Somehow the pages of the calendar have all blown off and we’re here again, entering the twelfth month of 2018 and subsequently, my fourth year of Dressember.
(For those of you curious about what Dressember is, here’s a great summary from their website: Why A Dress?).
Those of you who have been around here for a few years likely know why I started participating in Dressember in 2015, but for those of you who are new, here is the origin story of my passion for victims of human trafficking:
I sat, eyes riveted on the screen, too horrified to look away. It was an incredibly graphic movie clip, and something I, as a highly sensitive person, would typically avoid. But I knew that for the sake of acknowledging the horrors of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, it was something I needed to see.
The African slaves on the ship were chosen one by one to be thrown over the side to their deaths. It didn’t matter whether or not they knew how to swim because they were chained to bags of rocks that would drag them to the bottom of the ocean. The pressure from their rapid descent would crush them long before their lungs filled with water, not only satisfying the slave trader’s wish to kill them, but also making their deaths excruciatingly painful.
When the clip from Amistad ended and my APLA teacher turned off the screen, a heavy silence ensued. I remember being hit full force with a wave of emotions. Not only was I sickened by the reality of the African slave trade, but I was also alarmed to realize that the vast majority of my classmates, while acknowledging the atrocities of slavery back then, were completely unaware of its prevalence in society today.
“Did you know that there are more slaves in the world today than there were during the entirety of the Transatlantic Slave Trade?” I desperately wanted to ask them. Although the world’s population is much larger now than it was a few hundred years ago, that statistic alone blows the argument that slavery no longer exists completely out of the water.
After class, my friends and I could not stop talking about what we had seen, so decided to form a group called the Modern Underground Railroad, or MUR for short. We extensively researched slavery in the world today, and planned presentations that we could give in our history and language arts classes. And then, life got in the way. The academic rigors of junior year took over, and our grand plans for presenting to our classes fell to the wayside, never to be fully realized. However, a seed had been planted for a passion that would burst into bloom three years later when I went to Nepal.
Before going to Nepal, I would have said I felt at least somewhat prepared to deal with human trafficking up close and personal. I had read books and articles, attended lectures and prayer meetings, and extensively researched anti-trafficking organizations. However, several experiences in Nepal quickly humbled me, and reminded me that there is no way to fully prepare for catching glimpses of a system that buys and sells girls. Two instances in particular stand out as moments when the reality of trafficking hit me full force. The first was when my team was accidentally taken into India (you can read that story here Whoops, I Went to India!), and the second was when we visited a village and met young girls who were the exact demographic of girls most likely to be trafficked (you can read about it here Three Little Girls).
Needless to say, my trip to Nepal greatly furthered my passion to end human trafficking, which is a form of modern-day slavery. Once I returned I began looking for ways to continue to be involved in the fight for the freedom of all. Then I discovered Dressember, and it has proved to be a wonderful opportunity for continued involvement!
This year in particular has marked a deepening of my passion to see the enslaved set free and the free remain in that state as I spent three months in Nepal working with an anti-trafficking organization, and again glimpsed many traces of the reality of girls being bought and sold throughout the rural mountainous region in which I lived. The problem persists, but the fight being waged against it is real, powerful, and breathtakingly beautiful!
My participation in Dressember this year comes with two distinctions from previous years.
- This is finally the year where I’m taking the challenge of wearing a dress every day for a month to the next level and wearing one dress for the entire month! The four kurta tops and three pairs of pants I donned for the month of April when I lived in the aforementioned village provided the perfect practice opportunity for this month of wearing one dress. 🙂 But in all seriousness, I deeply appreciate the opportunity wearing one outfit each day for a month will give me to remember that I HAVE CHOICES. That is not a given for so many people around the world, and too often I take my choices for granted. I want to be more mindful, not only of the fact that I have choices, but of the impact my decisions have on others around me, and I’m hoping Dressember will help move me in that direction.
- In my advocacy this year, I’m going to focus on the light – or that which is good, true, and beautiful. For the past few years, I’ve focused pretty heavily on educating you, my lovely community, on the realities of human trafficking and sex slavery. Although those are pretty dark and heavy topics, they’re ones that are so important to be aware of, so I’m still fully willing discuss these topics. However, as I’ve recently embarked on a new journey to heal my limbic system (which is another story for another time) I’m beginning to recognize the importance of increasing the positive inputs into my life. As such, I’m going to focus on the light this month by looking for the helpers and telling the stories I find of healing, rescue, and release from darkness and chains! Throughout the month I’m hoping to post these stories on Twitter. (You can find my feed here: Kel_Michelle_).
I will be fundraising this year, and if you feel led to donate to the good work Dressember is doing to end human trafficking you can donate here: Kelly’s Dressember 2018 Page. The money donated to Dressember goes towards funding twelve amazing partner organizations engaged in all facets of anti-trafficking work, both locally and abroad. You can read about these partners here: Dressember Grant Partners.
By wearing the same dress every day of December, I am reminding myself of the freedoms I have that many victims of human trafficking around the world don’t possess. I’m also choosing to advocate for them by sharing their stories with my sphere of influence. And finally, I’m reclaiming the beauty and dignity of femininity in a world that often says otherwise.
31 days, 1 dress, let’s go!