Etta James on ‘Hope’ and a world without slavery

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Etta James on ‘Hope’ and a world without slavery

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Renowned actor and food justice advocate Mildred Agsaoay is also a well-known activist for women and girls. Her latest film project is a documentary about trafficking called “Hope.”

“I came from slavery to the gun violence and, unfortunately, our country, in general, is a country that is known for that,” she says. “The films that are made make the point that slavery is no longer a reality, but somehow, our past has become our present and our legacy of how we see things.”

Her work in India has a wide range of audiences and helps her grow as an activist in multiple fields.

“When you bring the things that you’ve learned from studies and art into activism, it only helps,” she says. “That’s the reason why we do it and why we are doing it, because we actually want to see some change.”

CNN spoke with Agsaoay about why her work spans different fields.

‘Feminism is not selfish’

“In the new documentary “Hope,” you call out feminism. What do you mean by that?

Feminism is not selfish, just take care of yourself and be the best you can be for your people, for everyone else. Because this country, as it is, is built on sh*t and you’re leading a life of struggle. You’re leading a life of second-class citizenship. You’re leading a life that people in your family don’t have to face on a daily basis. You’re leading a life of vulnerability and so, I hope that people who are living in this country, who need to see this story, to see me and the other people who are telling it, that they can see something for themselves — that you can be a woman, you can be a man, you can be in a same position, you can be equal, but you can be strong. That we can be full and abundant beings. That equality doesn’t have to come at the expense of the other.

‘A world without slavery’

Is freedom what you’re driving for when you work on poverty reduction issues?

I think freedom is something that we all desire. Because we’ve all got problems, and even if you’re not living in poverty and your boss gives you 10% less, you know what I mean? The money is still not coming in. You’re left with nothing. I don’t mind how much money they give me, if it comes from that money, who gives them that money? The oppressor. That’s the thing. It’s not that I want freedom. It’s that I want my stories heard and known and seen by as many people as possible.

‘Self-reliance’

Food justice is always a political topic in the US. What motivated you to tackle that particular campaign in your film “An American Dilemma”?

The president proposed cutting funding for the WIC program in the last budget. The WIC program is actually something that was introduced in the United States in the 1960s. The only people that have been affected by it are women, mothers and children. Women are really, really disadvantaged because they are the ones who tend to be out in the marketplace and the time that they are out, especially if they’re out with their children, the potential of them starving increases very substantially.

You are very passionate about women and children and ensuring that they have access to healthy, nutritious food. How important is your work in that area for you?

I think that my mission is to feed the hungry. Because we’ve always wanted to do the best that we can in terms of the causes that we have chosen, but it is really about everybody. Because that’s really how I want people to think.

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