Today here in my beloved hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan a contest begins that most of us who live here know and love. It is a carnival of sorts for those who love art and the winning of cash prizes. Artprize began in 2009 as an experiment , a community project where any and all artists could create and showcase their work throughout the city at select business locations. It was a quick success allowing those of all walks of life, all ages and all interest levels to freely visit the art pieces, vote for a favorite and engage with others in an often fascinating dialogue of did you see or you must not miss… Today marks the opening of the 6th annual Artprize and it this house we cannot wait.
Within our family Artprize has bcome a part of our culture and something we all look forward to each fall. The kids have already begun to figure out times we can skip dinner or hours of homework in order to run down and squeeze in certain sections of the contest. They love it and we make our own individual lists of who we believe will win the grand prize. I am four for five. Just sayin’.
HERE’s the NEED to KNOW…
With the tremendous success and interest of Artprize has come an increased demand for sex. Yes, you read that correctly. I know your stomach just turned and frankly so does mine the further I become educated on the topic of human sex trafficking. While I wish my message was just excitment and showcasing the beauty of Artprize and community throughout the nest two weeks, it is vital that I be the voice of those caught in the plight of trafificking. We cannot turn a blind eye and it is something we need to be discussing and sharing to educate others. With a boom in tourism comes a boom in traffciking. and with upwards of 500,000 people pouring into our city like it or not we see a greater market for traffickers. We find an increased demand and those willing to capitalize on the demand.
Last Saturday night we walked the streets of Grand Rapids alongside several organizations such as Women At Risk International and the Mennasah Project who work tirelessly to educate and end this ever growing atrocity. We walked to raise awareness. We walked to pray. Take a look here at the work they are doing and see how and where you might fit into the call to action. We can all do something and as you will see as you go deeper there is a great deal of work to be done not just in foreign lands but right here at home in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
So if you are still reading and are not hating me for ruining your beloved Artprize here is what I need you to know. We can take action to help fight this modern day slavery so many women and children have been forced into. We can be the eyes, the ears and the voice of change!
How to Take Action:
1) If your SEE something SAY something. Plug these numbers into your phone and call. I just plugged them into my phone. Will you do the same?
Trafficking in Persons and Worker Exploitation Task Force (U.S. Department of Justice)
Trafficking Information and Referral Hotline (Polaris Project)
There is nothing wrong with being wrong and victims are counting on you and me to speak up on their behalf.
2) Get educated. Go deeper and begin to consider yourself an expert so you can educate others. No matter your age tell others what you are learning and begin to trust that God can use you to teach others. My mother in law in her mid 70’s joined us on the walk downtown to pray over the streets of Grand Rapids. She was a person who did not want to believe this problem was so big right here in West Michigan until she participated in The S.O.A.P Project several weeks ago and we passed out soap to area hotels educating hotel workers and mangers to the dangers of large events and the likelihood that vicitms might be coming and going while hidden in groups. The soap contains a hotline and in some cases this hotline has allowed women from the missing and exploited women and children’s list to be found. S.O.A.P. stands for ‘Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution’ and is a hands-on outreach to fight sex trafficking at large events & in communities. S.O.A.P. was founded by author, advocate, & survivor- Theresa Flores.
Learn more here: http://traffickfree.com/S-O-A-P-.html
3) Reserve judgement and instead open your eyes. While visiting the streets, entering hotels and restaurants to view art be aware. Without fear or condemnation look for the signs of anything that might seem off or awkard. Watch people and look into the eyes of young people you might encounter along the way. Pray for wisdom and discernment on your journey. Ask God to show you the things He desires you to see.
4) Ask questions. Speak up and speak out if something does not quite make sense.
5) Pray. Pray as you browse and enjoy the art. Pray for our city. Pray for those working behind the scenes already aware of the increases in the numbers of victims coming in and out of the city during this time of high demand. Pray for law enforcement, hotel workers, nurses and doctors. Pray for everyday citizens to be moved to action. Pray. Pray for the Johns and the pimps. Pray for the victims and pray for those yet to be tricked into this lifestyle by a friend or a boyfriend. Yes that is often how this begins… Pray.
6) Support the artists who support the end to the selling of humans. There are several artists who have entered the Artprize competition with a heart and a calling to end such violence. Their pieces are difficult yet it is my great hope and prayer that thousands of people, especially young people will learn from their storytelling and interactive works of art.
Women At Risk International has partnerned this year with Pamela Alderman for her Artprize entry titled The Scarlett Cord.
After the prayer walk over the weekend we were able to walk through her artwork housed in a trailer just outside of the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum. Her art brought us into the victims world of closed doors, dehumanizing words and the ties that bind the defeated women to her victimizer. Please make it a priority to stop by The Scarlett Cord. Let’s rise up and share Pamela’s work. Let’s help her make the Top 10 list or perhaps win the competition. Imagine the people we could empower to action. Imagine the publicity and the funding that might come if everyone learned from her work and her message.
Here’s to a wonderful Artprize 2014 with eyes and hearts wide open.
Peace and Grace,