Stories of Dressember || Angela

Stories of Dressember || Angela

My mom's friend unrelentingly encouraged me to go to this talk at the Museum of Tolerance of Los Angeles, telling me I can get community service hours if I just sat through it. The talk was called, "In The Face of Tyranny, I Will Not Be Silent: 'Comfort Women' Survivors Speak." Being a senior in high school dealing with major senioritis, I thought to myself "I don't know why she's so adamant on my going to this, but I could benefit from getting those hours."

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Stories of Dressember || Danica

Stories of Dressember || Danica

I made this art piece in 2010 after a trip to Nicaragua. Going to Nicaragua was my first experience of real poverty, and I was astounded by poverty’s effect on the people who suffered the worst. I saw children who had ceased to dream, create, and imagine over time. And it made sense – why would these children set hopes on dreams that would never come true as far as they had seen?

But on this trip, I saw another astounding thing. Everywhere I went, even in the poorest villages, I saw a few astounding individuals who survived – even thrived – and set their eyes on their birthplaces, hoping that one day they would be able to return and help. In some miraculous manner, these individuals either retained their childlike ability to dream, or they were reignited by someone who stopped to believe in them until they believed in themselves.

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Stories of Dressember || Enyo

Stories of Dressember || Enyo

What does freedom mean to me? That is a question I have been asking myself for a long time. At one time, it simply looked like being free to do as I pleased. Freedom was something I expected to have. Sure, there were certain discriminatory forces which meant that as a young, black immigrant woman, I didn't have quite the same access to freedom as the "majority". But I was free enough. I had the freedom of choice - at least within the limits of the law - to do as I pleased. I had the freedom to receive an education. The freedom to live where I pleased. To eat what I wanted, wear what I wanted and freely practice my faith. I was free to vote and free to work.

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Stories of Dressember || Cayla

Stories of Dressember || Cayla

I remember when I first started to become aware that the world wasn’t as rosy-colored and full of magic as I once thought. I remember beginning to notice that some people lived with much, and others with little. I remember that I initially wanted to look away, thinking, why would I want to let such a painful reality taint my picture of the world?

But I looked; I looked and I read. Then I met a boy named Samuel and a child named Joy. Both of their mothers sold sex as a means of living. I wrestled with what that meant.

For me, college was a time of expanding my breadth of knowledge about the world and the perverseness it carried. I asked myself questions, like, “what is human trafficking?” I filled my time with documentaries, books, classes, and conversations to get to the bottom of these thoughts consuming my mind. I remember when I learned that the town I lived in was an actual hub for human traffickers, and that the street which housed my favorite Thai restaurant doubled as a traffic-way for sex trade operations. Who knew? I didn’t. I didn’t know that most of my clothing was made by people who were coerced into their job for various reasons, and had little to no chance of escape. I didn’t know that my iPhone, jeans, t-shirts, and chocolate were made by hands who didn’t have a choice in the matter. I didn’t know.

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