An inquisitive crew of women gathered Thursday January 17, 2019 during a light drizzle in an artist’s studio at the Textile Factory in downtown LA. A sombre glow radiated an otherwise vacant fashion manufacturing center where a handful of artists, activists, mothers, investors, public relations experts and community engagement officers gathered to learn about local and national human trafficking.
A highly accomplished, stunning femme, expert in public health and director of Journey Out; Cherise Charleswell lead a discussion about victims of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking. Her organization helps victims of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking leave a life of abuse and violence, overcome their fears, and empower them to reach their full potential and achieve their goals. In collaboration with international feminist organization Tomorrow Girls Troop, and fellow activists- a new Cunt Quilt was made following a Q&A session with Cherise on how to identify and report human trafficking, ways citizens can become involved, and the systemic pressures that create our slavery culture. Rampant in our historical, legal, visual, technological and media framework is a dark cycle of consumer-generated violence that pushes victims (predominantly children, women and trans individuals) into forced labor. Shedding light on the verbal and symbolic language perpetuated by pop songs, social media and the porn industry; Cherise pointed out signs ranging from walking to gestures, tattoos as ownership brands, and the depths of corruption that enable high profile “Johns” (or prostitution consumers/abusers) to go unpunished- while victims bear the punitive burden.
Carrying the conversation into craft action, participants shared their own stories and experiences with the porn and sex industry while brain storming the Cunt Quilt image. After debating between the prevalent logos on mud-trap tire flaps of women in coquettish positions, and the fashion aesthetics of prostitution from high heels to worn out sneakers; the group conceded to an image that combines a hovering cursor over a broken weblink with a traditional “bathroom lady” logo breaking a chain link. The group pinned down over 30 pairs of worn out women’s underwear onto a used queen size bedsheet to create Cunt Quilt (Traffic). Later that evening I reinforced their efforts with a borrowed sewing machine, complements of my Emmi Meyer who co-organized the event.