What were the red markings young people were laying out last week in Downtown Dickson?
The Dickson County High School Youth Leadership Class was championing the increased statewide focus — and new education law sponsored by a Dickson lawmaker— to end human trafficking with a project that brings awareness to the cause.
The students were taking part in the Red Sand Project. They focused their red sand spreading on the area around the parking lot adjoining The Front Porch restaurant.
The national project, which originated five years ago in Miami, involves a team pouring out red sand in a designated area in the cracks on sidewalks and parking lots. The grains of sand represent people who fall through the cracks.
“Our Youth Leadership class has a very strong passion for EndSlavery and the survivors of human trafficking,” said Tessa Cavender, a member of DCHS Youth Leadership.
EndSlavery TN is an organization focused on healing human trafficking survivors and “strategically confront slavery in our state,” according to the group’s mission statement.
The state Legislature in April passed a bill sponsored by Rep. Mary Littleton, of Dickson, that requires teachers and students receive instruction on how to detect and prevent human trafficking beginning this school year. Rep. Michael Curcio, also of Dickson, was a co-sponsor.
What is human trafficking?
Human trafficking is when people are forced or coerced into exchanging goods, such as labor or sex, for payment, such as drugs or money.
Tennessee’s laws define human trafficking as the sale of a person for the purposes of commercial sex by means of force, fraud or coercion, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
According to TBI information, victims of human trafficking often appear malnourished, dressed in a provocative manner or in the same clothes, regardless of weather, and may even be branded.
Josh Devine, spokesperson for the TBI, told the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal last year that human trafficking is a demand-based crime and happens everywhere.
“Human trafficking happens in small towns and big cities,” Devine said. “It might look like a man selling an individual for sex, but it also might look like a mom in a rural area with a drug debt who sends her daughter to her dealer to settle the debt. … Until we really start having hard conversations about what fuels demand, we won’t see an end.”
DCHS Youth Leadership
Cavender said proceeds from the Dickson Red Sand event went to EndSlavery.
“Because they are a nonprofit, their largest issue is money,” Cavender said. “So, our hope was to relieve some stress by making a donation.”
We felt the Red Sand Project was a great way to bring awareness due to its creativity and popularity,” Ragan said. “Our main goal was to support the survivors in any form possible.”
Anyone who may need help or suspect someone is the victim of human trafficking is encouraged to call the Tennessee Human Trafficking Hotline at 855-558-6484 or can text ‘BeFree’ to 233733.
The phone service is staffed with professionals who are able to provide referral services, such as drug treatment or temporary housing.
Members of the Youth Leadership class who headed up the Red Sand Project are: Cavender, Riya Patel, Allison Breeden, Sara Ragan, Amber Westcott, Annabeth Woodard, and Allie Blount.