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THE ART FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE PROJECT
By Angela Torregoza
Finishing law school in 2012 was, in so many ways, a huge victory and emancipation. After overcoming the numerous obstacles that come with a brush with the criminal justice system, I felt hugely empowered and inspired to help others with similar experiences.
I came from a family of modest means from the Philippines. Lured by the greener pastures of the United States, my mother, the pioneer, braved the journey to the new world in search for The American Dream. My dad soon followed and then us three children – my twin, Paula and our youngest, Juan. My sister soon went to the Air Force to get some money to go to college. My brother was in school and focusing on honing his music.
Recovery Diaspora by @swoonhq. Photo by @venusinorbit. This mural depicts the tremendous and inspiring way that the community came together to recover from Hurricane Sandy. Today, over 9 million people in Central and Southern Philippines experience similar devastation with Typhoon Haiyan. Please go to www.nafconusa.org to donate. Please send your love and positive thoughts to the victims and their families. Maraming salamat!
Bowery Mural, East Houston and Bowery, NoHo, Downtown Manhattan, NYC.
After living in NYC for several years, I reached a point in my life where I felt that I had to make a change and do something more worthwhile. It was around this time that I found the amazing Filipino dance and theatre group, Kinding Sindaw, where I rediscovered my Filipino heritage. Almost contemporaneously, I made the decision to go back to school. I saw how my mother found such joy and satisfaction in teaching, so with her urging, I studied to become a teacher.
I first started part-time and eventually went to school full-time. At some point, my savings had run out and to make ends meet, I went to work at a dungeon. A former hotel co-worker had answered the phones at a dungeon and told me that it was a good way to make a living, while empowering you as a woman. I learned a lot of things that I would never have known without that experience. Among the many things I learned, one reverberated – despite the huge population of NYC and the constant, close proximity of residents with each other, people here are lonely and hungry for some human connection – a fact that holds true even in the most densely populated areas of the world. I now realize how helpful this knowledge is in my personal and social media interactions today.
#StreetCandy No. 4 #LoveCam, Sweet piece by@curtiskulig. Photo by @venusinorbit. All over the world pimps, a subset of traffickers, have learned that the best way to recruit vulnerable women and girls into prostitution is through love and romance. Part of organized rings that train young men in time-honored tactics of pimping, these men prey upon girls and young women from poor backgrounds who lack supportive fathers and survived abuse. Already traumatized, these girls and women are often susceptible to revictimization. The midis operandi of intimate-partner traffickers is usually a mixture of rewards and punishment - gifts and protestations of love followed by verbal slurs and beatings. They reinforce their victims' sense of exclusion from society by remaking their identities, often giving them new names and provocative attire and sometimes branding them with tattoos to demonstrate their status as chattel. Isolated from their families and communities, subjected to psychological and physical coercion by men they love and depend on, victims are gradually stripped off their sense and seasoned into new identities. Frequently, as a result of this brutal and dehumanizing treatment, victims view their tormentors as their protectors. Once called Stockholm Syndrome, "traumatic bonding" is the name mental health professionals use to describe this psychological enslavement and torture not uncommon in cases of custom of intimate-partner trafficking
Spring St., Little Italy, Lower Manhattan, NYC.
I was close to the end of my time at the dungeon, about to graduate college, just after the Spitzer scandal, when the dungeon was raided and five other women and I were arrested for prostitution. Since almost all cases brought in criminal court rarely go to trial, we were advised to plead guilty to a violation charge.
#StreetCandy No. 15 #Trapped. Art by @ikonikfigure. Photo by @venusinorbit. Broadway, Astoria, Queens, NYC. The #BrokenWindowsTheory posits that maintaining and monitoring urban environments in a well-ordered condition may stop further vandalism and escalation into more serious crime. This theory introduced by social scientists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling in a 1982 article has been used as justification for the controversial use of #StopAndFrisk by the NYPD.
We were innocent of the charges. Fueled by this experience, I decided to go to law school not only to make sense of what happened by educating myself about the law, but also to possibly advocate for others whose rights have been infringed upon.
#StreetCandy No. 3 #BuffTheViolence Amazing piece by @icyandsot. Photo by @venusinorbit. According to the@humanrightswatch, hundreds of thousands of children under the age of 18 serve in government forces or armed rebel groups. Some are as young as eight years old. Once recruited, they may serve as porters or cooks, guards, messengers or spies. Many are pressed into combat, where they may be forced to the frontlines or sent into minefields ahead of older troops. Some have been used for suicide missions. Children are are sometimes forced to commit atrocities against their own family or neighbors, ensuring that the child is "stigmatized" and can never go back to the community.
Allen St., LES, Lower Manhattan, NYC.
I am now an attorney admitted to the NYS Bar. After a trip to Asia in 2012, I discovered Instagram and an online community of likeminded individuals – passionate about their causes and not fearful of expressing it through their art – and my interaction with my friends and followers, inspired the site, www.whoisvenusinorbit.com. This site became the vehicle for art for social justice, by featuring photography, articles and interviews about art and social justice, and debuting with an up-close and personal interview with Yusef Abdus Salaam.
Currently, I enjoy meeting likeminded individuals either in person or on social media. I love collaborating with other individuals and would love to hear from you. Please click here to contact me. Much thanks to Jonathan Slaff for this opportunity!
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