Jada Pinkett-Smith was the honorary host of The Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST)'s 15th Annual From Slavery to Freedom event Thursday night, where the long-time advocate for victims of human trafficking shared her thoughts on the story that has dominated media headlines this week -- the rescue of kidnap victims Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight in Cleveland, Ohio.
"As you see with what is happening in Cleveland, as you can see now in America, there's a very strong reality that modern-day slavery is alive here in the U.S.," she stressed to ET's Brooke Anderson. "I was really sad, really angry, I felt a lot of shame -- because that could be any of our neighbors ... but you know, we can use this as a teachable moment for our children, and we can also use this as U.S. citizens, we understand now what we have to do. This illuminates what this monster looks like as far as what modern-day slavery looks like in our country and it's very, very real."
Human trafficking is still a serious problem in the United States -- there are at least 18,000 people who are trafficked into the U.S. every year, with Los Angeles serving as one of the top three points of entry. All proceeds raised from the May 9 event will help fund CAST programs and services that provide human trafficking survivors with 24-hour access to safety and trauma-informed care that helps them rebuild their lives.
According to Pinkett-Smith, it was actually her daughter Willow who got her involved with the cause.
"She watched the KONY 2012 video, and she went online and did a bunch of research," she explained. " ... And then so I did my research, and some of the cases that I was coming upon were quite as horrific as what we're seeing in Cleveland. And of course as a mother, as a woman, and as a person who believes in human rights for all people, I said, 'You know what Willow? I'm going to join this fight with you. Your mom is going to help you lend a voice to this issue.' And that's what we've been doing."