United for Freedom

Filed under Organizations & Causes Your World on Jul 09 12 by

On a chilly January night in Atlanta, more than 43,000 college students held a candlelight vigil around a sculpture that they helped create. When the lights came on shortly after midnight to illuminate the visual expression of their hearts, their thousands of voices joined together to chant “Freedom. Freedom.” on behalf of the 27 million people estimated to be trapped in modern day slavery. (Almasy) Far more than cloth, wire, and paint, this giant piece of artwork is a statement that this generation is on a mission to change the world.

Since 1995, Choice Ministries, the parent organization for the Passion Conferences, has held a yearly gathering of 18-25 year olds in either Texas, Georgia or both. In 2007, the Passion Conferences began a fundraising arm called “Do Something Now” to assist in justice initiatives around the world with a targeted focus for each year. (268generation.com) The focus for Passion 2012 was the injustice of modern day slavery. The unveiling of the Freedom Art Installation was a highlight of the conference held from January 2-5, 2012 at the Georgia Dome. Many of the aforementioned 43,000 students stood in long lines to donate funds that they had earned or collected from family and friends to give towards various charities at work to free those in forced labor or sex trafficking situations. As they gave, they also wrote messages on pieces of clothing or other materials that were then attached to the 103 foot sculpture of an open hand rising up into the sky. Due to its location, the sculpture was taken down from outside the Georgia Dome after Passion 2012 ended, but the organization hosting the conference worked with the City of Atlanta to receive permission to raise the sculpture again for 72 days from February to May outside of Passion City Church at 515 Garson Drive in Atlanta. This initiated a movement called “72 Days for Freedom” that continued the fundraising begun during the January conference to help those in slavery and to raise awareness of this cross-cultural, international problem.

United for Freedom

Freedom Art Installation


 
The steel framed sculpture weighing approximately 40,000 pounds, rises high in its neighborhood and can be seen from Interstate I-85 where it appears to be part of the Atlanta skyline. The planning team of Passion combined forces with Big Vision Group LLC, to design the sculpture. (Admin) Big Vision employed two teams of engineers to tackle such design difficulties as the height of the sculpture, lighting, dressing the “skin” of the hand as the students gave towards various charities, the original location at the International Plaza outside of the Georgia World Conference Center where the sculpture would be installed above a parking garage, the two month time frame in which they had to design, build and install the structure, and permitting approval from the city of Atlanta. Both the volunteer teams from Passion and the employed team at Big Vision joined forces to accomplish the dangerous and time-critical task of installing the sculpture over the course of two days during which they experienced weather dropping down to a low of 17 degrees and winds that were higher than they had been in Atlanta in 100 years. (Tesh) The hand is covered in various materials such as cotton clothing, Christmas decorations, children’s toys, bamboo, coffee, and shoes, many of which are on the Department of Labor’s list of top items manufactured or produced by forced labor and child labor. Red fabric stretched over several sections representing the women and children forced to work in the sex industry.

Black and white images of the faces of those who have been rescued from slavery spoke a silent but somber message to anyone that paused to view them. Printed banners crying out “slavery still exists” and “indifference is not an option” wrap around the fingers and forearm of the installation. At the base of the hand, three walls bear graffiti-style messages of hope and awareness while the fourth presents printed information on slavery, slave made goods and the art installation. Phrases such as “restore,” “broken,” “abused,” “27 million,” “do something now,” and “together we are a force for good,” in brightly painted strokes challenge the community and even out-of-state visitors to take part in the modern abolitionist movement. (72daysforfreedom.com)

An article written by Steve Almasy for CNN quotes Bryson Vogeltanz, the chief steward of Do Something Now, a fundraising arm of the Passion Conferences. Vogeltanz, who was interviewed during the days of Passion 2012 says of the art, “Is it a hand of worship? Yes. Is it a hand of justice? Yes. Is it a [helping] hand from this generation? Yes. It is all those things. We believe in these students so much and we felt like this issue was something they could rally around. Not just for these four days. We believe they will not only leverage these four days, but … their lives.” (Almasy)

Having followed the story of the Freedom Art Installation since its debut in January, I had already viewed many photographs of what I drove two hours to see. Even so, I was unprepared for the impact the hand would have on me. Viewing the hand up close allowed me to distinguish the many pieces of clothing, wood and other materials that had been signed by the students with their own hands. The individuality of their handwritten messages combined together in a powerful and overwhelming tidal wave of determination and hope against the injustice of slavery. Many wrote out Bible verses of encouragement to the victims. Others wrote inspirational cries of unity and challenge such as “we fight for freedom” and “there is no price for freedom.” As I was looking up into the sky and straining to take it all in, a woman that had also stopped to view the sculpture spoke to me of how it had impacted the neighborhood. She commented on her amazement in watching the sculpture being assembled and how moved she was by seeing the many people who stopped to view the installation in the midst of their daily commutes. She spoke of how she had little knowledge of the issue of modern day slavery until she took the time to take a closer look at the sculpture for herself. It is her hope as well as mine that the message of the Freedom Art Installation spreads far and wide to bring awareness to those who are ignorant of the abuses happening all around them and to bring hope and freedom to those who are enslaved.

Sources

Almasy, Steve. “College Kids Vow to End Slavery.” The CNN Freedom Project (5 January2012). http://thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com/2012/01/05/college-kids-vow-to-end-slavery/.

www.72daysforfreedom.com. 27 February 2012. Passion Conference of Choice Ministries, Inc. Web. April 2012.

www.268generation.com. The Official Website of Passion Conferences. Web. May 2012.

Admin, “Passion 2012 – ‘Do Something Now’ Hand Sculpture.” Big Vision Blog, Big Vision LLC, 10 January 2012. Web. 8 May 2012. http://www.bvgroupllc.com/blog/?p=262#comment-1230.

Tesh, Sam of Big Vision Group LLC. Personal phone conversation. 8 May 2012.

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Donya Dunlap
Donya wears a number of hats, including working as an administrative assistant at her local church, freelancing through City Girl Graphics, blogging, and writing. She dreams of one day spending her time focused on communicating God’s love to women through teaching Bible studies, speaking at women’s conferences, and writing books. Her first book, Forgetting the Fairy Tale, is scheduled for publication in the Fall/Winter of 2012. Check out her blog at donyadunlap.com.