When Shelter for Freedom kicks off next week, individuals from around the Pacific Northwest will gather on the campuses of Walla Walla University and Whitman College to tackle the issue of human trafficking. Local artists' contributions will help raise funds for the Walla Walla HelpLine Women's Shelter.
One event, "Be Free: Humanity through Poetry and Music," hosted by the Walla Walla University Amnesty International Chapter, will feature a selection of performances from local artists, introduced by poet Dan Lamberton and women's music expert Susan Pickett.
The event, which will feature poetry and music drawn from the realities of the modern slave trade, hopes to "give a voice to the suffering of women and inspire a sense of hope for the future," according to a news release. The evening's activities are free and open to the public, although donations will be accepted.
Following the performances in Chism Hall, Shelter for Freedom will then continue with the opening of an art exhibit in Baker Faculty Center at Whitman College, featuring selections donated by local artists to be auctioned Saturday evening. The event will be hosted by another local organization, Walla Walla Valley Soroptimist and will feature music performed by a hometown jazz group, Valley Sax Quartet.
Lamberton, who is also a professor of humanities and English at WWU, shared his hopes for the performances and for Shelter for Freedom.
"I hope the people who perform, me included, and the people who listen will be made more aware of how close to home this worldwide tragedy is to us. I hope it will change the geography of the imaginations for those who attend."
Lamberton explained how difficult it can be to capture the emotions of such a difficult subject.
"I don't expect to find the perfect poems," he said, "But the effort of looking for and presenting the best poems our readers have written or discovered should start a similar effort in the audience.
"I think the real poetry is not spoken," Lamberton continued, "The real music is too hard to hear. If we open our ears and hear from the real victims then we've made a music and poetry that's more real, more important."
Amy Dodds, a professor of music at Whitman College who has been instrumental in coordinating next Friday's event, spoke enthusiastically about the upcoming performances and how the selection of music connects with the message of Shelter for Freedom.
"Our program represents a connection to the women of our community," she said, "Women musicians are presenting music written by women composers, some of whom were greatly repressed and stand as a symbol of hope today.
"We are hoping to provide a program that gives an emotional expression to the problem of human trafficking," Dodds continued, "We'd also like to inspire people to attend the other events and expand an extremely crucial resource to our community."
Dodds' husband Gregory, an assistant professor of history at WWU, will be presenting a lecture on human trafficking with fellow professor Terrie Aamodt on Jan. 14, which will be the first of nine Shelter for Freedom events.
Lamberton explained how the event is also very practical and is doing something tangible to help victims of abuse and trafficking.
"We're trying to build support for a local shelter," he said, "Through the modes of sympathy and empathy. I hope that all who attend can pitch in financially or with their volunteered time."
For more information on ways to get involved, how to sponsor the event, or other information regarding Shelter for Freedom please visit www.wallawalla.edu/shelterforfreedom or contact Karen Scott at 509-200-0853, or Greg Dodds, WWU associate professor of history, at 509-527-2851.