Kansas City is the crossroads of many things, from the trails that led pioneers west, the country’s rail and Interstate highway systems, to 21st Century fiber optics. It’s also the crossroads of the human trafficking industry.
To acknowledge that sad reality, the countless victims and bring awareness to the issue, the nation’s first memorial to modern-day trafficked human beings will be unveiled Saturday, Oct. 24 at Lykins Square Park at E. 8th St. and Myrtle Ave. The noon event is open to the public with appropriate social distancing provided.
Created by Overland Park artist Hasna Sal, “Into The Light” promises to be another artistic triumph.
“The memorial was inspired by the resilience and courage of survivors’ heroic struggles to gain power and control of their lives and overcome the many adversaries faced by our society’s marginalized citizens,” said Sal.
The location of the placement of the memorial holds significance. It is in the path of where many trafficking victims walk daily. The unveiling will be hosted by members from Veronica’s Voice, Habitat for Humanity, and the Lynkins Neighborhood Association.
“We are honored to have this memorial here in Lykins Park, in recognition of women who have been murdered, have survived, or are still in the trap of commercial sexual exploitation,” states Kristy Childs, founder of Veronica’s Voice. “This memorial will serve as a reminder that these women are seen, heard, and valued members of our community.”
Veronica’s Voice was established in 2000 to empower women to exit from, prevent entry into, and end all demand for commercial sexual exploitation in the U.S. through survivor leadership. They accomplish their goals through the residential treatment program, social enterprise, and advocacy work to create a culture where all are free.
Sal is an internationally known American glass sculptor known for designing and sculpting large-scale glass sculptures and glass jewelry. She’s also, an architectural designer and instructor. She specializes in large-scale glass sculptures using a variety of mediums and techniques including fused glass, slumped glass, lampworking, beadmaking, glass etching that often includes sandblasting and acid etching, and stained glass with copper foil and lead. Her work is unforgettable.
She is the owner and in-house artist at Glass Concepts 360. Her most recent piece was a Nativity sculpture made of three panels and measuring 7 feet by 9 feet.
“After the Nativity piece, I felt two things very strongly: Christ will protect the innocent, and when something good happens, it brings the world together. I wanted to bring the church and spirituality to the park. I wanted to associate glass with spirituality and Godliness,” said Sal.
The new memorial will be four, 2 foot by four foot glass panels with absolutely no metal. The panels in succession are: Isolation, Damnation, Redemption, and Salvation. Hasna attributes the glass to the survivors – they have withstood the highest stress levels and emerged stronger. She says the panels illustrate their journey.
“The path is not a one-way street; however, following in this order, I tried to show their journey to redemption. In isolation they are alone. Damnation is being trapped in trafficking. Redemption is reaching out for help and accepting it,” Sal told Metro Voice. “Salvation is finding their way to a new life, a safe home. It all comes down to respect. It has to start somewhere, so the ripple effect can be felt.”
After meeting Christine McDonald, a former sexual trafficking victim, and reading her book Cry Purple, Sal said she felt absolutely compelled to do something.
“I can’t believe this is happening in my city. It is a pandemic. But it is being treated in the public like a silent, deadly, disease,” she says. “As an artist I felt that I had the responsibility to be an advocate of change. Public art is a means to create a conversation that may be polarized. It becomes a conversation piece used to voice our opinions and to listen to people. Communication happens and that brings change.”
The memorial is made of bullet-proof glass and will lean against a light-post, elevated 11 feet off the ground.. The cost for creating the sculpture was $20,000. Funds were raised through Habitat for Humanity, Lykins Neighborhood Association, St. Michael’s Church, Kansas City Parks and Rec, and private citizen donations.
Sal says that no metal was used as an element in the art and there’s a reason.
“Sunlight is never static. With glass as a canvas it is forever changing. The narrative keeps changing. It shows the positive effect of storytelling. Glass is like a woman. She wants to stand on her own,” She says. “Metal would stop or block the light, take away the spirit of it. The only way [for a woman] to glow is in her own brilliance.”
–Amy Buster | Metro Voice