On Tuesday, Nov. 1, students gathered in the Seven Palms Amphitheater to engage in conversation surrounding the subjects of sex trafficking, pornography, prostitution and strip clubs as part of the second event in the four-part After Dark series. Through thoughtful dialogue, members of Project Cultivate attempted to educate and inspire a change in how these subjects are approached and talked about.
Senior business major Sydney Bello helped bring the vision of the After Dark series to life after an experience abroad over summer.
“I went to Greece this summer and I learned a lot about the realities of the sex industry. I came face to face with [this issue],” Bello said. “Coming back here I wanted to get involved with how I could actually solve this issue. I know we can’t do it alone, but Project Cultivate does a really good job of creating that environment and trying to come up with solutions.”
Bello and others involved in the project are hoping to create a context to promote education and raise awareness about the issue.
“Once you dig deeper into this issue, you find just how big of a problem it is. It’s just not talked about, especially in Christian community,” Bello said. “I think that is something that really needs to change. As Christians we are called to do something about that because they’re God’s people that are being exploited.”
Bello is one of several students passionate about addressing the social injustices found within the sex industry. She was one of the evening’s three discussion facilitators previously educated on the topics alongside junior social work major Autumn North and freshman psychology major Tyler Crane.
“We feel that if we can start the conversation, then we can start a movement on campus with students who are passionate about ending human trafficking and not participating in the sex industry,” North said.
Project Cultivate is a student-run organization stemming from the larger organization, Enactus, which helps students start and operate non-profit organizations during college.
“Each event is completely student run,” North said. “The events are organized and led by student leaders and conversation facilitators. It’s less of a program and more of a discussion. That’s what we’re aiming to do.”
The agenda for the night included drinks, snacks, an educational video featuring people who had once been trapped in the sex industry and discussion questions to consider in small and larger groups. The intent behind the video and the discussion questions was to open people’s eyes and get them thinking and talking about how they relate to the issue.
“We’re trying to make sure that people know what’s going on and understand that this is an issue that needs a lot of attention, because we’re America, we’re land of the free, but there are so many more slaves now than ever before,” Crane said.
Junior attendee Raven Macaraeg took part in the discussion to learn more about the sex industry and how it relates to sex trafficking, an issue that she holds close through her own involvement with Free the Captives, a sex trafficking relief organization.
“I loved how they closed in scripture,” Macaraeg said. “I like the Christian aspect of how us as Christians can approach this differently compared to someone who isn’t. Even though this is a very dark subject, we can approach it by being the salt and light of the world, and approaching it with a light heart and knowing that no matter how small a difference we can make, it’s making a change in the world.”
The conversation will continue Nov. 15 and Nov. 29 at 8:00 p.m. in Seven Palms Amphitheater. More information can be found at www.project-cultivate.com.