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Mayors sign Human Trafficking Awareness Proclamation, support The Red Sand Project

By Tamas Mondovics

Editor

Johnson County Mayor Mike Taylor and Mountain City Mayor Jerry Jordan took part in supporting a cause that has become one of the most important not only locally or statewide but across the world.

By dedicating an entire week to promoting resources, education, and community efforts, Taylor and Jordan joined Johnson County health officials to provide knowledge to identify and prevent human trafficking.   

Appropriately named The Red Sand Project, first launched by Molly Gochman in 2014, is a “participatory art installment designed to shed light on human trafficking. Red sand draws attention to the human trafficking victims who ‘fall through the cracks of society’ daily.

Although Tennessee has been nationally acknowledged for its efforts and improvements, human trafficking reportedly remains a significant public health concern.

An estimated 40.3 million individuals live in slavery, whether in forced marriages, forced labor, or sexual exploitation.

Gochman initiated the first Red Sand Project action in Miami, where she filled the cracks of sidewalks in and around the Art Basel Miami Beach pavilion with red sand.

While symbolic, “the grains of sand represent those individuals who fall through the cracks of the social, economic, and political systems or those of personal consciousness,” stated the project’s website.

Area residents can expect to see cracked sidewalks and patches of land filled with red sand next week, giving testimony to local support, including members and representatives of the Johnson County Health Council.

Local healthcare workers from the Johnson County Health Department, Johnson County Hospital, Johnson County Community Center members, and the school district are planning to participate at their places of work next week.

“Northeast Tennessee is considered one of the ‘hot zones’ for human trafficking,” said Johnson County Public Health Educator Angie Stout. “Some of the reasons connected to the presence of human trafficking in the region have to do with the extensive interstate connections and substance abuse so prevalent in the area.”

Of course, there are other reasons, which only prompt the need to be aware of the problem.

If you know someone who needs help to escape trafficking, contact the Tennessee Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-855-558-6484.

If you suspect you have come into contact with a victim of human trafficking, you may call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text 233722. Hotline staff members will identify resources in your community.

For more on human trafficking and the hotline, visit www.humantraffickinghotline.org.

Learn more about the Red Sand Project at https://redsandproject.org/.

The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. Learn more about TDH services and programs at www.tn.gov/health.