieCannons. 

Laura Hackney, AnnieCannons’ other remarkable co-founder and CTO, was unanimously appointed by our Board of Directors as the next CEO. Laura has overseen the success of our flagship software development training and workforce development programs since AnnieCannons’ inception and the Board is delighted she will now helm the organization.

Under Laura and Jessica’s joint direction, AnnieCannons has not only emerged as a leader in the anti-trafficking space, but a pioneer in testing new models of economic empowerment and technology innovation to support the talents and potential of underserved populations.

I would also like to thank AnnieCannons’ interim CEO, Elizabeth Gardner, who stepped in temporarily while the co-founder transitions took place. Liz’s contributions to the management of the organization have created a legacy that will be felt in the lives of survivors for years to come. We are so grateful for her tireless efforts and wish her all the best as she returns to her long-time work in another field.  

AnnieCannons has never been better positioned to accelerate its growth and scale its impact to reach an ever-increasing number of survivors in 2021, and beyond. 

Our entire community is grateful for the hard work, dedication and vision of our leaders, and looks forward to entering our next chapter with your continued support.

Lawrence Cole,
Chairperson, AnnieCannons Board of Directors

AnnieCannons 2020 Holiday Reading List

The team at AnnieCannons has put together a list of what we’ll be reading this holiday season.  Whether you’re looking to expand your worldview, educate yourself, read with the kids, or just relax with the classics, we have something for everyone!  

What’s on your list this season? Happy holidays and happy reading!

Emergent Strategy

by Adrienne Maree Brown

Inspired by Octavia Butler’s explorations of our human relationship to change, Emergent Strategy is radical self-help, society-help, and planet-help designed to shape the futures we want to live. Change is constant. The world is in a continual state of flux. It is a stream of ever-mutating, emergent patterns. Rather than steel ourselves against such change, this book invites us to feel, map, assess, and learn from the swirling patterns around us in order to better understand and influence them as they happen. This is a resolutely materialist “spirituality” based equally on science and science fiction, a visionary incantation to transform that which ultimately transforms us.

The Snakehead

by Patrick Radden Keefe

The Snakehead is a panoramic tale of international intrigue and a dramatic portrait of the underground economy in which America’s twelve million illegal immigrants live. Based on hundreds of interviews, Patrick Radden Keefe’s sweeping narrative tells the story not only of Sister Ping, but of the gangland gunslingers who worked for her, the immigration and law enforcement officials who pursued her, and the generation of penniless immigrants who risked death and braved a 17,000 mile odyssey so that they could realize their own version of the American dream. The Snakehead offers an intimate tour of life on the mean streets of Chinatown, a vivid blueprint of organized crime in an age of globalization and a masterful exploration of the ways in which illegal immigration affects us all.

My Grandmother’s Hands

by Resmaa Menakem

The body is where our instincts reside and where we fight, flee, or freeze, and it endures the trauma inflicted by the ills that plague society. In this groundbreaking work, therapist Resmaa Menakem examines the damage caused by racism in America from the perspective of body-centered psychology. He argues this destruction will continue until Americans learn to heal the generational anguish of white supremacy, which is deeply embedded in all our bodies. Our collective agony doesn’t just affect African Americans. White Americans suffer their own secondary trauma as well. So do blue Americans—our police.

My Grandmother’s Hands is a call to action for all of us to recognize that racism is not about the head, but about the body, and introduces an alternative view of what we can do to grow beyond our entrenched racialized divide.

The Hobbit

by J.R.R. Tolkien

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort. Written for J.R.R. Tolkien’s own children, The Hobbit met with instant critical acclaim when it was first published in 1937. Now recognized as a timeless classic, this introduction to the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, the wizard Gandalf, Gollum, and the spectacular world of Middle-earth recounts of the adventures of a reluctant hero, a powerful and dangerous ring, and the cruel dragon Smaug the Magnificent.

For younger learners:

I Promise

by LeBron James

NBA champion and superstar LeBron James pens a slam-dunk picture book inspired by his foundation’s I PROMISE program that motivates children everywhere to always #StriveForGreatness. Just a kid from Akron, Ohio, who is dedicated to uplifting youth everywhere, LeBron James knows the key to a better future is to excel in school, do your best, and keep your family close.

I Promise is a lively and inspiring picture book that reminds us that tomorrow’s success starts with the promises we make to ourselves and our community today.

Julián is a Mermaid

by Jessica Love

While riding the subway home from the pool with his abuela one day, Julián notices three women spectacularly dressed up. Their hair billows in brilliant hues, their dresses end in fishtails, and their joy fills the train car. When Julián gets home, daydreaming of the magic he’s seen, all he can think about is dressing up just like the ladies in his own fabulous mermaid costume: a periwinkle curtain for his tail, the fronds of a potted fern for his headdress. But what will Abuela think about the mess he makes—and even more importantly, what will she think about how Julián sees himself? Mesmerizing and full of heart, Jessica Love’s author-illustrator debut is a jubilant picture of self-love and a radiant celebration of individuality.

World Day Against Trafficking in Persons 2020

Thursday, July 30th, marks the seventh annual World Day Against Trafficking in Persons

This global event was launched in 2013, when the General Assembly of the United Nations came together to dedicate a day to raising awareness about human trafficking and the situations of the victims involved, and to promote and protect their rights. 

This year’s theme, “Committed to the Cause: Working on the Frontline to End Human Trafficking,” is appropriately focused on recognizing frontline workers who are committed to identifying, supporting, counseling and seeking justice for victims of trafficking, and challenging the impunity of the traffickers.

What is Human Trafficking?

The scale of human trafficking is staggering, entrapping an estimated 40.3 million people globally in conditions of modern day slavery. Trafficking takes many forms but by definition, includes the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of exploitation, including the prostitution of others, sexual exploitation and forced labor. 

As a result of mainstream media and Hollywood blockbusters, human trafficking is often depicted in sensationalized images that nearly always begins with a dramatized kidnapping, leading to a young woman being forced into sex work. More often than not, this crime is perpetuated by an underground global prostitution ring that is ultimately taken down by an equally dramatic rescue. 

While this scenario can play out in reality, the large majority of human trafficking cases look vastly different. Most traffickers utilize psychological tactics to trick, manipulate or threaten their victims, often around the premise of economic opportunity and bait-and-switch promises of a better life. Perpetrators can be strangers or have familiar faces: a romantic partner, a family member, and even parents. 

Though the overwhelming majority of commercial sex trafficking victims are women and girls─99% according to the International Labor Organization─trafficking takes many forms, including forced labor, indentured servitude, child marriage and conscription (i.e. child soldiers)─and can impact men and boys, who are often silent, unseen victims of modern day slavery. The most recent data in the UN Global Report on the Trafficking in Persons estimates that men account for 21% of all persons trafficked globally, and more than half of all trafficking victims of forced labor. The same report estimates that 30% of all detected victims worldwide are children. 

Trafficking in the U.S.: The Ugly Truth

While there are myriad myths and misconceptions about human trafficking, there are a few notable ones that we want to bust as we approach World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, and highlight some vital, important truths about this horrific crime. Among them:

  • Trafficking is not merely a problem happening in third-world countries “over there,” among the faces of young women and girls in Southeast Asia or Eastern Europe. Modern day slavery is alive and well in the U.S. today, with an estimated 400,000 people believed to be trapped working as modern slaves: at every major sporting event, in truck stops, in restaurants, on farms, in massage parlors and in hotels. Trafficking hides in plain sight and is seen, touched and supported by Americans everyday, in every zip code across the country.

    Likewise, victims cannot be profiled and distanced in images of the “other.” Individuals exploited and trafficked everyday are U.S.-born citizens just as they are foreign nationals, living in or brought to this country by both illegal and lawful means.
  • Traffickers do not only target poor individuals from small rural villages. While poverty is a common vulnerability, it alone is not a single causal factor of human trafficking. There are a multitude of compounding factors that can increase an individual’s vulnerability to trafficking: homelessness, history of trauma or violence, disability, neglect, family breakdown, substance abuse, or a combination of these and many other factors. Though in all cases, traffickers exploit the vulnerabilities that individuals already face.

    And while trafficking can happen to anyone, there are undeniable gender and racial dimensions to human trafficking that disproportionately affect women of color. In the U.S., approximately 40% of sex trafficking victims in the U.S. are Black and compared to their racial counterparts, Black girls are more likely to be trafficked at a younger age. One study found that 85% of those who bought sex on the internet were white men and in an interview with the Urban Institute, traffickers admitted their belief that trafficking Black women would land them less jail time than trafficking white women, if caught.

    Recognizing, understanding and acknowledging the intrinsic link between human trafficking and structural racism in the U.S. is the first essential step in addressing the root causes of this crime.
  • Victims are rarely “freed” from their trafficking experience despite exiting their exploitation. The climactic rescue scenes that unfold on screen are typically followed by images of a resumed “normal” life. Yet, this portrayal is problematic in multiple ways: it not only over-simplifies the survivors’ trafficking experience with a start and end point, disregarding the lifetime of discrimination, oppression and exploitation they have likely faced and will most likely continue to face, it also assumes a “‘rescue’ mentality steeped in racialized perspectives” that are founded on the notions of white saviorism.

    The rescue scenario also obscures the complex reality of victims’ experiences, crafted on assumptions that they are powerless to leave, are held against their will or always want to get out. Though sometimes the case, people in trafficking situations also stay for a complex array of reasons including familial pressures, economic needs, or lack of basic necessities to physically leave, such as transportation or a safe place to live. In other cases, trafficked individuals may not be aware they have been trafficked or are a victim of a crime, having been manipulated by their traffickers or born into their enslaved circumstances.

    Importantly, the point of escape is hardly the end, but the beginning of another lifelong journey that coexists in parallel to a survivor’s trafficking experience. Not only are a small percentage of survivors ever “rescued,” even fewer are able to secure true freedom or justice, burdened by stigma, lack of opportunity and an inherently biased system that discriminates against them.

    Over the past five years, only 1,230 federal prosecutions were initiated against human traffickers, representing less than 3% of total cases reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. At the same time, survivors are too often criminalized for the crimes committed against them. Nineteen states can still arrest and charge youth survivors with the crime of prostitution despite being a victim of child sex trafficking.

    That’s right: despite growing consensus that a child cannot be a prostitute, there are still states and legislators who believe that a minor can willingly and consensually engage in commercial sex. And Black children bear the brunt of these arrests, disproportionately making up nearly 58% of all juvenile prostitution arrests.

What Next? Life After “The Life”

Human trafficking is a lifetime cost for survivors, especially for women and children of color. Yet, very few ask what comes after “the rescue.” What happens after the dust settles and a survivor, against all odds, is able to imagine their future beyond the shelter and trauma support group? Or even years after they have started down their road to recovery? According to one nonprofit executive, many in the human trafficking community shy away from the notion of the rescue “because it doesn’t give merit to the process that is at play when a trafficking victim exist the Life.”

At AnnieCannons, we recognize that survivors face insurmountable barriers to sustainable recovery that are impacted by a lifetime of multiple victimizations. We know that trauma is not a one-time event, and a return to a pre-trafficking “normal” only perpetuates the violence and discrimination that created opportunities for their exploitation in the first place. We aim to permanently break this cycle by unlocking the talents, brilliance, ingenuity and perseverance that survivors already possess, yet are largely overlooked. 

We see this potential, and work hand-in-hand with survivors in our program, on our team, and in our workplace to leverage their abilities and gain the economic power they deserve. In doing so, we are also challenging the status quo that discriminates against survivors, women and minorities in the workplace, demanding a new improved normal that is built on inclusion and diversity.

How YOU Can Help

Human trafficking is a global problem that requires a global solution. Yet, despite the grand scale of this issue, there are simple, everyday ways that we can all fight against modern day slavery. There is a role for everyone to play and together, we can stop human trafficking and demand justice for survivors in this country. Here are a few ways you can help:

  • Support frontline workers fighting trafficking and supporting survivors in your community. Human trafficking, racial injustice and gender inequality are mutually-reinforcing when we talk about vulnerability and exploitation. Don’t know where to begin? Start by reaching out to your local shelters and victim services providers to see how you can help. You can also email us at info@anniecannons.com to learn more about how you can support survivors.
  • Be a mindful consumer. Trafficking bleeds into every global supply chain, from the clothes you wear to the food you eat. Support socially responsible businesses and demand social responsibility from businesses in your community. Visit KnowTheChain to see which industries and companies are working to eliminate slavery from their products.
  • Most importantly, use your platform and your social advantage to fight alongside survivors and amplify their voices. Allyship is needed now, more than ever.