JACKSON, Miss – Secretary of State Michael Watson hosted a Mississippi Businesses Against Trafficking (MBAT) Summit Tuesday afternoon on the Jackson State University (JSU) campus. Business, non-profit, and state agency representatives and JSU students gathered to learn more about human trafficking in Mississippi and across the country.
Today's MBAT Summit was held in collaboration with JSU (thanks to Chief Herman Horton, Director of Public Safety at JSU), the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation (MBI), and the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH).
"Any opportunity to raise awareness on human trafficking and educate Mississippians on the warning signs is a success, but when you can partner with leading experts and tear down government silos, amazing things, like saving lives, can happen," said Secretary Michael Watson.
The Summit featured a Human Trafficking Overview conducted by Lieutenant Kevin Lavine, criminal justice professor at JSU, and a panel with leading experts in the field. Featured panelist included Dr. Dana Hunter, the Executive Director of the Louisiana Governor's Office of Human Trafficking Prevention.
“We can never underestimate the impact of education and awareness events like the MBAT Summit. Human trafficking is such a dark heinous crime that has many faces. Educating the public and professionals on victim identification and response provides us with the necessary tools to save lives,” said Dr. Hunter.
Additional panelists included Matt Bogue, Vice President of Dutch Oil Company/Sprint Mart, Deputy Helen Brown, CEO of No More Tears, and Joy Jones, the Director of the Office Against Interpersonal Violence (MSDH). Ashlee Lucas, Mississippi's Statewide Human Trafficking Coordinator (MBI) moderated the panel.
Brian Montgomery, father of deceased sextortion victim Walker Montgomery, served as the keynote speaker. His powerful testimony described his first-hand account of exploitation practices found right here in Mississippi.
"Our lives have been forever changed, but we are committed to this fight and sharing our story with as many people as possible. It is our hope that through Walker's death, we can keep others from becoming victims as well," said Montgomery.
MBAT is a statewide initiative to raise awareness and empower Mississippi businesses to combat human trafficking. It is open to any business, non-profit organization, or association in the State of Mississippi that is interested in promoting human trafficking awareness both internally and externally.
The MBAT website provides more information on how to get involved as well as educational resources and materials to help better understand the issues surrounding human trafficking and how to recognize it in the workplace.
To speak with someone about how to get involved with MBAT, contact our External Affairs Division at ExternalAffairs@sos.ms.gov or 601-359-4454.