Red sand fills sidewalks at NSU to bring awareness to human trafficking

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Students at Norfolk State University participated in a worldwide project to help bring awareness to human trafficking.

The event included a panel of organizations and bureaus that help victims and stop human trafficking.

But it was the Red Sand Project ceremony that really helped highlight the hidden crime.

Artist Maggie Gochman started the project three years ago and said over the phone that it’s been done in every state and 70 countries.

Gochman wanted to make a simple statement through art, so she placed red sand in sidewalk cracks.

She said it represents vulnerability, those who are often targeted.

According to the Global Slavery Index, there are more than 45 million people who are modern day slaves.

“We want to prevent it, but you can’t prevent if you don’t know what’s going on,” said Patrick McKenna, the president of the Virginia Beach Justice Initiative.

McKenna was one of the panelists at the event.

He said his organization helps victims get back on their feet, and conducts advocacy work such as trying to get legislation passed.

McKenna said by working together as a community and educating ourselves, we can know what to look for in human trafficking.

Even the smallest act can help with these crimes, he said.

“One person can make a difference. Do what’s in your wheelhouse and we can make this thing happen.”

That’s what Tanya Street is doing now.

She was also a panelist at the event, one who knows firsthand the horrors of the crime.

Street said she was trafficked by a former boyfriend after getting out of high school.

She’s now the president of Identifiable Me, which also helps victims.

“I work with victims and I hear the same story, where they do it because they love their trafficker,” she said.

By educating others about what to look for, reaching out to victims, and conducting projects like the Red Sand Project, Street believes we can resolve this problem.

“If we let it be a trend, that’s what it will be. If we let it be an issue, we will let it be our issue and we will take care of it,” she said.

To learn more about the Red Sand Project, click here.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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