As people walk around campus, glimmers of red can be seen in many of Northwest's sidewalk cracks. There are curious glances and double takes as the distinguishable red sand catches their attention; the sand represents more than the eye can see.
The Student Senate Inclusion Committee and members of Northwest’s UNICEF chapter organized The Red Sand Project at noon April 17, starting from the Memorial Bell Tower.
The Red Sand Project is activist artwork created to raise awareness of human trafficking and modern-day slavery. According to redsandproject.org, there are more than 40 million people who live as slaves.
Immigrants, refugees, LGBTQ people, women and children are most at-risk of being enslaved and spending their lives exploited to benefit the profit of others according to redsandproject.org.
To recognize this, students poured red sand into sidewalk cracks to take a stand for victims of modern-day slavery, which is institutional slavery that still exists today.
Student Senate Inclusion Committee member and sophomore Dipika Sharma said it’s important for students to learn about modern-day slavery.
“In the age of consumerism, it’s crucial for people to know about where their necessities are coming from, as most of the things we buy every day have some slavery footprints on them,” Sharma said. “I think students are the leaders of today and tomorrow, so asking questions about where the items of what we buy or use come from will make an impact on a larger scale.”
President of the Northwest UNICEF Chapter and senior Katherine Gerhardt said it was approached by the inclusion committee at the beginning of the year.
“They told us about the project and how Dr. Ford (associate professor Elyssa Ford) had been wanting to bring it to campus,” Gerhardt said. “Children across the globe are directly impacted by human trafficking, whether that’s child labor or sex trafficking, so it was kind of a no-brainer to take part.”
The temporary earthwork can be viewed for the rest of this semester in an effort to raise awareness of and combat human trafficking – raising important questions about modern-day slavery.
Gerhardt said the project allowed her to focus on the issue of human trafficking.
“We may not think about it all the time, but we definitely profit off of it every day,” Gerhardt said. “I think the physical act of pouring the sand is something I’ll remember, and it will hopefully force me to think about where I buy things from.”
Sharma said the committee will do the project again next year.
“We look forward to getting more sand and reaching out to more people on campus, pouring red sands in sidewalk cracks everywhere,” Sharma said.
Red Sand Project installations have taken place everywhere across America and in 70 countries around the world, with students, businesses, survivors and even celebrities helping raise awareness through participating.