Busta’s Person of the Week: An online scam lured her into sex trafficking, but she broke free and is now helping others to heal

Busta’s Person of the Week: An online scam lured her into sex trafficking, but she broke free  and is now helping others to heal
May 26
07:02 2022

By Busta Brown

In 1996, Ikulture Chandler’s mother moved her children from Patterson, New Jersey, to Winston-Salem in hopes of giving them a better life. But for Ikulture, the Twin City is where she faced a moral challenge that nearly cost her life. She was born at seven months, weighed one pound, her lungs collapsed and she had to be on life support. But the amazing love from her mother was all the medicine she needed. 

“My mom would watch and wash me every day and wouldn’t let the nurses or anyone else touch me. As a child, I had a hard time walking and running, and my mom would rub my legs and say, ‘Oh, my poor legs.’ That really helped comfort me. 

“Even as an adult, my mom rushes to help me if I’m in need. That instilled a caring spirit and the passion I have to help people,” said Ikulture. 

Born as a preemie, it also affected her learning ability. “As a child, I didn’t comprehend things the same way an average child would. You come show me and tell me exactly what you were talking about, but my mind wouldn’t comprehend it. It would get so frustrating to me, I just gave up and wouldn’t do any school work. If a teacher or anyone else pointed out my learning disabilities, I would just snap. It was my way of hiding my learning struggles. So, I was put in EC (exceptional children) and behavioral classes,” she said.  

Ikulture’s experience in school is a reminder of how important it is for the educational system to recognize and then tap into our children’s gifts. Because every child has a gift, and she found a way to tap into hers. “I learned to live in my head. I saw people on TV shows, commercials and movies that I could relate to, and that became my comfort. I realized I wasn’t alone in my learning struggles and hardships, and that helped me become better.”  Ikulture watched TV on a daily basis and it helped improve her reading ability and comprehension. 

But at 17, she was about to come face to face with every young woman’s worst nightmare. Ikulture wanted out of a bad relationship and out of Winston-Salem. So, like many teenagers, she looked for love online. “I met this guy online, we hit it off and really got to know each other. I didn’t see any red flags, other than him showing me his mansion and saying how much money he has. I was trying to get out of Winston because I wanted to be better. So, I took this as an opportunity and experience. I downplayed the situation to my mom, and then I went.” 

The guy flew Ikulture to the city where he lived. When she arrived at his home, there it was! The mansion, expensive cars, a closet full of nice clothes and shoes for women, and lots of money. Everything he mentioned online was there. But what he didn’t mention were his intentions. “It was like everything you see on TV. We spent the day and night together, and really connected. Then he told me that another girl was coming over the next day. I was like … OK. The next day she gets there and she was like, ‘hey I’m ready to party and make money.’ I’m like, make money? She said he’s a pimp. I said, a PIMP! I told her I didn’t know that.” 

Ikulture said she was blindsided and forced into sex trafficking and a very abusive relationship. “He controlled what we wore, did and spoke. He would drop us off at a hotel at 11 p.m. and then pick us up at 7 a.m. We had to find our own transportation and food,” said an emotional Ikulture. 

At 19 she got out completely, but fell into a deep depression. “He said I wasn’t good at it and then sent me back to Winston-Salem. I went back to the projects with nothing but a bag of clothes. I was a dark soul. I was not a person. It was the worst depression I ever went through because I saw a lifestyle that I wanted, but it came with a price. A price that I wasn’t prepared for, nor was it worth it.”

At 22, she decided to give it all up, and give her life to the Lord. Despite all of her learning challenges, Chandler has become one of the most confident, intelligent and articulate women I’ve ever met. She has the resilience and tenacity we all need to overcome and conquer our demons. “I got tired of that lifestyle. I was being controlled for years, but now I’m in control,” said Ikulture. 

In 2021, she decided to use her experience to inspire others and started Kultivate Change. It’s a trauma healing resource program for families, men and women in the Triad communities. “Our mission is to mend and repair the shattered views of our Black communities and advocate for the people in order to provide them with reliable resources while they continue to live in dangerous and stressful environments. I look forward to partnering with other corporations who desire to be a part of change,” said a passionate Ikulture. 

Now at 29, she’s happily married with three children and is the newly-crowned Mrs. North Carolina International 2022. Chandler’s journey to becoming Mrs. North Carolina International 2022 is a very interesting story as well. “I do a community event called The Princess is Coming. One day I was making calls to random pageant numbers to find tiaras for the little girls participating in my event. I got a returned call and explained to this lady that I was bringing the princess to the projects in a horse and carriage. Because I’ve never seen it done when I was a little girl,  I wanted to make it happen for little girls in the projects today. She loved the idea and offered her support, then said, ‘You talk very well.’ I said it’s funny you say that because I didn’t really learn to read until I was 22. I shared a little bit of my testimony and she started to cry. Then she asked me about joining the Mrs. North Carolina International Pageant,” said Ikulture. 

The rest of the story was clearly the hand of God. The wife of four years also credits her husband for keeping her focused and at peace. “He makes me feel safe, because I know he’ll never give up on me. If I’m having a bad moment, I call for him, he comes to hold my hand, prays with me, and then showers me with love,” said a glowing Chandler. 

“I’m in the best place in my life that I’ve ever been. God is in control of my life now, and He’s shown me who I am. I’ve experienced homelessness with my son right by my side, but God helped me overcome that as well. I want to use my program, Kultivate Change, to teach others how to heal from trauma and learn to confront those negative behaviors. And also how to find your joy through endurance. Your location and past don’t define your intellect or value. 

“I confronted my sexual abuser, forgave him and then released it. Now I’m free.” 

My phenomenal Person of the Week is Ikulture Chandler. 

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