Mira Sorvino: Advocacy, Justice and Standing for the Oppressed
Interviewed for Risen Magazine
Risen Magazine: I know that advocacy is such an important part of who you are and your overall mission and there’s a lot of celebrities, you can throw money at a bunch of causes, but you actually take the time and you’ve been UN Goodwill ambassador. Why is it so important to you? Why do you feel that you have the position to use your platform and your voice in order to do good?
Mira Sorvino: Well, I always wanted to be an activist. As a child, my biggest cultural hero was the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. And I know a lot of people will say that, but really in our home, he was such a hero. Both of my parents really venerated him in his teachings. And my mom had marched on Washington as a young woman with him, which was kind of unusual for she was maybe 18 or 19 years old living in Washington, DC. And I’m always super proud of her for being a part of that. And she was really into volunteerism, really into service. So she used to go in two to three times a week to this organization called Helpline, the Norman Vincent Peale hotline for suicide prevention in New York city and she would spend hours on the phone talking people off of ledges, literally. Like she would come home and tell us how she talked somebody down from taking their own life that day.
That was the kind of thing that she did and I grew up with a very strong sense of outrage at Otherism, the sort of mindsets that people have that allow them to categorize others as less than them and therefore that it was okay to treat them as less than, to dehumanize them and kill them, prejudice against them, discriminate against them. And in every way, whether it was based on race, gender, ethnicity, culture, age, all of these things have really gotten to me. And so in college, I wrote my thesis about racial conflict, and then I worked on a documentary about antisemitism and then my acting career took off and I really didn’t have the time to refocus on my activism, but then in my mid 30s Amnesty International asked me if I’d be there to Stop Violence Against Women campaign spokesperson. And I finally had found a way to be of service again.
And under that canopy, I discovered the ongoing scourge of human trafficking. The horror that is modern day slavery that currently claims 40 million victims across the globe. 71% women, largely children in every culture, every community, Los Angeles actually being like the national hub for human trafficking. So there’s so much work to be done. And I call it the other pandemic because I mean, right now only less than 1% of the people currently in bondage will exit. Will be able to get out of it. And so the fact that so little is done when people routinely die or are beaten or have sexual violence done to them, or terrible psychological trauma. And their lives are taken away from them, all their human rights their freedom, their everything, but that’s happening right under our noses.
And when I see what we’ve all been able to do to mobilize to fight COVID-19, which has been extraordinary really to see the whole world step up. Right now it’s like, “Whoa, we’ve never kind of seen this much coordinated global action on any one problem.” But why are we tolerating slavery? Why are we allowing the largest percentage of human beings in recorded history to be enslaved? I mean, like the largest number. It’s not the largest percentage, it’s the largest number.
So I just feel like if people really focused on the people living as slaves, because right now they’re kind of hidden, and they’re not a constituency with a political voice, they’re not going to the polls. They don’t have money. They’re already probably from a marginalized existence, otherwise, they wouldn’t have been as vulnerable to the economic exigencies that make people vulnerable to being trafficked or being abuse victims, or all kinds of reasons why someone is more vulnerable to trafficking than others.
Because, they’re not this like big, shiny constituency, politicians don’t really feel this political will to like, “We need to do more.” But of course we need to do more. I mean, the same amount of effort we put into fighting murder, arson, and rape should be put into… And I’m going to even take rape off the table because that doesn’t have enough done for it. But let’s say murder, right? That’s a crime that we consistently fight, and we investigate and we prosecute, but human trafficking has root causes that we don’t address. The persecutors are rarely caught and punished, and we don’t talk about it nearly enough.
So this has become kind of part of my life’s mission, I guess. And it does come from my parents and it comes from my faith of feeling that, why are we here on the planet, if not to uplift other people? If not to do our part in fighting for justice and standing for the oppressed?