If you live in the United States right now and are feeling squeezed as a result of our economic financial melt down, remember your life could be worse. MUCH WORSE. Imagine losing your freedom and being subjected to modern day slavery known as human trafficking.
Focused on this important social cause, The Human Trafficking Project (HTP), a New York-based non-profit organization, utilizes art, innovation and technology to raise awareness to this form of modern day slavery. Their mission is to connect those working to combat human trafficking, as well as providing support to trafficking survivors.
2009 upcoming projects include a hip-hop album, a documentary and a photography project. The goal is to provide a multimedia body of work that will convey the facts, emotions and complexity of human trafficking to bring the issue into mainstream consciousness. The HTP website is in the process of developing featured trafficking facts, downloadable songs, streamable video, photographs, links to relevant news stories, and original articles and insights on the problem.
So what exactly is human trafficking?
Trafficking is defined as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion, for the purpose of subjecting that person to involuntary servitude, sexual exploitation, peonage, debt bondage, slavery, or other forms of exploitation. Human trafficking is the third most profitable organized crime/business, just after drug and arms trafficking. According to the United Nations, it generates an estimated 32 billion dollars annually in revenue.
And if you think that human trafficking does not occur in the United States- think again- an estimated 17,000 victims are trafficked into the United States each year. According to the U.S. State Department up to 800,000 people are trafficked around the world annually. Free the Slaves, a Washington D.C.- based nonprofit, estimates there to be up to 27 million active slaves in the world today.
This project is a pretty fantastic example of what artist can do as social entrepreneurs.
About the Artists Involved in The Human Trafficking Project
Merissa Nathan Gerson-Writer (Boulder, USA)
In May 2008, Merissa graduated with an MFA in Writing and Poetics from Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. Her writing can be seen in the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, Apothecary, and local Colorado journals. For the past four years she has worked as a farmer, a waitress, a sixth grade teacher, a bilingual tutor, a lamp-maker, an intern for the Native American Rights Fund, and a creative writing teacher at a juvenile detention facility. In May of 2004 she received a BA with a dual focus in American Culture Studies and Women and Gender Studies from Washington University in St. Louis where she headed their rape prevention initiative.
Ligaya Domingo- Filmmaker (Philippines)
Ligaya is a visual artist based in Manila. A filmmaker and advocate of women’s and childrenâ€™s rights, Domingo studied Fine Arts and is currently completing her Master’s degree in Art History at the University of the Philippines. Ligaya has worked as an assistant director, production designer, art director and actress in various independent film productions. She is an active member of Sinekalye, a group of independent filmmakers and video artists from the Mowelfund Film Institute. Besides the HTP film Gimikera, Ligaya recently completed Perya, a documentary about a community of carnival workers.
Kat C. Palasi- Photographer (Philippines)
Kat is a freelance photographer who has documented women’s issues and the changing traditions of her Igorot clan, the Ibaloys of Benguet. A graduate of Communication from the University of the Philippines, she has received the Asian Cultural Council grant twice from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, which enabled her to study at the International Center of Photography in New York City. She is currently preparing to shoot a documentary on Filipino youth culture. See more of Katâ€™s work here.
Veejay Villafranca- Photographer (Philippines)
Raised by a photojournalist father, Veejay was attracted to the camera at an early age. In college, Villafranca worked as a staff photojournalist for the Philippine Graphic covering events such as the conflicts in the Southern provinces of Zamboanga & Sulu and the insurgencies in the Cordillera mountain range. Villafranca also covered the official visit of U.S. President George W. Bush to the Philippines in 2004. Most recently he has worked for wire agencies such as Agence France-Presse, Associated Press and Reuters news agency. Veejay was also part of the recently concluded Angkor Photo festival held in Siem Reap in Cambodia.
Meryl David- Singer (Philippines)
Meryl started singing in 2003 with an acoustic group called Soulground that regularly performed throughout Metro Manila. Wanting to explore different forms of music, she decided to form a band that would play neo-soul for the underground Filipino hip-hop scene. Meryl is currently collaborating with indie artists alongside her career as a registered nurse. â€œWhat brought me here isn’t just because of the mere fact that I sing. If it’s the truth, I’m in; if it’s not the truth, I’m out. Awareness leads to nothing without action. It’s more than cool to know what to sing for and what to sing against.â€
Mike Hortaleza aka DJ Grimrock- Musician (Washington, USA)
Mike is a Filipino musician born and raised in Portland, Oregon. Influenced by hip-hop culture at a young age, Hortaleza found his talent on turntables in high school and became a DJ entering DJing competitions and practicing the art of Turntablism. He has performed with or opened for various musicians including Live Human, DJ Craze, One Be Lo, Eternia, Scratch of the Roots, Native Gunz, Sadat X and Sleep. Mikey was also the main DJ on the War of the Words tour in 2006. Mike is currently building an Oregon Chapter of the Universal Zulu Nation to promote community service through hip-hop.