“You got any dreams you want to catch?” This is the profound and difficult question asked by Brenda Myers-Powell, a former prostitute, and now shero, who survived 25 brutal years on the streets and today devotes her life to saving girls and women in the same troubling predicament.
I initially wanted to see this documentary. Then I didn’t think I could handle seeing it. Then I decided that I should see it; that I must.
The lives these women and girls are struggling through is brutal, terrifying and heartbreaking. The list of horrors and injustices are extensive and multi-layered: rampant unreported child molestation, physical, mental and emotional abuse, substance abuse, poverty, and parental abandonment. And, as I’ve learned over the years, these tragedies in their lives act as feeders to a cycle/system of sexual, emotional, and financial exploitation that is nearly impossible to escape from. Even many of us who have faced difficult life challenges in our youth and early adulthood cannot imagine how these young girls and women even survive it all. But the boisterous, loving, and relentless shero, Miss. Brenda, who listens compassionately to their stories in her Dreamcatcher van nearly every night, did survive the brutality and now represents hope.
Brenda survived being shot 5 times, stabbed numerous times, dragged by a car and years of sexual exploitation that started when she was only 4 years old. Today she is a gorgeous, lively women who returns to those dark streets night after night to give other women the support and guidance they need to save themselves.
Though we know that pimps and johns (tricks) usually escape with little consequence, while prostitutes often pay dearly with jail time, and sometimes their own precious lives, Miss. Brenda has a surprising ally in her fight against sex trafficking: a former pimp. Homer (aka Fancy) bravely shares how he was raped repeatedly by his Aunt from the age of nine and by his teens he was being paid to have sex with older women, eventually he became a pimp. He has been out of the “game” and sober for over a decade and now supports Brenda in her quest to bring awareness to the young girls who are most vulnerable to being exploited by men like his former self.
Side note: In the film, Brenda shares that rule #8 in the “pimp handbook” is: “Never let a ho like a ho.” This belief, and manipulative practice of divide and conquer, is a mechanism used to control women not only on the streets, but also in media and even the boardroom. Why? Because when women ban together for equality and justice we are a force to fear and respect.
The film is gritty and powerful and it is a definite must see. It is beautifully (and unobtrusively) directed by the renowned Kim Longinotto, who I had the honour of interviewing for her doc, Salma. (Longinotto also won the World Cinema Directing Award in the documentary category at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival for Dreamcatcher). And for those as moved by the film as I am, I suggest you like the foundation on Facebook. Tweet some messages of support. And donate if you have the means to. But most importantly help those too vulnerable to help themselves: don’t turn a blind eye to exploitation in your community or home.
On a lighter and final note: I would love to see Miss. Brenda played by Oscar winning actress Mo’Nique in a well-deserved Hollywood biopic. Mo’Nique’s fearless fierceness would do her justice.
Learn more about the Dreamcatcher Foundation here.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Chaka V. is a writer, journalist and the founder of The Winehouse Mag.