Sex and human trafficking has been a staggering epidemic that has been unnoticed and hidden from mainstream media in the Black community. Recently, I had the honor and privilege of interviewing Brother ZaRio, who is a strong African American man that is interested in seeking and implementing change to the ever growing problem within the African American community. He is a citizen of The Nation of Islam and born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. 

In the interview he’ll share with us how his passion for social science and humanitarian work have been a part of him from an early age. You’ll also get an in depth on how he and his team have established programs to train and empower our youth to take responsibility for their communities, to show pride by cleaning them up and by doing their part to ensure that they are safe places to live. 

 The activists of the millennium. From left to right: 19Keys, Jay Morrison, Brother Zario, and Rizza.
The activists of the millennium. From left to right: 19Keys, Jay Morrison, Brother ZaRio, and Rizza.

Can you tell the readers and myself a little about your bringing?

I was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, a “Grady baby 80’s Baby”. I’ve seen a lot and I’ve been around a lot, as a citizen born into the Nation Of Islam. I grew up being conscious. I grew up in the light; as the Bible puts it; “born in sin and shaped in iniquity”. We live in a dark world and all of us are affected by the things in our environment, but I was very well taught about myself, our people, our women, our condition, our society, and our world. I grew up in a very large family, probably the largest family in Atlanta. My grandmother had 26 births; 19 children, and my mother was one of her girls. I grew up with tons of cousins, so I know about being around different people with different personalities.

Growing up and still to this day, who were some of your inspirations/mentors and how have they impacted your life?

First and foremost, God is my greatest inspiration, not to sound cliche, but that is very real for me. The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. Although, I had never met The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, it was through the spirit and teachings of The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, that guidance, that information which brought great inspiration to me. My parents and grandparents have also helped to inspire me; along with the community. I want to give a shoutout to Minister Abdul Sharrieff who has been a great mentor to me.

When did you know that you had a passion for social sciences and humanitarian work uplifting the culture?

Probably around the age of four or five, I’ll say four. Having been born into the movement, I was always around positive movements and events. I was trained starting at the age of four and by the time that I was eight-years old, I was training others around me to have discipline, self-correction, and self-motivation. Social science and humanitarian work, helping to uplift the culture has always been apart of who I am, as child and now as a young adult.

How did you first get involved in the social science, humanitarian field?

My involvement in the social science humanitarian field was instilled in me as a result of my upbringing in the Nation Of Islam. I took those teachings and spread them throughout the community. I wanted to spread the positive teachings of The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad as taught by The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, in a language that the neighborhood could understand. That’s why I do not wear the uniform as often as others may wear it because I want everyone to know that I am just as normal to everyone around him that he grew up with. I am just as normal as us all with a different message, outlook and energy in life. I want people to understand that even though you may dress yourself in a certain way you can always dress your mind with different information with different ideology. So with movement and purpose that supports the information that you feed your mind, as an artist, creator and an entertainer in addition to his upbringing in the Nation Of Islam, he naturally dove into Social Science.

What inspired you to create The Free World Foundation?

The phrase “Free World” came to me in 2008 when I was reading a Final Call article and The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad said, “We need a free world”, and that stuck with me. At that time I was getting back into music, after being out of it for almost five years and decided to call my company Free World Empire. The foundation is about creating a world where we can really be who we are and who we were born to be in God’s image and likeness. I wanted us to know that we have the freedom to do so, but first you’ve got to create a world and worlds are systems, ideas that are created into systems, policies and procedures. Free World represents the idea of being systematic and pragmatic.

When creating the foundation, what were some of the goals and aspirations for your community?

I wanted to make it a decent and safe community, to make it a better place, for it to be self-sufficient and self-ran. “It’s unfortunate that the black and brown communities, black communities especially, do not own where we live, we do not control where we live. In order to control where you live, you have to own it”. I want to change that and encourage others to build and work on that. I want to inspire and send a message to our people and this generation to show us through music and the arts that we can be self-sufficient and self-reliant and to do things that need to be done in unity to take control of where we live to operate with things that are in our best interest as a community.

What are some of the programs The Free World Foundation offers the youth and community?

My team is currently negotiating with the public school system to allow us to be in as many schools as we can handle. We’ve been outside in the community; “The Bluff”, which is the number one crime and drug zone in Georgia, especially in the city of Atlanta. We have established a program called “360”, where we are training our youth to take responsibility for the community and to clean it up and make it a safer place to live. These are the type of programs that we are implementing and executing until we see the results that we’re after.

Did you expect your foundation to have the impact it has in such a short amount of time?

I am someone who looks at the bottom line when looking to see if our goals have been accomplished. To look at where we are and what still needs to be done, then I do not see the impact being as great as others may see it. When I see a homeless person and I don’t have to walk past them because we have food and shelter for them. When I walk past a sister that is selling her body or a brother that is exploiting his community by selling drugs, until I see a peaceful society, where all I see is peace, happiness, love, and joy that is serving our people, then the work is not done.

You recently organized the StopSexTraffickingATL event/movement in which you asked for 10,000 black men. What are the staggering statistics of sex trafficking in Atlanta and the African American community? 

When I heard that there was 64,000 black women that went missing, not 64, not 6,400, but 64,000 black women and there was no outcry for any of these young ladies, that’s when I realized that there was a huge problem among us and I knew that I had to stand up and step in to do something about it. After some sleepless nights, I asked God what I needed to do. God told me to “ call on all men again and make sure to call them about the sex trafficking issues we are facing”. I felt moved to take responsibility and start this movement. “We as a people have to take responsibility for our communities and our sisters and our women. Making sure the men in our communities stand on the front line and say no more sex trafficking our women.  Everyone comes from a woman. It’s unfair, it’s almost robbery to not give back to our women and to protect them after they gave life to all men.

It is my understanding that housing was denied to the travelers and attendees of the event. What was the disagreement or miscommunication?

In 2018, we partnered with the Que’s. We partnered up with the fraternity again for the same event last year. Initially, everything was going smoothly. I felt that the original message was, “Black men coming together to reclaim responsibility for the community”, and not really putting a specific topic on it. When Sex Trafficking did become the main topic, things shifted.

I knew that I would have enemies once facing sex trafficking head on but I didn’t figure that I would have people so close and in the campuses to fight against this movement. I chose the black college campuses to help out the youth there. I decided to start helping in the AUC campuses, “ let’s paint the picture for historical black colleges, that black men are coming to take responsibility for what’s happening in our community”.

Everything was a thumbs up. Flyers for the event we’re saying that it was going to be an AUC event, I never mentioned that it had anything to do with or would be on Morehouse premises. Once I received confirmation that the event would be hosted at Morehouse, my team put out the word on the radio and everywhere and suddenly the calls starting come in, first from Clark Atlanta University, followed by Morehouse. That’s when things shifted and it was mentioned that there was a prerequisite. 

What I believe is, that there was so much heat around the topic and since the school had a track record of keeping away topics that may stir up the youth on campus, the school refuses to allow the event to go forward as planned. For example, the school had previously barred the Minister and certain big figures from coming on campus; any individual that wants to enlighten and enliven our young people. The schools will allow our youth to use Weed, be promiscuous and become victims of violence. But they will not allow people that will stimulate the consciousness and the minds of the youth on school grounds. Makes you wonder why the schools are denying 10,000 black men wanting and willing to come to the school grounds to encourage and speak knowledge into the youth. That leads us to believe that in some form or fashion, the administration and others in power with much more control of the schools are in compliance and working to sex traffic our black women on campus.

Between Spelman and Clark Atlanta University there are 5,000 women that attend who need the presence of strong black males. Yet the administrators of the AUC still do nothing to allow the strong black men to support and protect our women. Only individuals who are a slave, or in other words owned by the corporations that allow and promote sex trafficking, will look the other way and do not nothing about the issue. True fact, Morehouse and Spelman are owned by Rockefeller and it makes us wonder why they have the money to fund the schools, but not to assist and help our suffering sisters on the these campuses. Why won’t the schools invite black men to come into the schools and have a peaceful demonstration as to what we will no longer tolerate, that has been happening to your students?

How can raising the awareness and getting the men of our culture decrease the horrific numbers of this crime?

I believe that we can bring the problem down to a very low percentage if not eradicate it completely. It starts with the healing of Black men. I believe that a lot of people want to blame black men for what we are seeing with our women and sex trafficking. Although I do believe that some are partially to blame. We should not go as far as to blame all black men. In one way or another we have all experienced being victims of sex and human trafficking. For instance, going as far back as when white people robbed our ancestors, throwing them onto ships, then raping our black women and men, castrating, abusing and taking away the black family’s identity, name and culture, forcing other religion on our ancestors and us.  

After our ancestors went through everything that the white people put them through and still put our communities through to this day, for example, feeding us music to listen to that has made us degenerate in our thinking towards women and towards ourselves, wouldn’t you say that that’s human trafficking? There’s an R. Kelly, unfortunately in every family and there’s an R. Kelly that did something to R. Kelly that made him who he is. So I’m not going to beat up on him just like I’m not going to beat up on the victims.

We are broken as a people, yet we have the obligation of fixing ourselves first and we have enough healing support and power within our own community if we just unite and apply these things toward what the problem is, then we can fix ourselves. It starts with no longer believing the facade that white people have so well disguised themselves as a friend, when all they really have done and continue to do is to oppress us and harm the black community all along. That is why we need to start a new way and a new law in our community, so that those who remain and continue to oppress the black community, after we have grown in strength and unity, will be made to feel so uncomfortable that they will either remove themselves or we will be strong enough to remove them from amongst us.

When putting together an event of this magnitude, did you expect to have the support of and be joined by other culture shifters such as: 19 Keys, Jay Morrison and Rizza Islam?

Yes (without hesitation). They support their brothers and community when they are needed. They have and will continue to support our Black community and movements just like I will continue to do so by the grace of God.

Can you touch on and highlight some of the key points that were spoken about during the event?

Key points at the event were:

  • Healing Of The Men
  • Protection Of The Women
  • Atlanta Being Number One In The Sex Trafficking Problem That We Are Seeing And Experiencing

This is information that needs to be shared, things that we don’t readily see as an issue that contributes to Sex Trafficking. All of those were great points that were raised and solutions were given and we are working on those solutions as we speak.

Was the turnout and impact of the event as successful as you had hoped it would be?

I saw God’s hands in this event. Never have I seen men unite in particular just for the respect, elevation and protection of their women. After all is said and done, I’m just a servant, a vessel that does the work with a vision and when I said 10,000 men come, we didn’t see 10,000 there but the word goes forth first and then it becomes flesh. But there is something that has to happen between the word and making it flesh and it’s called work. We have to work this plan and this strategy. It was a great start.

What great advice and words of wisdom can you offer our readers and youth?

  1. Self-care: Making sure the readers and our youth take care of themselves.
  2. Loving one another and taking care of each other as we would ourselves.
  3. By loving and caring about ourselves and others it will allow us to unify and solve 95 percent of our issues.
  4. Many seek outside sources to be their saviors and healers but it really is a job that starts with us, within.
  5. To learn all about your creator is knowing yourself and what your mission is in life. Love and trust in God. Once you learn all about God then you will be able to fulfill your purpose and go about inspiring your dear brothers and sisters.

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Leslie Ramirez

CEO/Activist/Entrepreneur

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