Musicians and artists raised awareness about human trafficking during a fundraiser held at Sven's Kafe and Gallery on May 1.
The Central Missouri Stop Human Trafficking Coalition, Mustard Seed Fair Trade and Stop Traffic Now sponsored the event. Poetry reading, story-telling, musical and spoken word performances highlighted the event, which ended in a silent auction benefiting the coalition and the St. Lazarus Informal School in Nairobi, Kenya.
Chad Parmenter, co-coordinator of the event and an MU doctoral student, said the coalition, Stop Traffic and other organizations came up with the idea to host an event as a way to help reduce trafficking in Columbia and overseas.
Paul Schlup, a Cole County state prosecutor and the coalition's law enforcement liaison, said human trafficking is more relevant to Columbia than people may think.
The Kansas City prosecutor's office has had over 50 cases of human trafficking since 2006, Schlup said. He also said around 60 victims had been rescued from trafficking in western Missouri.
Deb Hume, co-chairwoman of the coalition, said between 15,000 and 20,000 people are trafficked into the U.S. each year. Hume said one of her concerns is about the problem of human trafficking in local communities.
"The issue is we really don't know how extensive it is in Missouri," she said.
Jennifer Kimball, co-founder and former president of Stop Traffic Now, said trafficking is a problem that affects Columbia.
"I studied human trafficking in a couple of my classes," Kimball said. "We learned that human trafficking happens in Missouri. It happens in Columbia."
Althea Skinner, an MU graduate student who worked at the event, said along with awareness, the event was celebrating artists' creativity.
Hume said they wanted to acknowledge the creativity that has been denied to other people.
Jessie Adolph, an MU graduate student and one of the artists who performed at the event, said he uses poetry to capture audiences' attention in the hopes to raise awareness about trafficking. Adolph's performance included material about his own children and the injustices other children may experience.
"For now I really just hope it will bring more awareness to a major issue," he said. "I want to lend my voice to those who are voiceless."
Adolph, who is studying English and African Studies, said his research into slavery and spoken word poetry encouraged her to attend the event.
"This event only seemed natural to attend and be a part of," he said.
Jill Sanders, a pastor at Wilkes Boulevard United Methodist Church who attended the event, said this raises awareness about a problem that usually goes unnoticed.
"I think it's really easy to live life without really paying attention to injustices around us," Sanders said. "So something like this really makes us pay attention, be aware, perhaps spur us to action as well."