Last Wednesday morning, around 2:30AM, the Sex+Money RV pulled into a rainy Biddeford, Maine, where we would stay through the last weekend. One of our Tour Coordinators, Jeff Ball, hails from Maine, so we were fortunate to have a tour guide for so many of the scenic areas around Biddeford and Portland. Last Friday Eastpoint Christian Church in Portland hosted a screening, and on Saturday we drove north to Waterville to show the film at the Selah Tea Cafe.
On Monday we drove east to Concord, New Hampshire to show the film at Red River Theatres, a venue that shows primarily independent films. As we pulled up to the venue, it was a new experience for us to see the title of the film on the outdoor reader board, and to see a real movie poster from our film inside the theatre. The turnout was better than expected, as we had to open up an additional room for those that didn’t fit into the main screening room. The evening concluded with closing remarks from some local leaders who have been working on the issue in New Hampshire. Speaking about caring for victims of human trafficking in our communities, Assistant US Attorney General Mark Zuckerman stated, “What we need to do as a society is to out them, and pull them up to the light of day…the way we stop this problem is by not tolerating it.”
On Tuesday we drove northwest to Essex Junction, Vermont, where we shared the film with Essex Alliance church. Wednesday evening we presented the film in Burlington for an audience at University of Vermont, with a panel of local experts who answered questions afterwards. It’s an interesting time to discuss trafficking in Vermont, because it wasn’t long ago that they were one of the only states without anti-trafficking legislation. However, as of July 1, they now have some of the strongest laws against trafficking. Though a lot of the discussion focused on the new criminal penalties for trafficking, the panelists also addressed the need for more “civil remedies” (restoration services) for survivors of trafficking.
Thursday afternoon we drove south, and ventured into Boston to show the film in what was by far our most historical screening location to date. The Boston Initiative to Advance Human Rights, along with Demand Abolition, arranged for Sex+Money to be shown in the Old South Meeting House in downtown Boston. The building was originally constructed in 1729 as a meeting place for a Puritan congregation, many of whom were descendants of the Puritans that first settled Boston in the 1630’s. The Old South Meeting House is most commonly known as the place where the colonists held meetings that led to the Boston Tea Party in 1773. Benjamin Franklin was baptized in the building. Revivalist George Whitfield even passed through at one point.
Even before slavery was outlawed in Massachusetts in 1781, slaves were allowed to attend meetings and take part in the discussions at the Old South Meeting House. One of these slaves was Phillis Wheatley, who was brought from West Africa to be sold as a slave in America when she was only seven years old. Being one of the few slaves to receive education, she developed into a well-admired writer, and in 1773 became the first published African American poet. Though enslaved until her master died in 1778, the Old South Meeting House gave Wheatley a chance to speak when the rest of society wasn’t so quick to do so.
We followed the film with a panel discussion that included the Human Trafficking Coordinator from the Boston Police Department, a victim advocate, and a survivor of sex trafficking who is now a victim service provider. Currently, Massachusetts is one of four states that have yet to pass any human trafficking legislation (the others are Hawaii, West Virginia, and Wyoming,) though there is an anti-trafficking bill in the works that will go up for a vote in Massachusetts this September.
Considering the History of the Old South Meeting House, and the people that comprised the congregation throughout its history, it was nothing short of a privilege to share our film in such a building. It would be an even greater honor if the film can in any way be a catalyst for anti-trafficking legislation to be passed in Massachusetts. Just as the Old South Meeting House helped to give a voice for Phillis Wheatley while she was still a slave, we hope that Sex+Money helped to give a voice for the thousands of people who are enslaved in the United States today. When we hear the voices of the oppressed, it becomes easier to extend our hands toward them.
All Photos by Samuel Taipale.Read More