Earlier this year, co-founder, Erika Wright, attended a community event hosted by the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics where she learned about a fantastic organization called Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) based out of Colorado. Erika met up with TAT’s co-founder, Kylla Lanier, over breakfast and knew immediately that she’s our kind of people. We are so excited to introduce Kylla Lanier, the September Mama of the Month, to the Somebody’s Mama community.
Truckers Against Trafficking is a 501(c)3 that exists to educate, equip, empower, and mobilize members of the trucking and travel plaza industry to combat domestic sex trafficking. Aside from managing the administration of the non-profit, Kylla spends her time building a coalition between law enforcement, anti-trafficking groups, and members of the trucking industry, as well as speaking nationwide to educate people on preventing and combatting sex trafficking with the help of truckers. You can see what they do and how they do it in this short video:
Before Kylla started TAT, she chronicled her time working with gangs in El Salvador in the mid-90s in a book called My Life Crazy. She also taught US History to sophomores in Broken Arrow, OK and was named District Teacher of the Year in 2011. We asked Kylla to tell us a little bit about how TAT began and why she feels drawn to fighting against human trafficking. From Kylla:
“In 2007, my mom sent me and my sisters the book, Not for Sale by David Batstone and told us to read it. And, you don't know my mom, but when she tells you to do something, you do it. So we all read the book, and we were horrified. I don't think any of us knew that slavery still existed, and that book gave us a really solid overview of what was happening globally and domestically, and we knew we had to respond. We had a conference call: my mom, three other sisters and a family friend and launched our first non-profit, Chapter 61 Ministries. Our goal was simple and easy--to end human exploitation worldwide. 😀 ”
Quickly, Kylla and her mother began work on building a coalition in OK while one of her sisters and a neighbor organized a human trafficking awareness conference in CO, including prominent anti-trafficking organizations like Polaris, IJM, Love146, and Transitions Global. At the conference, Kylla attended a session with a speaker who talked about training gas station attendants about the signs of trafficking. Kylla’s mother had read the FBI’s Innocence Lost reports about girls as young as 13 being rescued from truck stops where they had been prostituted. Kylla’s grandparents had owned a motel for many years with truckers as clientele. They knew that most truckers are good, solid people who would be ready to act if they knew something like this was happening. All of this combined to form the basis for TAT’s vision. TAT launched as an initiative of Chapter 61 in March 2009, and then in 2011, TAT became its own 501(c)3.
We asked Kylla to share about the lessons she has learned from her own mother and from motherhood. She had this to say:
“I've learned tenaciousness, determination, toughness, drive, and a strong work ethic from her. She raised four young daughters on her own after my dad died, ran a farm, fought and defeated breast cancer, excelled professionally, pushed all of us to be excellent in everything we did, and never seemed to take a break. She gives of herself to things she believes in passionately, and I learned to do that as well.
Motherhood has taught me that the world doesn't revolve around me. It has taught me to see, in an even more real way, that everyone's child is precious and beautiful and worth the effort to make this world safer and better. It has taught me to be more patient and to show grace. It has also taught me humility and helped me reflect on areas of my life that were ugly or raw. I was motivated to change those things to be a better role model and parent to my kids. Motherhood has taught me that I have a lot to learn, a lot to do, and a lot to give. It is the best job in the world.”
When we asked Kylla what the challenges and joys of working for TAT, this is what she had to say:
“It is a challenge to keep repeating the message again and again, but I have to remind myself that everyone is coming to the issue of human trafficking and TAT as an organization at different times, so some need the beginner information while others need more hard hitting, in-depth material. It is that challenge of educating/motivating/challenging our audience with what we are presenting through our social media and website platforms as well as in our presentations while always maintaining our focus.
The joys are endless. I love talking with and learning from survivor leaders from around the country and world. I love making a difference in the world. I love speaking to people around the country about human trafficking, but also about what the trucking industry is doing to combat it. I love trucking shows. That's right, I love them! I love working with my family members and the rest of our incredible team. I love going to work and being passionate about it. I love the creativity side of it. I get to dream it and then do it. It is pretty amazing. So the joys far outweigh the challenges.”
We are so honored to know Kylla and to see the work she and her team are doing at TAT. We love that the organization began as a labor of love among family and friends and birthed out of common sense and experience. Thanks, Kylla, for allowing us to feature you and your amazing organization!
If you live in or around the Oklahoma City area, stand by for more information on an upcoming Love Club where Kylla will be speaking about the work she does domestically while we raise money for our current project combatting sex trafficking in Kolkata, India.