Youth participate in Red Sand project

No, the lines of red sand scattered all across the Parks and Recreation Center parking lots are not the result of a spill or any kind of accident. The sand itself is an art project, but the point is not the sand itself, but what is missing.

Despite the threat of rain Thursday evening, members of the Carter County Drug Prevention’s Youth Board gathered at the Park and Recreation Center to sprinkle red sand into every crack they could find in the sidewalks and parking lot.

This Red Sand Project is a nation-wide movement meant to highlight human trafficking and exploitation in the U.S.

Jocelyn Marr of the youth board said they heard about from UT Martin students at a conference.

Once they knew about the project, she said they knew Carter County in particular needed to participate.

“One of our big highways is a big hotspot for human trafficking,” Marr said.

Highlighting the cracks in sidewalks and parking lots, she said, helps highlight the main dangers of human trafficking and its invisibility.

“Many victims fall through the cracks,” Emily Brooks said.

The project does not stand on its own, however. County Mayor Russell Barnett declared this week to be Human Trafficking Awareness Week.

“According to TBI statistics, human trafficking is the second-fasted growing criminal industry, just behind drug trafficking,” Barnett wrote in a release Monday.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee gave a similar proclamation this week, and the Carter County Health Department gave additional weight to the topic, pushing for the art project, as well.

“It is awesome to me,” Marr said of the support.

Brooks said, like many societal issues, people like to assume the problem is elsewhere and not where they live. That is why the overwhelming support from county officials meant so much.

“This shows Carter County has good community support from all sectors,” she said. “The community is passionate about this.”

In addition to the sand, participants also erected an informational table inside the Parks and Recreation Center, which they said will remain for the next several days, in order to provide statistics and ways to help fight back against the problem.

“It is not just a global issue,” Brooks said. “It is right here where we live.”

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