Forced Labour in Open View and the Contradictions of Trump's Anti-Immigration

By: Alyssa Nedrow

When the term “human trafficking” is used many people automatically think about sex trafficking. However, Velma Veloria, a former Representative of Washington State, expresses that as she has found in her community it is often so much more than just sex; the issue also has a lot to do with labor.

Veloria’s passion for anti-trafficking work began in 1995 when three Filipina women were murdered in the King County Courthouse.  Suzanna Remerata Blackwell, her unborn child, and her two friends, Phoebe Dizon and Victoria Laureata, were waiting for Blackwell to plea for divorce. That is when Blackwell’s husband came into the courthouse and shot her in the stomach, killing Blackwell and their unborn child, and then turned and shot Blackwell’s two friends. Blackwell was brought into the United States from the Philippines as a mail-order bride.

At the time of the murders, Veloria was the first Asian American and first Filipina American elected into the Washington State legislature. She was representative of the 11th District, which has a large Filipino population, and was chair of the Community, Trade and Economic Development Committee. As the only Filipina American in the state legislature she struggled with how she can help ease the pain her own community was feeling as a result to those murders. At first, she wanted to create legislation that would require the mail-order bride industry be regulated and pay taxes in order to hold the industry more accountable. However, people were fearful that if the industry was to be regulated many of the victims, a majority if which are women, would be even more afraid to report acts of violence against them.

In 1999 another Filipina mail-order bride was found to have been brought into the states by her bigamist husband and forced to be a maid and domestic helper to his first wife. At the same time, the body of Anastasia King originally from Kyrgyzstan, was found near the home she shared with her husband. King was also brought into Washington state as a mail-order bride. A trend was beginning to emerge, and the community recognized the issue extended beyond the Filipino community; this was no longer just a problem of domestic violence.

“We looked at the issue regarding women migrating here to Washington State in order to marry someone. What was forcing people to leave their countries and what was pulling them to come to a country like the United States?”, said Veloria. 

After researching the mail-order bride industry Veloria found that this was another form of human trafficking, known as “bride trafficking.”

Veloria exclaims that, “In the process of trying to understand the push and pull factors of the issue we began to understand that it all fit into the definition of force, fraud and coercion. People are forced out of their county and are brought to the United States all because they are ‘promised’ to get a job here. So, many are coerced to come here in hopes to better their lives and for a lot of people once they arrive they have no support system and must rely on their traffickers, so they just do whatever they are told”.

Veloria began to put legislation together to criminalize human trafficking on the state level, but she also acknowledged that there was a lack of education on the topic and that she would need to raise public awareness. In 2003, the Washington State legislature unanimously passed H.B. 1175, making the recruitment, harbor, transportation or obtaining people for services using force, fraud or coercion a serious federal offence. The bill also offered new protections to mail-order brides. Although the federal government already had laws governing trafficking crimes, Washington State was the first in the nation to criminalize human trafficking on the state level.

Fast forward to 2006, the law has been in place for three years and yet no one has yet been tried under the law. However, out in plain sight, a woman is working under forced labor in Bellingham, WA, a small city roughly 90 miles north of Seattle. Bellingham was the first place Grace Castillo (name has been changed for security reasons) had been in the United States as she was brought there from the Philippines by her “employer’s” sister.

“All I thought was I was going to work for them being a nanny, but it was not, that is not what happened. I did everything for the family,” stated Castillo.

But being from the Philippines Castillo did not know that this was exploitation and not knowing anyone aside from the family she was forced to continue working for them.

Castillo worked for the family seven days a week, was not allowed to go anywhere by herself, and was always with the family. Castillo explained that while the parents were at work she would look after their kids but that the grandmother was also always around, and that she was extra horrible to her.

“They always cursing at me like I’m a bad person, that I’m stealing stuff from them and she shout at me every time because I’m always with her. And when I would send a package to the Philippines they always look at my stuff before I put it in the bag,” explained Castillo.

This abuse carried on for three years, all the while Castillo was only making a salary of $200/month, which seems like a lot of money for someone from the Philippines. As explained by Veloria, “People are enticed to come to the United States because of a good job that pays U.S. Dollars. I believe $1 USD is equal to 45 Pesos in the Philippines”. So, in Castillo’s case she felt like she was making quite a lot of money.

However, after three years Castillo simply could not take it anymore.

“I just wanted to go home. They didn’t know I was trying to leave, I just told them I was going to go out. But that time I just wanted to ask for help. But you know Bellingham is not like Seattle, I didn’t have friends. I just hoped, I just wanted to go home. So, that’s why I left and went to Seattle,” Castillo said as she started to choke up.

“Sorry I just, I don’t want to remember those things. It’s been six, seven years since I moved here but… every time I share this story, I don’t really want to talk about it, but I know it’s important to share. Even though it’s done it is still there.”

Castillo made it to Seattle and was able to get help. She was introduced to Veloria and other members of the Filipino community that are constantly working on anti-trafficking measures. Someone from the Filipino community advised her the best thing to do was to turn herself in and call an immigration officer. She was then detained for six weeks at the Tacoma Detention Center while paperwork was being filed and her case was beginning to be investigated. During the investigation it was found that she was a victim of human trafficking. When Castillo was told she was a victim of human trafficking she said she had no idea that was what was happening. That’s why she had stayed with the family for so long because she did not realize that what they were doing was illegal. However, even with these findings her case was difficult to prove. At the time there was no definition of forced labor in the legislation, so it took two years until it was all finally over, and she was able to apply for a green card.

Thinking back on her experiences Castillo gets extremely emotional,

“I’ve been here for ten years and I couldn’t see my family. Even now my case is done, and I’m still scared to go home. It’s really impacted me, you know? My life is going on but that’s not going to change what has happened to me here”.

“Even though it’s over it’s still fresh. I want to go home but I don’t feel like I’m safe if I go home. Especially because my trafficker, they still live in the Philippines. Someone one time approached the area of my town to tell them what I did to them, like I did something wrong with them because I charged them of trafficking. They said that I did this to them, that they didn’t bring me to the U.S. The people back there, they don’t know what’s going on even if I try to explain. That’s why it’s hard because when I think about going home I think, ‘never mind, I’m just going to stay here,’” she said.

Castillo believes that it is important for her to speak up and share her story because she recognizes that not many people know that this issue of labor trafficking is happening every day and everywhere. “I still want to speak up, even though it’s hard for me to hold my emotions. But I can tell my story and what’s happened to me so that people know this is wrong. People who may be in the same situation and did not even know it. When I got out of there I didn’t know where to go but I just had the urge. So when I did that I found out that there is a problem and that people can help you. Don’t be afraid, be smart, be strong and speak up,” she exclaimed.

In 2015-2016, Veloria worked with Senator Hasegawa to on legislation that would expand on how Washington State legally understands human trafficking in terms of enforcement. SB 5342 passed during the 2016 Legislative Session. In particular the bill expanded the definition of human trafficking and included the words “forced labor”, which has been found to account for the largest portion of human trafficking. This added definition will hopefully aid in preventing further cases of labor trafficking falling through the gaps.

Although, Castillo thankfully made it away from the family that was exploiting her and eventually got the help she needed, she was still being used by this family for three years in open view.

Unfortunately, Castillo's story is not one of a kind, rather she is one of many. Research shows that human trafficking is becoming the fastest growing criminal industry in the world.  According to a report released from the International Labor Organization (ILO) in September of 2017 an estimated 24.9 million people were victims of human trafficking worldwide. Out of this number, 16 million (64 percent) were exploited into forced labor and of those 16 million, 3.8 million (24 percent) were forced to work as domestic workers. Further, of the estimated 16 million victims of labor trafficking only 1,038 cases were prosecuted globally. These statistics are shocking, it seems absurd that 24 percent of victims of forced labor are coerced into domestic work. This is work that often takes place in direct, open view.  Why do so many people stay silent surrounding this issue?

In the case of Castillo, how is it that people in the community, did not recognize the family had someone, who was clearly not from there, working for them constantly and was only ever seen outside of the house with the family? How did this not raise a red flag to people who knew the family or interacted with them on a regular basis?

For some of these questions, there may be no logical answers. But to start, the human trafficking industry generates an extreme amount of money. According to a 2017 report by ILO, human trafficking earns profits of roughly $150 billion a year for traffickers. In terms of labor trafficking, forced labor saves people and corporations money. The ILO report states that $8 billion is saved annually by private households that employ domestic workers under conditions of forced labor. Castillo’s “employer” knew full well how she got to the United States and why her labor was so cheap.

There is a huge demand for the human trafficking industry because without the demand from the perpetrators, suppliers would not have the market. This issue can no longer be one that is framed as if people are just blissfully unaware. These crimes are taking place in open sight. However, people remain silent and further exploit people because the wealthy have the power and status to get what they want without having to be held accountable to pay the full price.

Further, what does this mean as we continue into era of globalization and under President Trump’s “America First” agenda?

On 9th of February 2017 President Trump issued the “Presidential Executive Order on Enforcing Federal Law with Respect to Transnational Criminal Organizations and Preventing International Trafficking.” As a part of his “America First” agenda, which includes his aggressive immigration enforcement and the refugee ban, President Trump’s executive order on human trafficking states that, “transnational criminal organizations and subsidiary organizations, including transnational drug cartels, have spread throughout the Nation, threatening the safety of the United States and its citizens”.  

It is important to acknowledge that there are obvious contradictions of Trump’s “America First” agenda, particularly in regard to his aggressive immigration stance. In a report released in 2017 by American Progress, it is found that “immigrants are less likely to commit crimes and be incarcerated than the U.S.-born population”.

Although the executive order seems like President Trump is taking a serious stance on human trafficking it must be analyzed in a critical manner. The Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST) explains that, “traffickers… use immigration status as a tool of coercion to exploit immigrant communities, both documented and undocumented.”

The executive order, therefore, facilitates rather than prevents human trafficking of vulnerable people in the U.S. and around the world.  In regard to his aggressive immigration enforcement, victims of human trafficking may feel even more afraid to report abuse. Under the Trump presidency, any suspected undocumented people encountered are fair game for deportation, including those that are victims of trafficking. A report released by the National Domestic Workers Alliance and Institute for Policy Studies addresses that the greater the threat of deportation, the more control a trafficker has over their victims. The fear of coming forward could further hurt the efforts of anti-trafficking in that it has the opportunity to increase the number of people that could be trafficked.

President Trump and his supporters continue to shout the, “build a wall” narrative, immigrants are in “gangs, drug dealers, rapists and a threat to our society”. All the while, they are actively contributing to the exploitation of people for labor so that they can get what they want at a cheap price.

The U.S. economy is being fueled by the illegal activity that is bringing people in for cheap labor. A report by the Economic Policy Institute shows that, “unauthorized immigrants account for about 3.7 of the total U.S. population and about 5.2 percent of the labor force”. It is necessary to call out these contradictions when discussing the policies of anti-trafficking, immigration, trade, labor rights and human rights. If they continue to go unaddressed people will continue to be coerced into forced labor and exploited in open view. 

In an article about a human trafficking conference Dr. Sutupa Basu, Director of the University of Washington Women’s Center, addressed,

“Globalization has made international borders increasingly porous, and the scale of human trafficking has proliferated. Even though trafficking is now recognized as a human rights issue, other dimensions of the trade – such as public health, labor rights, immigration law and criminal justice – are still not given enough attention”.

 

 

Photographs of 6,000 Miles // part ii

The second half of our travels were spent driving through parts of the United States that made me feel like I was in the world of a science fiction novel. The colors of the rocks, dirt, and water across the midwest were intense and mesmerizing. Many times I was left breathless and wishing I had more time to explore these natural wonderlands. Even in the various places I had been before, I was still overcome with awe to witness each golden hour and sunset creating art across the landscapes.

Spending a week in Ohio back in my childhood home made me appreciate the comfort and love my parents had made for me there. I spent my last morning in our country home walking through the house and yard feeling so bittersweet to be leaving once again. Knowing my parent's plans and desire to move it felt odd that it could be my last time in that home I grew up in, bringing about a strange mix of nostalgia and inspiration to continue moving forward. 

I am so excited (and a bit nervous) to begin my Masters and I plan to keep this blog updated with my travels, stories and work from my postgraduate year abroad. For now please enjoy the photos below from across the midwest including: Zion National Park; Salt Lake City; Yellowstone National Park; Mount Rushmore; Crazy Horse; The Badlands National Park; Chardon, Ohio and New York City. To enlarge a specific photo simply click on the image and from there you can continue to scroll through the entire gallery. 

Photographs of 6,000 Miles // part i

This summer has been another season of big moves and making memories. After having lived in Seattle for the last two years it has come time for me to move once again, this time across the Atlantic Ocean to the United Kingdom. This fall I will be starting my Masters of Arts in Media, Campaigning and Social Change at the University of Westminster. Before diving into an intense year of studying I had the opportunity to drive across the United States of America with my favorite person and witness the beauty this country still holds. 

During this epic road trip we drove from Washington State down the Pacific Coast to Los Angeles, through the Mojave desert to the Grand Canyon, then up to Yellowstone National Park and back across the open spaces of the midwest to Ohio. In three weeks we drove an approximate 6,000 miles through fifteen states, visited seven cities and eight national parks. I was amazed by the ever changing geology, textures and range of colors that were both human made and found in nature. Often times I found myself in moments of awe while visiting places that felt not of this world. It's no wonder why artists have often been inspired by the landscapes of the west and why it's important to take care of and conserve these national lands. 

This road trip was the perfect way to say goodbye to the United States before I begin my MA in London. Below are photos from Mount Rainier National Park, WA to Grand Canyon National Park, AZ including; Highway 101, Redwood National Park, San Francisco, Yosemite National Park, Venice Beach, and the Mojave Desert. To enlarge a specific photo simply click on the image and from there you can continue to scroll through the entire gallery. 

part iv: faces of happyland

Happyland is a volunteer run school in the Prey Sandek Village about 50 miles south of Phnom Penh. The school offers english classes and a safe place to for the children of this rural region to come and play. For a portion of my travels I had the opportunity to spend time living and volunteering at Happyland, teaching english and getting the chance to step outside of the touristy, backpacker filled areas and really appreciate the culture of Cambodia for all it has to offer. 

It was so special for me to spend part of my travels at Happyland. A place where the kids come as they please and can just escape. While spending time here it was hard to ignore that many children come from families where domestic violence and alcoholism are common, when beer costs less than food it's unfortunately not a surprise. Not to mention that many of these families are still deeply affected by the genocide, almost everyone knows someone who was close to them killed during the Khmer Rouge regime led by Pol Pot. An estimated 1.7 million Cambodians were murdered by the Khmer Rouge. After so much horror and acts of evil it has been hard for Cambodia to rebuild their country and re-claim it's once progressive identity. There is still so much devastation and corruption. Many women and children are victims of sex trafficking; KTVs: karaoke clubs that are fronts for brothels, can easily be found, sometimes two or three within a short distance of one another, all with their bright pink and red lights outside to welcome customers in.  The government and police are still very corrupt and if one has enough money they can easily be paid off. The darkness cannot be easily ignored. 

However, the people of Cambodia are working diligently rebuild their country with hope, grace and peace. Happyland is a place that shows such hope. This is a place where kids can come be with friends, escape for a moment whatever is troubling them, regain and reveal in their innocence all while being offered education; something that had once been completely stripped from the country during the Khmer Rouge. Still to this day acess to education can be limited. Happyland offers the kids living in the Prey Sandek region the opportunity to come study English at no cost. 

While at Happyland the kids are truly happy and excited by the simplest things, like being brought to the nearby high school to play a game of basketball on the court. They are also excited to share with you parts of their life; sharing their food, introducing you to new fruits and really share with you things you may otherwise not have the opportunity to experience had you just stayed in the tourist hub. A couple of the students invited me to get up with them at 3:30am and join them in going to the nearby Buddhist pagoda to celebrate Pchum Ben, a 15-day religious holiday where Cambodians honor their deceased ancestors and bring them an offering of food. I decided to leave my camera at home the morning I went to the pagoda, it was more important for me to fully immerse myself and be present, taking the opportunity to learn and experience something new. 

The students of Happyland are so eager and willing to teach their culture to those that come to teach them. It is truly a place of learning for all and a place where happiness is abundant. During my time spent there I felt so welcome and home, happy to appreciate life and the willingness to learn what we can all teach eachother. I hope one day to return to Happyland and have the opportunity to spend much more time there with the wonderful community, living and growing with eachother. 

part iii: soaking in the sacred wisdom of centuries past

After spending a few days in the busyness of Bangkok I was so excited to move on to the second half of my trip and spend time exploring all the beauty Cambodia has to offer. It only seemed appropriate my first stop be in Siem Reap and explore the sacred Temples of Angkor. Wandering the Angkorian ruins, built throughout the 9th to 15th century, I was overcome by moments of peace, beauty and awe, as well as, moments of anxiety.

At times it was hard to be in a place that is so sacred and be surrounded by loud tourists with their ridiculous selfie-sticks. Tourists have begun to overrun the place; buses full of Chinese tourists come in daily and fill the most iconic temples, with very little respect for the land the temples are on or the other people around them. Crowds of people yelling and pushing in front of others to get a photo to later post on social media. It was in these moments of chaos that it was hard to fully appreciate where I was. It made me sad to think that we have gotten so far away from being able to simply appreciate where we are in the moment to get that "perfect photo" to post on instagram in order to receive as many likes as possible. There were many times I put my camera away just to allow myself to fully be in the present and take in the wonders of these gorgeous and intricate temples that were once the center of the Khmer Kingdom and the sacred sites of hindu and buddhist art and architecture. 

It was in the moments when I stepped away from the crowds and found a secluded spot to sit I was able to take it all in, amazed by the different carvings in the stones, the symmetry and construction of the buildings that are surrounded by the jungle. I can never fully describe how awe-inspiring it was to walk through so much history and touch stones that hold traditions and hope of peace. Angkor allowed for moments of deep introspection and to appreciate all the beauty the world can offer when we allow ourselves to just be. 

part ii: always in motion // finding moments of quiet

Life doesn't slow down when traveling; not even when you think you are just relaxing on the beautiful white sand beaches of Thailand. It felt like I was just leaving Chiang Mai to go to the islands, the next thing I knew I was in Cambodia and realized I hadn't posted any of my recent travels. Below are selects from the last three weeks in Thailand. To watching the beautiful sunsets from the beach in Koh Tao, returning to the chaos of Bangkok, a city that is always in motion,  traveling outside the city to Ayutthya and walking thru the ruins of the former Kingdom of Siam. It's always nice to find moments of quiet even in the midst of all the busyness. Thailand has been good for me but I am glad to have left the chaos of Bangkok and take a minute to slow down in Siem Reap, walking through the sacred grounds of Angkor Wat. More pictures to come soon. 

part i: moments of healing & gentleness

There has been a stillness during my time of travel; the anxieties of being in suspense are beginning to be washed away. Kismet moments and feelings of gentleness have been restored walking through the old cities, passing and entering temples. As I enter these places and take in my surroundings I feel a healing spirit brush pass my face, offering a cool breeze from the humidity and heat. Thailand has provided a newfound softness in my heart and I am constantly moved by the simplicity and privilege to live in the midst of these awe-inspiring moments that heal. 

Stillness and The Jungle

The greenbelt under I-5, known to many as the Jungle, has been receiving widespread attention by the media and city officials after the January shooting that killed two people and injured others who call the Jungle their home. On Friday, March 11th, The Women's Housing, Equality and Enhancement League (WHEEL), held a cleansing ritual at the location this senseless act of gun violence took place. The ritual honored and remembered James Quoc Tran and Jeannie L. Zapata who were murdered on Tuesday, January 26th, 2016 and emphasized the importance of not letting people who die homeless go unidentified. 

Most of the people who call the Jungle their home were not present during the cleansing ritual, fearful of the media's presence and negative light the media has portrayed on the Jungle, all of which is a reflection of much larger systemic issues that further dehumanize people experiencing homelessness.  However, two women who live in the Jungle, Michelle and Kyra, participated and were vulnerable enough to be present during the ceremony. Their courageous presence left me feeling humbled and grateful.

Kyra expressed that most of the people living outside are just normal people who have hit hard times. Kyra herself lost her job and was no longer able to pay rent, forcing her to seek shelter living in the Jungle. She explained that she was mortified and terrified but the people living in the Jungle took her in with no questions asked and treated her like family. 

Society has constantly pushed the homeless into the margins in an attempt to silence them and ignore the real issues at hand. It is believed that about 400 people are living underneath the I-5 greenbelt for various reasons, including drug addiction, mental illness, etc., but the overlying issue is the lack of resources and affordable housing in this rapidly-growing city. 

Today, during our staff meeting, my co-worker Kaitlin read us a meditation based on a painting called Stillness and I could not help but think of the two courageous women who shared part of their story with us on Friday. Mary Jo Leddy meditates on Stillness saying,

       The two women pause and gather their lives up in the single moment. They do not
       look at each other. They close their eyes and look within, behind, and ahead. They
       stand still, between all that has been and all that shall be. This is the rarest moment
       in the rush that picks a life up and pushes it forward... They gather up their lives, 
       gather up who they have become and prepare to walk into the unknown. Will they
       find a place to land? Will they be given wings?

It is a coincidence that Leddy meditates on two women who are walking into the unknown, just as Michelle and Kyra do everyday. Each new day these women must live the questions: "will they find a place to land? Will they be given wings?" Each day presents new challenges for those experiencing homelessness who hope to one day to find a safe place to land. 

As Leddy's meditation continues she describes that, before a moment of stillness, the women "carried the weight of words and regulations, the crush of cruelty and barking orders that hounded them from place to place." It is easy to see the comparison between the two women in the meditation and the experiences life has thrown at Michelle and Kyra. Leddy continues, 

        Life slipped through their fingers as they tried to hang on, to hold on. They are
        weary from moving without ever really arriving. No one has ever asked them to
        stay. Home is never, never land. These are women forever on the move. The
        powers tell them: Move along, pull up your life and just keep going. Do not stop. 
        Not here and not now. These two women have kept moving to keep alive... The
        women know the pieces of their lives are being gathered up. They are still here. 
        They are still ready to walk toward the borders that nations have constructed
        between the insiders and outsiders.

Michelle and Kyra are still here and although society has pushed them as outsiders I have been given the opportunity to see them as insiders. I was briefly welcomed into their home and am forever grateful to have heard a part of their story. They have further enlightened my passion to work against the injustices of homelessness and to not turn away from the countless people I pass living on the streets. They all have a voice and story that deserves to be heard. 

You look out at the view from the Jungle and can see Safeco Field, a stadium that cost $517.6 million to build and home of the Seattle Mariners, a team valued at $1,100 million. This is just a small glimpse of the wealth in this city and yet there are an estimated 4,505 people sleeping outside throughout Seattle/ King County because the cost of living is too high and not enough affordable housing is available to meet the demands. Enough is enough; housing is a human right and all deserve a safe place to sleep. 

the last six months

"Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever... It remembers little things long after you have forgotten everything." - Aaron Siskind

I have been staring at this quote that sits on a post-it note stuck to my desktop at work realizing I have majorly slacked at sharing everyday photos after initially moving to Seattle.  I have finally put together an edit of city exploration, advocacy, and friendships formed these last six months. These are some of those moments of feeling, of touching, of loving that I have captured during this first year of post grad life and the growing pains of the new life I am creating for myself. 

PNWander

Today I finally made it to the mountains I am usually admiring from the city. Lake Twentytwo, a 5.4mile hike with a 1350ft elevation gain, led me through part of the North Cascades. The trail climbs through mountain rainforest, rocky, damp terrain and the most snow I have seen this winter. The hike up the mountain leads to Lake Twentytwo, the center of an alpine wetland in the northern shoulder of Mount Pilchuck.

As I made my way through the stone steps, moss, hemlocks and red cedars I took in a deep breath of the abundant life surrounding me. A much needed escape from the busyness of the city and a few hours to meditate with the earth. I cannot wait to continue to explore these mountains that regularly give me intense moments of awe and allow me to connect with the gratefulness of life. 

People's Climate March: Our Lives, Our Work, Our Future

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015 the People's Climate Movement once again marched and held over 109 events across the nation demanding action for global climate justice. After having been 1 of the 4,000 people who marched in New York City last year, I was excited to march and take action in my new home of Seattle. 

Over a hundred people took the streets of downtown Seattle to demand for climate justice with an emphasis on solidarity among those most affected by climate change. The march ended at Occidental Park where we heard from multiple speakers, including Naomi Klein award winning journalist and author of This Changes Everything Capitalism vs. The Climate.  Climate change is more than just an environmental problem; rather it is primarily a social, political, and economic problem that deeply affects people of color, low income communities, and the global south. It was great to get involved and actually feel like I belong in my new community. 

~some cliche title about moving west~

I sit here in my apartment, which is in the upstairs of a church, trying to pin point how I feel. Exactly a month ago I packed my life into my mom's Kia Soul and moved across the country. This is something I have been waiting for since I got the internship back in April. Most days it doesn't feel real, as if, I'll just be here for a few weeks and then return to life in Ohio. But, that's not the case. I official live in Seattle, Washington, the great Pacific North West. 

The six day drive was one I cannot even articulate into words. Every passing view was beautiful, different and vast (I can only hope that the edit of photographs below give it justice). It is something I am so honored to have experienced with my mom and will cherish forever. My advice for any "20 something" who has just graduated, go west! I'll be the first to tell you that it is super scary and the anxiety leading up to this new adventure was the most I have ever experienced. With that said, though, pack up and leave your comfortable life behind! Hell, most days I feel completely alone in this new city. But, it has made me push myself harder than ever before. When I look at the bigger picture, I am so proud of myself. I am brave and doing what most people dream of after graduating. 

Anyways, enough rambling, I hope you enjoy a glimpse into my big adventure and new life. Everyone back in Ohio, I miss you more than you know and send all my love. 

 Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

 The Badlands, South Dakota

The Badlands, South Dakota

 Yellow Stone National Park

Yellow Stone National Park

 Seattle, Washington

Seattle, Washington

Last Photography Class as an Undergrad

For my last photography and visual communications class as an undergrad at Ohio University I took a small systems lighting and portraiture class. For all our assignments we were required to use artificial light to light our subjects. It gave me a chance to step outside of photojournalism and control my subjects and the setting while learning to use my speedlight flash. Thank you to all my subjects for being so patient with me as I figured out how to properly use my multiple flashes and light the scene. I also cannot thank the professors in the School of Visual Communications enough for teaching me all they possibly could to help shape my future as a photojournalist. It's exciting (and scary) to see what the future holds.