Guest Post by Sarah Durfey, Director of The Abolitionist Network
One summer morning a few years ago I was feeling discouraged in my work with The Abolitionist Network in Boston, MA. I’d been working to end human trafficking in my area for about five years and on that particular morning I was keenly aware of the darkness surrounding human slavery. I found myself asking questions like, “How will something as complex as trafficking ever come to an end?” And, “How can I fight something so big when I’m so small?”
In that moment of desperation I was drawn to prayer. “God,” I cried, “help!” It is hard to say what happened next, but a sense of calm settled within me, and with it came a simple phrase: interrupt injustice with beauty. It was a strange little sentence, but as I reflected on it in the days following it slowly reoriented my perspective. I realized that I’d assumed responsibility to win the battle against injustice, but who can accomplish that alone? Instead I was being asked to simply interrupt a system of oppression. And not just with any old interruption, but an interruption of beauty.
Those four words have become a life motto for me. I have begun to encourage and appreciate others who use their artistic and creative gifts to fight against injustice. Here and there I even practice creative expression as a form of self-care. But all along the question has lingered – how can I use art and beauty to fight exploitation, build collaboration in the movement, and support survivors in their journey towards healing?
Fortunately this summer my friend and colleague invited me to attend the Healing Arts Toolkit training by First Aid Arts in Seattle, WA. It sounded like an incredible opportunity, but as most non-profit staff members know, it was a huge commitment of time and money to cross the country. It turns out the training was the exact integration of passion and practical tools I was looking for: how to use art and creative expression to heal from trauma and abuse, build teams, and create safe communities.
"...the training was the exact integration of passion and practical tools I was looking for: how to use art and creative expression to heal from trauma and abuse, build teams, and create safe communities."
The training was as wonderful and life giving as I could have hoped! Connecting with other likeminded, artistic, and compassionate friends from around the world was a beautiful experience. Creating with drums, scarves, chalk and long stretches of butcher paper allowed the power of beauty to interrupt the dark places of abuse and oppression. The training prepared me to unpack the powerful depths of healing and renewal found in the arts and confirmed my motto to interrupt injustice with beauty. Because though injustice may exist, in the end it is beauty that wins!
Sarah Durfey serves as the Director of The Abolitionist Network in Boston, MA where she uses a living systems approach to address human trafficking. You can learn more about her work at www.egc.org.