Driving the Dakotas (And Then Some…)
(Long drive from Bismarck, ND to Rapid City, SD.)
When we showed our film in Milwaukee, Wisconsin last week, we were working as a skeleton version of the normal team. As our team was en route to Milwaukee on a highway in western Wisconsin, the bus suddenly lost power, and had to stay behind at a nearby Wal Mart parking lot until we could take it into a mechanic the next day. We fit all the people we could into our two cars to go to the event in Milwaukee. The rest unfortunately, had to stay behind with the bus in rural Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin. Over the following week they perused pretty much every nook and cranny of the small town while the bus was getting repaired.
(Posting fliers around Madison, WI.)
(Tim introducing the film at University of Wisconsin.)
On Monday, September 19, the part of the team we could fit into our two cars arrived in Madison, Wisconsin to put on our screening at the University of Wisconsin that evening. The film was followed by a panel that included Attorney Natalia Walter, who is the Senior Advisor on Human Trafficking and Migrant Children for the Latin American Health Institute; JoAnn Gruber-Hagen, the Chair of Slave Free Madison; and Jan Miyasaki, Director of Project Respect, which works with sexually exploited adults in Dane County. Panelists emphasized how sex trafficking doesn’t just affect a foreign group of people we can’t understand; it affects people that aren’t altogether unfamiliar to ourselves. Gruber-Hagen stated, “It’s US; it’s citizens; it’s white; it’s African American; and that takes about everyone in this room right now.”
(Panel discussion at Augsberg College in Minneapolis, MN.)
Driving northwest to the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, we showed the film at Augsberg College in Minneapolis on Monday, September 21st. For the screenings put on in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota, we would be assisted by the staff of The God’s Child Project, a project of the Institute for Trafficked, Exploited and Missing Persons (ITEMP). The panel at Augsberg College included Heather Callier, the Marketing & Development Coordinator for Breaking Free, a Minneapolis organization that works with adult and adolescent victims of prostitution; Heather Weyker, an investigator with the St. Paul Police Department’s Vice and Human Trafficking Unit; Attorney Beatríz Menanteau, who represented the Women’s Human Rights Program of The Advocates for Human Rights; and Charles Moore, the Director of Operations for The Institute for Trafficked, Exploited, and Missing Persons. Callier reminded the audience that victims are in need of housing, resources (for recovery), and jobs in order to reintegrate back into society. Furthermore, she encouraged the audience to see that it is not just adolescents that are victimized by these crimes; because one day, the victimized adolescents will be adults. How do we choose to view them then?
As a side note, last Thursday afternoon, we commissioned four of our gentlemen to an arduous mission out to Ft. Wayne, Indiana to pick up a 15-passenger van that will help to carry a lot of our merchandise, musical instruments, and crew members. Though our RV was repaired and caught up to us in Minneapolis by Thursday night, our team would remain divided until the latter part of the week.
(Inside Westminister Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis, MN.)
Thursday evening we had another screening in Minneapolis, at the Westminister Presbyterian Church. It was a beautiful building of elaborate design, intricate stained glass, and shimmering wooden pews. It is a striking contrast to compare the nature of these crimes with the beauty of such a setting – but maybe it is that very contrast that will push the church to begin addressing that which would tarnish the identity of the fellow humans in our communities.
(Outside Westminister Presbyterian Church.)
On Friday we pulled into a blustery Fargo, North Dakota for a screening at North Dakota State University. The panel that followed was comprised of First Assistant United States Attorney Lynn Jordheim, who is very experienced in the prosecution of child exploitation cases; Heidi DeKok, a licensed social worker who has committed to educating the people of North Dakota about Human Trafficking; and Patrick Atkinson, the founder and International Executive Director of The God’s Child Project and the Institute for Trafficked, Exploited and Missing Persons. Assistant US Attorney Jordheim shared how his work focuses mainly on crimes that involve interstate commerce. Because the Internet connects people in so many different physical locations, the online viewing and/or exchange of child pornography can often be tried on the federal level. Jordheim went on to say, “We have a category of criminals today we wouldn’t have had 20 years ago.” Specifically to North Dakota, all the panelists agreed that sex trafficking will probably increase in the western part of the state due to an influx of predominately male labor that will be employed by the oil companies that are beginning to extract oil in the area.
(Spending time with the Bison at North Dakota State University in Fargo, ND.)
On Saturday we drove west to Bismarck, the capital of North Dakota, to share the film at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. We parked the bus on the corner of a nearby intersection so it would serve as a billboard for the evening’s event. The strategy proved effective, as the event was well attended with people members of Good Shepherd Church, in addition to people from the greater community of Bismarck.
(Bear Butte, SD.)
Sunday morning we woke up early, and drove south to Rapid City, South Dakota for an afternoon screening at Elks Theatre, sponsored by Project Church. The event drew over a hundred people, thanks largely to the local news media that promoted the event. You can see an article in the Rapid City Journal here. Sunday’s event was also the rendezvous point for our scattered team. We even welcomed a new member to the family: The Black Mamba – the new (to us) 15-passenger van! For a community that we just met, Project Church was quite welcoming, and even hosted a bar-b-que for our team after the event, which provided a great chance to catch back up with our Sex+Money family that had for too long been dispersed. Burgers, hot dogs, corn on the cob, and watermelon were a wonderful background for reunion.
(The Elks Theatre in Rapid City, SD.)
(Morgan talking for the local news station in Rapid City, SD.)
(Sunset in Rapid City, SD.)
All Photos by Samuel Taipale.
Timothy C. Dyk was one of the narrators from the Sex+Money film. He is now touring around the United States with the rest of the team, and working on a degree in Global Development at Seattle Pacific University. Read more from this author