A multitude of Walla Walla University students joined local community members and concerned citizens at Shelter for Freedom’s headlining event on Saturday night, January 16, 2010, filling Whitman College’s Cordiner Hall for the screening of the documentary film “Cargo: Innocence Lost.” The screening, which was followed by a panel discussion, was just one of nine events during the four-day series of awareness-building fundraisers, tackling the serious issue of both domestic and international human trafficking. All proceeds from the evening went to Walla Walla HelpLine Women’s Shelter, the focal point of Shelter for Freedom’s campaign, as they search for a permanent home in the valley.
The screening, as well as the exclusive art auction that followed, may have been held at Whitman College, but the event would not have been possible without the efforts of two student-led organizations from Walla Walla University. WWU Amnesty International Chapter and ASWWU, were behind the scenes during both events and were responsible for a large portion of the work during the four day Shelter for Freedom campaign.
The film, which intensely presented the brutal realities of human trafficking in the United States, brought together many people from around the Inland Northwest, interested in learning more about the issue, and what they could do to help. For many in attendance, the evening’s highlight was hearing from director Michael Cory Davis, and academy award-nominated actress Anne Archer, both of whom have dedicated much of their professional life to the spread of human rights across the globe.
Archer-who has starred in “Ghost of Girlfriends Past,” “Fatal Attraction,” and “Patriot Games” with Harrison Ford-founded the non-profit organization Artists for Human Rights. Before she introduced Michael Cory Davis, Archer stressed the importance of the fight against slavery, and the special role that artists can play in the struggle.
“Artists can be a tremendous force for positive change,” she explained, “They have the unique ability to inspire, educate, and influence change.”
Archer, a golden globe-winning actress, spoke highly of Davis, calling him “a wonderful example of what a single individual can do,” and that the film “Cargo,” “raises hope for a world without slavery.”
Davis-who not only directed “Cargo,” but also wrote and produced it-did not rule out the possibility of continuing to make documentaries that address the issue of human trafficking and the sex trade.
“Human rights is part of my soul,” he said. “I will never stop this work. If I was able to do it for Bulgaria, I have to do it for the children of the US.”
He went on to explain how vital it is to prevent more people from becoming victims of trafficking, not just in the underdeveloped nations of the world, but in the United States as well.
“Human trafficking affects the very fiber of society,” Davis shared, “Because we turned a blind eye to it in the third world countries, it’s now in the United States.”
Davis continued with an explanation of how students can make a difference when grappling with such an overwhelming issue.
“Take clips of multimedia [regarding human trafficking] and embed them into your social networking sites. It’s something we can very easily change just by altering our decisions and our buying power.”
Finally, Davis expressed how communities such as Walla Walla, one with a significant number of religious congregations and institutions of higher education, can be very influential in the global fight against human trafficking and other human rights abuses, despite not being as well known as some of the larger cities in the Pacific Northwest.
“Going through faith based communities can be one of the quickest ways to raise awareness about crimes like human trafficking, and when you engage the students it can have a domino effect.”
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Watch more videos from Artists for Human Rights on YouTube.