Stop Traffic holds variety show

The show included music and belly dancing.

Belly dancer DeeDee Folkerts leaps in the air during a performance in the Mark Twain Ballroom on Friday. The dance was part of a variety show planned by Stop Traffic to raise awareness of human trafficking and slavery.

Despite the minimal - or rather nonexistent - grandeur of Mark Twain Ballroom, various performers at the Stop Traffic Variety Show utilized the small space on Friday even ing to put on a variety show.

Stop Traffic President Naomi Lahiri, a junior, began planning for the event last semester and chose performers who she knew would undoubtedly please the audience.

"We wanted it to be empowering, so I contacted groups who I knew would have something to say about this and the audience would enjoy," Lahiri said.

Senior Jennifer Kimball, co-founder and student adviser of Stop Traffic, said the State Department estimates 20,000 cases of human trafficking in the U.S. annually and 200,000 people living in slavery in the U.S. today. Stop Traffic works to raise awareness in order to encourage more reports of human trafficking, Kimball said.

"It's really great that so many people from different backgrounds came out, not just as audience members but also as performers," Kimball said.

To begin the show, graduate student Chad Parmenter greeted the audience and expressed Stop Traffic's mission to combat human trafficking.

"With collective effort, we can fight it and we can end it," he said.

The audience expressed their enjoyment of the seven performances with cheers and often lively, encouraging catcalls. Each performance was framed with a brief vignette that expressed the hardships of human trafficking and what can be done to aid victims.

Senior Melanie Penn introduced a panel of silver-painted cardboard rolls taped to the accordion room separator to represent a cage. For the vignettes, Penn narrated portrayals of aiding the victim, which included giving her a phone to provide connections and resources, providing her with education and finally helping her to empower herself by releasing the chains around her.

The first performance was by DragonFlies Belly Dance Company, comprised of four instructors at Moon Belly Dance Studio. Megan Hartmann, one of the four instructors, said the cause is one they collectively support.

"It's important to speak for people who don't have a say," Hartmann said. During the second of two dances, the four women balanced curved swords on their heads and their chins.

Poet Nickole Brown followed with a reading from her book entitled "Sister," a compilation of poems about a woman who grew up in the 1970s in Kentucky. Whereas the dancers utilized the area of the ballroom floor in front of the audience, Brown stood on one end of the long, narrow stage, holding her book and speaking choppily but effectively. Brown began with a poem called "Footling" about the main character's birth, and ended with "How to Forgive."

Next was Chris Porcelli, who performed "Us and Them" by Pink Floyd and two original pieces on his keyboard. Instead of performing on stage, he performed between two windows against the west wall.

"I think that people can have so many hidden talents you may not know about," Porcelli said, referring not only to the performers in the show, but also to victims of human trafficking who may remain unheard.

Following a short intermission, House of VanSickle Clothing showcased Suzanne VanSickle's original clothing pieces with dancers from Moon Belly Dance Studio, who drifted across the floor and center aisle of the ballroom. VanSickle's studies of Middle Eastern dance influence her clothing.

Los Desterrados, Columbia's "groove collective" led by Walt "Moondog" Goodman on guitar and vocals, performed next with two original songs and one Cuban song. The band calls themselves "Los Desterrados," Spanish for "the exiles," because the members often temporarily leave their bands to play together in venues around Columbia. The performance yielded much applause, though audience members did not get up and dance as the band suggested.

Krysten Hill followed Los Desterrados with an original poem called "The Subject of Our Worth," a powerfully spoken chronicle of the worth of women. Before performing, she said she read the poem last year for Stop Traffic, but had revised it and thought it was important to read again.

Finally BoCoMo Drumheads Medicine Show followed. Six dancers, taught by Pulguinha at the Parkade Center, performed West African style pieces while the BoCoMo Drumheads performed three original pieces on the small stretch of the ballroom floor. The dancers wore brightly patterned African-style pants and pounded their way across the stretch of tiled floor.

Stop Traffic volunteer freshman Sarah Mason said the variety show had a lot of symbolism of human trafficking, which she said a lot of people don't know about.

"It's awful," sophomore Brittany Wagner said about human trafficking. "I want to learn more."

During intermission and after the show, the audience bid on items for a silent auction. Items included original artwork and photography, earrings from Chile and Kenya, a mini-backpack made of Bangladeshi Dhaka fabric, knit scarves, and a Moon Belly gift certificate and clothing, including a recycled minerals dress. Admission and auction proceeds went to Stop Traffic and the Central Missouri Stop Human Trafficking Coalition.

Stop traffic began in January of 2007 and has since held a poetry jam, fashion show and rally in Peace Park previous to the variety show. Kimball said Stop Traffic not only works to raise awareness but also to facilitate putting together stakeholders in the issue, including the FBI, IRS, Columbia Police Department, Social Services and shelters.

"I've always been passionate about issues of exploitation, poverty, health and violence," Kimball said. "Human trafficking is an issue that people often think about as elsewhere."


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