Last Friday the newly formed student organization One Voice hosted Laleo, a benefit concert at Under the Couch. The concert’s purpose was to inform participants of the reality and horror of child sexual exploitation, especially in Atlanta. To emphasize the purpose of the concert, One Voice decided to name the event Laleo, a Greek word meaning “to speak.”
Several months ago, five second-year Tech students decided to create an organization dedicated to informing the public about sexual exploitation of children after hearing discussions about the atrocious acts. After hearing the facts from their pastor at Midtown Community Church, the group decided to act.
According to Innocence Atlanta, a nonprofit organization similar to One Voice, Atlanta ranks among the top cities in America for child sex trafficking.
“We feel like it’s an issue that’s completely hidden,” said Hannah Clement, a second-year Industrial Engineering major and one of the founders of One Voice. She also revealed the fact that of the four major hotspots of sex trafficking in Atlanta, the corner of North Avenue and Peachtree Street is the most striking location for Tech students, as it lies in the campus’ backyard.
Statistics show that approximately 200,000 children are sexually exploited each year. Every two minutes a child is sold as a sex slave. The most provocative fact remains that until 2001, the exploitation of children was punished by a $50 fine. While there may have been legal changes since then, the social understanding of the pandemic still remains minimal.
Molly Williams, a second-year STAC major and one of the founders, felt that Tech students could be involved in effecting change.
“It’s usually college kids who bring about political change…[since] Tech is in the heart of the city,” Williams said.
By bringing the topic to Under the Couch, One Voice spoke out to a wide audience through a common form of communication and entertainment: live music. Under the Couch is a student-run music venue for Tech students. Named for its location in the basement of the Couch Building, Under the Couch welcomes both on-campus and off-campus acts to perform, ranging from local artists to bands signed with major record labels. Last semester Under the Couch and the Musician’s Network presented the hit band Copeland to play at Yellow Jacket Park.
The venue proved to be a good location for One Voice’s event. Performers at Laleo included Jeff Box with Brad Shoemaker, Lauren Love, Molly Williams (one of the aforementioned founders) with Luke Batchelor, Josh Fletcher and Tyler Lyle. Ranging from piano and cello orchestration to folk guitar tunes, the unique combination of music was filled with variety and originality.
“I think we wanted an eclectic mix,” said Liz Schulzke, a second-year Mechanical Engineering major and one of the founders.
The organizers of the event commented that the selection of the artists was not as difficult as it might have seemed.
“They were all mutual friends that were…passionate about the event,” Clement said.
Though the broad range of styles was refreshing, the performers upheld a constant vibe that kept the audience aware of the reason behind the concert.
Like most concerts, the performers were situated on a stage with a stream of effect lights illuminating their perch. Warm and cozy, the atmosphere, combined with the relaxed music, instilled the audience with the feeling that people were listening—important for the cause of the event—to the injustice neighboring Tech’s campus.
Treated to free coffee from Starbucks, the audience members were free to donate to One Voice’s cause of eliminating the sexual exploitation of children. However, One Voice’s objectives remained clear.
“The whole purpose of our group is awareness,” said Shelley Eckert, a second-year Biomedical Engineering major and one of the founders.
“The only way to combat this issue is to have people know about it,” Clement said.
Beth West, second-year Environmental Engineering major and also one of the founders, expressed her thoughts on the involvement of Tech students in the group’s cause.
“It’s important that [they] be involved in fixing the city…once they recognize it’s a problem, [most] people have been very receptive,” West said.
Laleo was also well-received by the audience, who walked away from the event with more than a good listen.
“It’s something I didn’t realize was such a pressing issue in Atlanta,” said Meaghan McElroy, a first-year Industrial Engineering major.
The event not only revealed the horror in the city’s streets, it emphasized the power of music made for a purpose.
As One Voice strives to make its cause heard, the organization is reaching out to Tech students and faculty alike in the hope of bringing to light the atrocities occurring seconds away from campus.
To learn more about the realities of adolescent sexual exploitation, visit www.innocenceatlanta.org and look out for future updates and events from One Voice.