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Activism in the Arts: An Interdisciplinary Initiative for Human Trafficking Awareness and Action.

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posted on 10.02.2021, 02:55 by Elizabeth FisherElizabeth Fisher, Colleen FisherColleen Fisher

Research on music education suggests that incorporating principles of civic engagement and social justice into the music classroom offers numerous benefits for students and instructors alike (Bowman, 2007; Richerme, 2016; Wagoner, 2015). As Reimer (2018) conveys, “promoting human rights through music is a global effort, including school children, college students, professional musicians, social activists, and citizens engaged in and committed to social justice.” While the field of music education has seen a shift in attention during the past decade toward civic engagement and social justice,academic efforts often take the form of a one-time concert (e.g., a fundraiser for a particular cause), lacking meaningful connection between ensemble members and the social justice issue it aims to address. This disconnect results in a missed opportunity for educators, both in terms of raising students’ awareness of global social justice issues and in providing students with an opportunity to become civically engaged and take action around that issue.

This session will describe the creation, implementation, and outcomes of a social-justice focused initiative for undergraduate music students, created by music and social work academics, at a public university in the Midwestern U.S. The initiative aimed to: (a) educate music students about a specific social justice issue (in this case, human trafficking), (b) build a culture of activism among students, and (c) raise awareness of human trafficking among the general public. The year-long initiative included several group-based educational activities as well as ongoing activism challenges that encouraged students to take initiative to learn and engage in social action around human trafficking beyond the instructor provided classroom activities. The project culminated in a public event on human trafficking which included musical performances and an invited community speaker. A post-initiative survey assessed the impact of this project on music students’ knowledge, attitudes, engagement, and behaviors. The session will conclude with a discussion of the lessons learned from these survey results and implications for interdisciplinary partnerships as a strategy to strengthen global social justice initiatives in the arts.


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