Human trafficking arts symposium provides place for healing through art

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Southern California Partners for Global Justice, a coalition of various local and national religious communities and organizations, on Saturday will host an annual symposium to highlight efforts to combat human trafficking.

Kathleen Bryant, co-chair of the coalition, says the event is a chance to celebrate the journey to freedom through dance, drama, arts and music.

The event at Mt. St. Mary's College will feature special dances, short films, stories, poetry, and visual presentations showcasing anti-human trafficking artwork, including some works by survivors.

Udaya Kanthi Salgadu, a young Sri Lankan woman who was trafficked in Southern California and forced into labor for four years as a domestic worker, is one such survivor. She will have her play performed live by Loyola Marymount University students.

While enslaved, Salgadu received weekly letters from her mother. The letters helped give her a sense of hope during her darkest times. Salgadu's play, entitled "Letters From My Mother," will be moderated by L.A. playwright Doris Baizley.

"I think it's so poignant, because it's in [Salgadu's] own words about her own experience. There are a lot of movies and books made about human trafficking, but to really sit there and listen to a survivor's own words and experiences is very powerful," said Bryant, who is also a member of the recently formed U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking.

U.S. Immigration ultimately intervened and rescued Salgadu in 2000. With assistance from the L.A.-based Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, Salgadu was able to heal and become an advocate for other survivors globally. She has obtained her GED and is on her way to attending nursing school.

RELATED: LA County, cities use January to spread awareness about human trafficking

Saturday's event comes amid recent news of high-profile human trafficking busts. In the days leading up to the Super Bowl, 45 pimps were arrested and 16 kids who had been sex trafficked were rescued.

Bryant, along with the Catholic Sisters, are continuing to push for new legislation, including safe harbor laws and protections for youth who are sexually exploited in California.

"I think one of the strongest movements in the country is to create laws that will protect our young people who have been sold on our streets, who never get the money and it's done against their will," said Bryant. 

For more information about Saturday's event, click here. The event begins at 8:45 a.m. and ends at 1:00 p.m. You can register at the door for $20. 


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