Muslim cult 'trafficked woman for a decade, starting when she was 11, forcing her to work for free and subjecting her to emotional abuse'

Daily Mail, UK/September 19, 2017

By Ashley Collman

A young woman who escaped a Muslim cult is now suing the group, claiming she was physically and emotionally abused and made to work without wages for the decade that she was a follower.

Kendra Ross, 26, was just 11 years old when her mother joined the United Nation of Islam (UNOI) in 2002. 

For the next 10 years, Ross says that she was sent to various cities throughout the country to work at restaurants owned and operated by the group. After a full day of work, she says she was then expected to go home and do all the cooking and cleaning in the group homes where she lived with other UNOI members. She says she never received a cent for her more than 40,000 hours of labor. 

In the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kansas on Friday, Ross estimates that the religion's leaders withheld approximately more than $450,000 in wages. 

She's asking that a jury award her these wages, in addition to more than $7million in emotional and punitive damages. 

UNOI was founded in 1978 by Royall Jenkins, a former member of the Nation of Islam - itself an African-American-focused off-shoot of mainstream Islam.

Jenkins claimed that he had been abducted by 'angels and/or scientists' who took him via spaceship to another galaxy where he was given instructions on how to govern Earth. 

'UNOI doctrine focused primarily on the supremacy of Jenkins as God on Earth,' the lawsuit claims. 

One of the fundamental teachings was that the 'black man' is superior to the 'white man' and that men are superior to women. 

He set up his religion in an impoverished area of Kansas City, Kansas, growing the religion to include several businesses that his followers worked at for free. Soon, he had branches of the religion in several other cities including Newark, New Jersey; the Harlem neighborhood of New York City; Atlanta, Georgia; Cincinnati, Ohio; Dayton, Ohio; Temple Hills, Maryland; and Mobile, Alabama. 

The communities are insular, with children being educated at UNOI schools, UNOI members living in group homes and working at UNOI owned and operated businesses without pay.

'UNOI forced its members to work in various businesses it owned, including, but not limited to, restaurants, bakeries, supermarkets, gas stations, a sewing factory and a construction company,' the lawsuit says. 

'As detailed below, many members (including Ms. Ross) worked every day of the week with no breaks. Many members worked at UNOI bakeries, restaurants, and school for eight hour shifts during the day and were expected to do additional work (cooking, cleaning, childcare) when they returned to the home where they were staying.'

While UNOI still exists, though under a new name (The Value Creators), many of these businesses have since closed - suggesting a plummeting in membership. 

Ross was introduced into the religion by her mother, shortly after the family moved to Atlanta, Georgia in 1993, when she was two years old. 

For the next nine years, the family were 'part-time' members of the church, 'meaning they participated in UNOI but lived outside of the organization.'

All that changed when Ross turned nine, and the family moved to Kansas City. 

When they became full time members of the church, Ross's mother was ordered to take her daughter out of public school to attend one of UNOI's schools.  

Additionally Ross was immediately expected to start working at a UNOI bakery and restaurant before school and then for a full eight-hour shift after school. Additionally she worked at a UNOI home providing cooking, cleaning and childcare. 

In addition to defying child labor laws, Ross says she wasn't paid at all for her work or for any other job UNOI leaders assigned her for the following decade.

When she turned 12, Ross was taken out of her mother's home and sent to live in a UNOI women's home. 

During this time, she became malnourished after being put on a strict diet of rice, beans, fruit and salad. This may have had to do with the fact that female members of the church were actually required to pay a fee if they exceeded the 'ideal' weight.  

For the two years, Ross continued to work at the bakery and in the home.

At the age of 15, she was pulled out of school and never allowed to return again. 

It was also at this time that Ross was first sent away to work. 

She learned at Jenkins' birthday celebration that she was being sent to Atlanta to work and left two days later.  

In Atlanta, she stayed in a home with about 15 other people - including one of Jenkins' wives, one of his concubines and several minors. 

She worked full time at a restaurant and then was forced to prepare food, cook and clean the house. Ross only spent about four to five months in Atlanta before she was sent back to Kansas City for not having the 'proper attitude'. 

When she got back to Kansas City, she was sent to live in a new UNOI home with a few younger women, men and couples. During her time in this home, she says she was 'subjected to physical and emotional abuse by the caretaker of the home'. 

Seven days a week, she would work a nine-hour shift at a UNOI diner, and then return home to 'clean, cook and serve everyone until 8:30pm or 9pm each night'.  

In April 2009, Ross was moved yet again, this time to Newark, New Jersey. 

Again, she worked in restaurants in Newark and New York City, but she was not permitted to keep her tips. 

The religions leaders instructed her and other minors working at the restaurant to 'take a walk' if they ever saw a child labor investigator drop by the restaurant. 

Ross says she was also forced to cook for a UNOI household of about 25 people in New Jersey. 

But again, she didn't last long, and later that same year 18-year-old Ross was forced to move to the group's outpost in Dayton, Ohio. 

In Dayton, she lived with Jenkins and his family, and later a UNOI couple who were on part-time status. 

At Jenkins' home, Ross says she was forced to clean the entire house, with the exception of Jenkins' bedroom and bathroom where 'special permission' was needed to enter. 

She worked at yet another restaurant, six days a week, starting at 6am and staying until as late as 11pm. Sundays were the only day she was allowed to take off. 

It was also at this time that the government started paying her welfare checks, since on paper she wasn't making any income despite her grueling off the books work for UNOI. She says that her welfare checks went straight to the group too. 

Ross got into trouble with the group in 2009, when she refused to drink a gin-based beverage called 'bloodrot' and one of Jenkins' relatives reported her.

She was put on part-time status and given three days to find somewhere else to live. 

Ross went to live with her aunt in Tennessee, who wasn't a member of the group. 

Despite being free of the group for the first time in her adult life, she felt a tug to return -and it's exactly what UNOI leaders had intended.  

During her time with her aunt, Ross wasn't allowed to speak to her family since they were still members of the church.  

This was the group's way of 'coercing' Ross into rejoining - and it worked. In April 2010, she told leaders she 'wanted to make her record right with Allah' and had 'learned her lesson'.

She moved back to Dayton where she lived with her sister, and for the next two years worked at a restaurant and as a maid for the group. 

At the age of 20, she was married to another member of the group after a 'psychic doctor'determined that they were compatible. 

Once married, 'Ms Ross was forced to do all the cooking, cleaning and housework in the home she shared with her UNOI husband'. Like many UNOI husbands, hers practiced polygamy.

In 2012, after just a year of marriage, Ross finally 'gathered her courage and strength to escape from UNOI. 

Since 2015, Ross has lived in a safe house to 'avoid detection by her former traffickers'. 

In addition to the estimated $451,196 owed her for the more than 40,000 hours of slave labor she performed for the group, Ross is also asking for $2,250,000 for her emotional suffering and $5million in punitive damages to 'punish the defendants for their abhorrent and malicious trafficking practices'.

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