I had the honor and privilege to partner with an amazing organization called 514 Revolution. The 514 comes from Ephesians 5:14 "Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you."
If you visit their website (http://514revolution.org) you will find that they are a strip club outreach organization serving as an interruption to human trafficking and sexual exploitation by bringing hope and empowerment to women working in the commercial sex industry.
I met Rebecca, the Executive director, at a friends birthday lunch and found out what she did in casual conversation. As she told me about the organization and what they are doing here in wilmington I got very excited and offered myself to help in anyway I could. She said they were actually working on this concept of developing the story of a stripper and how she ends up in that lifestyle through images. It seemed like the perfect fit. So we set dates and began dreaming of what this photo story would look like. We decided to present a girl growing up from age 5 until 35 and depict her at different ages with 5 images.
We then paired the images with a story which is in this case fictional but elements from the story are drawn from real life circumstances and stories they have heard from the women they have ministered to.
This is the story of Lucy
Lucy was born into a house of instability and distress. Abandoned, at the age of five, by her mother, who has chosen the needle over her own flesh and blood, Lucy is left with a father who provides anything but security. She is often left for days on end with neighbors or distant family while her father seeks out his next high. She has very few of her own possessions and sleeps wherever she can. She doesn’t understand the things that the men in the house force her to do. She only knows that it hurts, she doesn’t like it, and she is scared.
It’s only a matter of time before a very stern lady comes and takes her to live at a strangers house. She is told they will be her new family.
Lucy is now 10 years old and she has had 3 new families in the past couple years. She doesn’t like this new family. She is hungry all the time and they never pay her any attention, except for when Mr. Brian is drunk and comes into her room late at night. “Act like the big girls do”, he says. She hates him for the dirty way that he makes her feel. Her thoughts drift back to her mom and dad, “why don’t they love me? Why don’t they come looking for me?” She dreams of running away.
After a few more years and another family, Lucy does finally run away. She figures she is better off on her own. Hardened by abuse and neglect, she no longer possesses the innocence of a little girl. She knows she looks much older than sixteen years old. She sees the looks she gets when she walks down the street. There is one guy in particular, Marcus. He says he’s been seeing her around and think she is pretty. He takes her to Burger King so she doesn’t have to steal for something to eat. He also buys her beer and introduces her to weed. She likes the feeling of being high. It makes everything numb. Lucy thinks maybe she likes Marcus. He tells her he wants to for her to be his girl and he will take care of her. She can come stay at his place - his mom won’t care. “Finally, someone loves me.” She thinks.
And she continues to tell herself that, even after Marcus begins to hit her. He loves her, and she knows he does because he still takes her out to eat and he buys her clothes. No one else has ever done that for her. So when he tells her that he wants her to take pictures of herself to put on the Internet so they can make more money she obeys. She doesn’t want to lose him.
The transformation is gradual, she can’t tell you how long it took but Lucy is unrecognizable now. She is a hollow shell of a woman, who has been worn down by the countless johns that have used and abused her. Her worth has been reduced to $30 for 30 minutes or $50 for an hour. But hasn’t this been her destiny from the time she was a little girl? Marcus is long gone, but he has been replaced with another Daddy. Numbed by the needle, she hustles to meet her quota despite the life that is growing inside of her. It’s probably better to terminate it anyway. She has nothing to offer it.
The years have passed by in a blur. Lucy’s children are in middle school now and they live in the projects on the forgotten side of town. The streets are controlled by gang members. She can’t let her girls go outside because the danger of drive by shootings is very real. She works nights at the strip club to put food on the table. Her daughters think she is a cocktail waitress. She tries to protect them from the truth. She has to work the stage for every dollar she earns. A private lap dance or a customer who is to willing to pay to see her in the shower room helps pay for her daughter’s cheerleading uniform. She is exhausted and has at times wondered what it would be like to never wake up again. On Friday nights there are ladies that come to the club bearing gifts and talking of hope and encouragement. But how can they even begin to understand what her life has been. It’s hard to take them seriously. That is, until the day that they show up in that forgotten part of town and knock on her door offering Christmas gifts for her girls. Lucy thinks, maybe, just maybe, they are for real. Maybe they mean what they say and there is hope.
While Lucy’s story is fictional, her circumstances are based on actual encounters Five14 has had with women we have met through our outreach in the strip club.
These 5 images made up the presentation as they were individually lit as Lucy's story transitioned from each stage of her life in the narration.
The genius behind the design and work that went into the event came from the minds of Sabrina Buchanan and Ellen Anderson.
You can find Sabrina's work at Jct323.com
This is the video I made for 514 that was shown at the event
If you want to support 514 Revolution you can do so here:
You can also request a speaker from 514 speak at your event here: