|Lauren Martin and the Rev. Alika Galloway
Photo by Amber Procaccini
"Why do you think a woman would want to sell her body? Would you want to do that? What if that was you?"
"I want to prevent another child from having to go through what I went through." That statement from a woman interviewed by Lauren Martin in her research on prostitution and sex trading in north Minneapolis has been a driver for Martin and the Rev. Alika Galloway of Kwanzaa Community Church.
Martin brought together participants, stakeholders and community members, using a community-based, participatory research model to look at the issues.
"If you start with the hopes and dreams of people who want change, you will have more of a likelihood of achieving that change," Martin said.
At the same time, Galloway was listening to stories of prostitution from the women walking by her church and in her congregation. She heard stories of women needing to sell their bodies to pay the rent, to buy diapers, to feed their kids.
When the two women met in 2008 they found they shared a window into the same stories. Together they asked, "What do we do?"
What Martin heard women asking for was a drop-in space; a place to connect with other women, a place to sit down, to get a clean drink of water, to get condoms.
Martin and Galloway had identified a need and realized they had the capacity to fill it at Kwanzaa Community Church. Not only did Galloway's husband, the Rev. Ralph Galloway, give up his office space at Kwanzaa for the drop-in center, the congregation agreed to donate an entire building to the project.
"Part of what we heard people saying was, 'I didn't know this was an issue. I thought women were just prostituting because ...'" Galloway said. "Part of my challenge has been to ask 'because what? Why do you think a woman would want to sell her body? Would you want to do that? What if that was you?'"
Renovation for the space was happening during the summer when the tornado came through north Minneapolis. Along with damage to the building and the community, the circumstances brought an increase in prostitution in the neighborhood. But they are moving ahead-the space has been renovated so that now women are receiving food and help in making new connections in their lives.
A related project at Northside Women's Space is intentionally focused on young people in the community, since Martin's research showed that 13 was the average age for someone entering prostitution as a juvenile. Young men and women in the community, in their early 20s, are creating sculptures with prevention messages that will be placed in community gardens next spring.
"Girls should not be sold and guys-you should not buy them," is the message according to Galloway. "Young people are designing these pieces of art and the messages and talking about it ... making a commitment to tend the garden where hope grows."
"As a society we have a lot of soul searching to do for what we allow to happen to girls and women with sex trafficking," Martin said. "And luckily there are a lot of incredible people now in Minnesota, nationally and internationally who are starting to focus attention on this. So I am very hopeful."
How can you help?
• Financial contributions
• Volunteer your skills in resume writing, G.E.D. tutoring, massage services and art lessons
• Donations of feminine hygiene supplies, toothbrushes, hand sanitizers, underwear and socks, bus tokens, kids activity books and gift cards to stores with pharmacies are welcomed. See expanded list below.
• Contact Andree Aronson, firstname.lastname@example.org
FFI: Northside Women's Space is located at 2100 Emerson Ave. N., Minneapolis, MN 55411, www.northsidewomen.org
Recommended donations to the Northside Women's Space:
Feminine hygiene products
African American hair products
Bulk laundry detergent
Prophylactics and lubricant
Packages of new socks and underwear
Travel size tissues
First aid supplies
Travel size laundry detergent
Time and Services:
Arts and crafts lessons
Office Equipment and Supplies
Coffee, sugar, creamer
Whistles or personal alarms
Gift cards to stores with pharmacies for emergencies
Old cell phones and chargers (for 911 calls)
Kid packets (coloring books, crayons, story books, stickers)
Gallon-sized plastic bags