Abolition in the Park creates human trafficking awareness

Participants could create their own artwork expressing their opinions on human trafficking.

Ten-year-old Cuan Huyhn of Columbia makes a painting at Abolition in the Park on Friday in Peace Park. The fair, which included informational and activity booths, marked the finale of Human Trafficking Awareness Week.

A fair in Peace Park invited those interested in ending human trafficking to make the commitment to become an abolitionist.

Student organization Stop Traffic and statewide group Not for Sale Missouri hosted Abolition in the Park on Friday as a conclusion to Human Trafficking Awareness Week. Multiple tables were set up with information about enslaved individuals and ways for students to become activists.

Stop Traffic Vice President Kessaya Speckman said the idea for the awareness week began over the summer as part of her work as a Not for Sale Missouri intern.

"We knew that Stephens College was hosting David Batstone, so we started collaborating and taking care of details," Speckman said. Batstone is the founder of the national Not for Sale organization.

One of the highlighted booths encouraged participants to contact their U.S. senators by phone or mail to raise awareness of the human trafficking issue. The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2007 passed the House in December 2007, but Stop Traffic member ChaToyya Walker said the group wants to see it passed by the Senate before this session of Congress ends.

The event in the park also included live music and local artists exhibiting their work.

If the music was not enough, face painting and orange balloons were available for younger children. Organizers chose orange because it is the color that represents freedom, Speckman said.

The orange drew onlookers to the park, including MU student Nicholas Totten.

"I'd never heard of Stop Traffic before," Totten said. "But the orange really caught my eye."

Totten said his favorite table was one where he could read stories about people who were enslaved and then express his reaction in a journal.

Participants could also create their own artwork expressing their opinions on human trafficking.

Speckman said her favorite booth asked visitors to leave their handprint on a banner to pledge to be an abolitionist.

"It is really encouraging to see all of those handprints," Speckman said.

Many volunteers who were not part of Stop Traffic or any other organization affiliated with Abolition in the Park showed up to lend a hand. Speckman recruited student volunteers such as Kyle Ali. Ali formerly worked for The Maneater.

"Kessaya is so passionate and energetic about stopping human trafficking that I couldn't say no when she asked me to help," Ali said.


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