By Bryan Hay

Easton and Phillipsburg students joined members of the Lafayette College community on the Karl Stirner Arts Trail to help raise awareness about human trafficking in a collaborative public artwork project. 

As part of the Red Sand Project, on Oct. 21 participants poured red sand into surface cracks on a section of paved trail behind Don Juan’s restaurant on North Third Street, Easton, representing the victims of human trafficking who fall through the cracks of society every day.

Jim Toia, executive director of the Karl Stirner Arts Trail and director of Lafayette’s community arts program, mixed clear industrial-grade epoxy with red dye, loaded caulking guns with the liquid, and handed them off to volunteers who filled cracks with the epoxy and sprinkled natural red sand on top.

The eye-catching effect created bright, meandering red rivulets of sparkling sand on the trail. A sign posted nearby provided an overview of the Red Sand Project.

Maria Ragonese (left) of PAZA, Tree of Life, and Jim Toia, executive director of the Karl Stirner Arts Trail and director of Lafayette’s community arts program fill cracks with red sand

Maria Ragonese (left) of PAZA, Tree of Life, and Jim Toia, executive director of the Karl Stirner Arts Trail and director of Lafayette’s community arts program fill cracks with red sand

Now an international movement started in 2014 by New York City-based artist and activist Molly Gochman, her concept uses sidewalks and earthwork installations to create opportunities for people to talk about and question human trafficking and exploitation. 

In indigenous cultures, red symbolizes and draws attention to issues of concern, explained Maria Ragonese, director of administration and program development at Easton-based PAZA, Tree of Life, a nonprofit Native American support organization that introduced the Red Sand Project to Easton. 

Part of the group’s mission is to remember missing and murdered Native American women, which remained unaddressed until Congress passed Savannah’s Law last year.

“The Red Sand Project is a way to acknowledge all of the people lost in the world,” Toia said. “Every year, 40 million women and children are lost or spirited away into the sex trade, and exploitation.”

Students in Toia’s “Lafayette Experience” program, which brings together local high school students interested in art, expressed how much they valued the Red Sand experience on the trail.

“The Lafayette Experience is a great way to meet people in Easton and Lafayette, and work with Jim and raise awareness of about human trafficking through this very valid program,” said Ella Gagliardi, a Phillipsburg High School senior. 

two Easton high students crouch down near pavement and pour red paint on the ground

Easton High School students participated in the Red Sand experience on the trail.

Sage Brotzman, an Easton Area High School junior, said the Lafayette Experience helps her broaden her sense of community and learn from older students.

“It’s the best class I ever had,” she added. “This project today helps raise awareness about human trafficking. It needs to be done to show that we care and to give hope.”

 

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