Some people are perfectly content keeping their heads down in a cubicle their entire lives. Other people are like Amor. They go from corporate employee to owning Miami Tattoo Co and fighting human trafficking. Yes, you heard that right. Amor owns Miami Tattoo Co and fights human trafficking through DeliverFund.
I could not believe that Human Trafficking was occurring in our country. I was of the side that believed it only happened in other countries. I was immediately torn and from that day on I began to raise awareness about Human Trafficking in our country and in my city, Miami.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Amor about her life, Miami Tattoo Co, and her work as an Abolitionist.
Amor, your life over the last 10 years or so could be a reality show. You’ve gone from corporate employee to tattoo shop owner to modern day abolitionist. Can you talk about the circumstances and situations that led you to leave a good paying corporate job and ended up with you owning Miami Tattoo Co?
One morning in September of 2012, I woke up and knew that I was going to quit my job that day – Amor
I avoided my spiritual mom and I tried to avoid God in deep and in sincere conversations with Him. I didn’t want to hear that message. So I just did the things I needed to do. Read my Bible. Went to Church but avoid deep and sincere moments with Him because I didn’t want to hear this again. Then my spiritual world began to fall apart. The best analogy I can compare it to is when you pull the plug on a bathtub full of water and the water starts speeding down the drain in a funnel. That is how I began to feel. Then one morning. One morning in September of 2012, I woke up and knew that I was going to quit my job that day. I couldn’t even believe I was thinking that, and it happened. That in itself is another miracle story from God. The way my company took care of me when I left. So I resigned, or better yet I was laid off and then came back to Miami. (I had been on assignment in Dallas at this time, so I had to move back to my house in Miami.)
We don’t even know what God has for you. But He has amazing plans for your life. – Pastor Scott Claunch
I started thinking that working at the church as a staff member was what God meant when He told me to leave my job and serve Him. So having gone from earning a lot of money I was beginning to believe that this was what He wanted me to do. To eventually work at church making very little to no money. As this was going on, I had the opportunity to speak to Pastor Scott Claunch as well. I came to his office one day and asked him if he could give me tips on how I could land an actual paying job at the church after my volunteer time would wear away. Remember, I had money in the bank but wasn’t taking any income. I was planning for the future. So Pastor Scott gave me the most impactful advice I had received. He looked me in the eye and said, “Amor, you’re amazing and we love having you here. I’m sure at some point you will become a staff member when we can afford to bring you on. But…” and this ‘but’ was so prophetic. He said, “…but, it would be such a disservice to God and you if we were to just put you in the back in some Media office and keep you there. I know you will be great. But it would be so sad if what God has in store for you would not be given an opportunity to develop. We don’t even know what God has for you. But He has amazing plans for your life. Don’t stunt them by staying here.” Til this day I am forever grateful for those words. I left his office and just began to pray that God would reveal what it was He wanted me to do.
Then in January of 2013 some of the staff went to Atlanta to attend the Passion Conference. I purchased the pass to watch it online and did so. I can’t remember what day, exactly, it was but there was a segment about Human Trafficking and they were going to bring a young girl, about 12 years old to the platform. But they blacked it out on the screen and had a disclaimer about what was happening. They were protecting her identity, etc. I immediately was intrigued and began to do a Google search on the End It Movement and the A21 Campaign. I was floored. I could not believe that Human Trafficking was occurring in our country. I was of the side that believed it only happened in other countries. I was immediately torn and from that day on I began to raise awareness about Human Trafficking in our country and in my city, Miami. It was huge. I even went as far as getting a tattoo with a red X that says End It.
I really only had some tattoos on my upper arm, that I was able to keep very hidden from people. I rarely revealed I even had tattoos. For me they were reminders of my rebel past and didn’t really want anyone to see them. But this new tattoo was right smack where everyone could see. This forced people to ask me about the tattoo and it gave me the opportunity to talk about Human Trafficking and make a stand. Then in March of 2013 I read a news story of a Miami girl who was 13 years old and her trafficker had forced a tattoo of his name on her eyelids. I was horrified. I could not believe this. I did some research and found out about a horrible practice that traffickers have called ‘Branding.’ This is when a tattoo is forced on a victim that signifies this person now belongs to this trafficker. This gripped me and I began to sense that this is what God wanted me to do.
I kept doing more research and came across a Christian tattoo artist in Chicago that had a ministry helping trafficking survivors by covering up these brands. Chris Baker of Ink 180. On his website the last paragraph of his About sections says that his goal is: The goal of the INK 180 Ministry is to join forces with other tattoo artists and dermatology groups from across the country to provide free tattoo cover-ups or removals. If you would like to be a part of the network, please contact Chris at 630.554.1404 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. So I reached out to him. I shared my story with him and he asked me where my tattoo shop was. Oops! (Record scratching sound.) I didn’t have one. Nor did I know the first thing about tattooing. I told him that I was going to get one. And as God would have it, He made an unexpected encounter (a Divine Appointment) with the previous owner or Miami Tattoo Co. We met and spoke and long story short, 30 days later I was closing on Miami Tattoo Co on Miami Beach and was the new owner. And here we are 4 years later.
When you think back on your life in the mid 2000s, where did you want to be by now?
In the early 2000’s. I didn’t know Christ, I wanted to be making $200,000 per year. Live a comfortable life, travel the world and not have to worry about money. Once I got saved in 2002, then my life and my goals changed. I wanted to be able to save $200,000 so that I could travel the world as a missionary and leave my job for a year. My boss and already given me permission to be able to take off that long and I was just waiting to save the money. I wanted to be a missionary by now.
What was it about Miami Tattoo Co that drew you in?
As I shared above, it was a God appointment when I met the previous owner. I was thinking and looking for spaces to open up a tattoo shop. I had no idea about Miami Tattoo Co. It just happened.
Did you worry that having such a different background, you wouldn’t have what it takes to properly lead a tattoo shop?
My desire is to use tattoos to heal. – Amor
How many tattoos did you have then and how many do you have now? What’s the craziest thing about owning a tattoo parlor and what’s the most surprising part of it?
Well, I just had some poorly done tattoos on my upper arm right above my bicep line. I always kept them hidden. They were just reminders of my life as a rebel. I got my first one around 1988 when I was 22 years old. Today, how many? Oh wow. Let me start counting. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…. about 27. 2 full sleeves and working on a sleeve of my right leg for now. The craziest thing has been seeing people get saved in the shop. We had a customer going through some major issues and I was able to minister to her and we said the sinner’s prayer right there and she got saved and is now walking with Jesus. Then also having a church service on Sundays at Miami Tattoo Co and seeing so many people get saved. Now as far as your conventional tattoo studio, which we are not, the craziest things I see occasionally are just drunk people walking Washington Avenue and passing by our studio. We close early so as to not be there when all the madness happens, but every now and then we will get someone who is intoxicated expose themselves and press their hind parts on our storefront window.
Can you tell me about your work to end human trafficking? How does that relate to Miami Tattoo Company and what organizations do you currently work with.
Here’s a little blurb about Emily Kennedy:
Emily Kennedy was in middle school when she first learned the horrible truths about human trafficking from a church youth leader who had worked in a red light district in Cambodia: “I was really inspired by how he spent his time to pull girls out of the sex trade and provide rehabilitation.” Years later as an undergraduate at Carnegie Mellon University, she focused her senior thesis on how data mining the “deep Web” could be used to identify traffickers and help victims. Today, Kennedy is the founder and CEO of Marinus Analytics, a Pittsburgh technology start-up whose Traffic Jam software has already aided in the rescue of over 300 victims of human trafficking in the US.
The artificial intelligence-powered software program works by looking for patterns in publicly accessible information such as cell phone numbers and e-mail addresses in the advertisements that sex traffickers use to promote their services. Connections can lead to individuals who are involved in trafficking, both the ringleaders of trafficking rings and the victims who are being exploited. As Kennedy explains, “What prompted me to start this project was learning that while technology has empowered criminals to more efficiently exploit their victims, law enforcement doesn’t have the time or the ability to develop the technology to respond.” Kennedy first began work on Traffic Jam as a research analyst at the Auton Lab in CMU’s School of Computer Science, which has received grant support from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to study how data mining can be used to help track sex traffickers. Last year, she was able to make Marinus a stand-alone venture, which led to “the biggest influx of funding we’ve received”: a $200,000 runner-up prize in last summer’s inaugural UpPrize competition, which recognizes technology companies with a strong social mission.
So far, over 50 law enforcement agencies across the US are using Traffic Jam, including the FBI’s Pittsburgh office where special agent Gregory Heeb said that software has “helped us to find a number of subjects and locate minors that were involved online.” In the long-term, Kennedy also sees applications for Traffic Jam beyond sex trafficking into other areas where significant criminal activity occurs online such as drug smuggling, money laundering, and monitoring terrorist/hate group activity.
Most importantly, Traffic Jam has potential to stop these crimes at the root: by catching the people who organize them. In speaking about their efforts to end sex trafficking, Kennedy says, “The goal and mission of our project is to shine a light on those hiding in the shadows so that law enforcement can get the people who are behind these crimes, not just rescue the victims who are out in the open.”
You can read more about Emily Kennedy and her Traffic Jam software on her Marinus Analytics website at http://www.
DeliverFund is a registered nonprofit organization (501c3) comprised of individuals from the highest level of the US Special Operations and Intelligence Communities.
From top-level special operations individuals, to data driven analysts with exceptional intelligence experience, to advisory, support staff, and field collection team members, it is the combined efforts of everyone on this team that ensures we succeed in our mission.
With decades of experience in understanding and dismantling illicit markets around the world, DeliverFund’s elite personnel are redirecting our training and expertise in counterterrorism to combat the prolific problem of human trafficking, focusing all of our current effort here, in the United States.
We partner with law enforcement to provide the additional data and intelligence that they need to do their jobs: to save lives and rescue those unable to find a way out on their own. We are law enforcement’s biggest supporter and we advocate on their behalf by outlining strategic intelligence opportunities increasing their success rate in rescuing victims and arresting traffickers.
Channel 7 News Story on Miami Tattoo Co
You mentioned Sunday morning church in a tattoo shop. How did that start and what is that like?
What would you say to the haters that don’t think Christians should have tattoos?
“You shall not mark your body, cut your body, or tattoo your body, in remembrance for the dead.”
That’s the go-to scripture that people take you to when they want to talk about tattoos. The only issue is that once you read the rest of the chapter you find so many other things you shouldn’t be doing, like… mixing materials in the clothes you wear, eating red meat, don’t lie nor cheat, nor steal, and what about, don’t cut the sides of your hair or the always favorite don’t trim your beard and always stand up when someone with grey hair walks in the room.
So, then I ask – if we can’t get tattoos then why in the world are we doing all the rest of the things?
This is Law and what does Jesus say about the Law?
- Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind and
- Love your neighbor as yourself
Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and, it definitely is and we should take care of it, but let’s take this scripture into context. Paul is speaking about fleeing from sexual immorality, he’s not talking about tattoos. This entire section is about sex. Can you apply it to tattoos, sure. Most of you are. Does it apply to tattoos? No!
Should everyone get a tattoo? Not necessarily. I have tattoos and I know that having these tattoos allows me to talk to people of the Gospel that others would not be able to reach. The same goes for people without tattoos being able to talk to people about the Gospel that I can’t reach. The important thing is that we are all reaching people for Jesus Christ and that we are all using the platform He has given us to help build a bridge between people and God. Let’s not be bridge breakers. Let’s be bridge builders. I happen to be building bridges with tattoos. My faith and hope are in Jesus Christ…
What about someone who’s sitting at home, reading this and thinking that they could never take a risk like you’ve taken, what would you say to them?
I would tell them to continue to pray about where God is leading them. and to know that if it is from Him that He will make the way. He did for me. He’s been alongside of me through out this entire journey. When I thought that I wouldn’t be able to survive, to live, He was there and He always provides and always walks with you. But it has to be from Him. They will know when it’s from Him.