Project Unbound Combats Human Trafficking With Fundraiser

Brendan Eprile

Over 1,200 children have been rescued by The Human Trafficking Collaborative of Lorain County in the past 10 years. To raise money for its cause and increase awareness, student-run anti-human-trafficking organization Project Unbound’s 3rd Annual Voices Against Human Trafficking gathering will bring together various on-campus arts groups in hopes of making an impact. Tomorrow’s event, taking place at 7:30 p.m. in First Church’s Meeting Hall, seeks to accomplish its goals through the avenue of art. The evening will feature performances by OSlam, Pitch Please and The Obertones.

College junior and chair of Project Unbound Sarah Blum has organized Voices Against Human Trafficking since its inception. She envisioned a huge event that would raise awareness about the issues among the community, but suspected that the cause alone wouldn’t be enough to attract a full audience. The inclusion of popular campus performers ended up being an apt solution; the first event, which took place at the Cat in the Cream, proved successful. According to Blum, the night garnered immensely positive feedback — in the words of one attendee, “This is what I came to Oberlin for.”

To Blum and her peers, Saturday’s fundraiser holds a great deal of significance. Money raised from Project Unbound goes directly to women experiencing life-or-death situations, giving the proceedings a very real impact — for example, last year Project Unbound helped one survivor buy her own house.

“If people realize that human trafficking happens right here in Ohio, [they] will take it more seriously,” Blum said. “[It] happens all around us. I know of people who participate in human trafficking at Crocker Park.”

The three headlining performances have all participated in the fundraiser since the first Voices Against Human Trafficking event, giving the artists a strong connection to the annual gathering.

Among the artists performing this year will be College sophomore Sarah Nathanson with Ani DiFranco’s “Lost Woman Song,” about a young woman getting an abortion at the age of 18.

“It sums up so much raw feeling in so few words,” Nathanson said. “Performance art is always one of the most powerful mediums to discuss any contentious issue.”

College senior Zachariah Claypole-White, an OSlam poet who will take the event’s stage for the third time, agreed.

“I think it’s the responsibility of any artist — poet, musician, painter, etc. — to help adjust the spotlight of the conversation, … [to] direct people to pressing issues and to the individuals who are actively engaged in those issues.” Claypole-White said.

For the last two years, the event has filled the Cat in the Cream. This year, with its move to First Church — a space that can host over a thousand people — there’s potential for an even bigger turnout.

“Nothing would beat educating a room filled with a thousand people about an issue I think is so important,” Blum said.

That education has extended to the event’s performers, blurring the line between attendee and artist and speaking to the potential power of such an event.

“I didn’t really know that much about human trafficking,” Claypole-White admitted. “So I also view the event as a chance to learn something about it myself while hopefully helping others.”

The significance of hosting this event at the First Church is hard to ignore: historically, groundbreaking decisions have been made in that space, such as Oberlin’s participation in the abolitionist movement and the acceptance of both female students and students of color. Voices Against Human Trafficking stands to continue the Church’s tradition of impactful progress, and with the efforts of Project Unbound and the fundraiser’s longtime performers, its success seems set to endure.