Red sand fills the cracks, representing human trafficking victims


By Olivia Wales

Expecting a typical Thursday morning walk to class, TCU students were surprised by a new color in the sidewalk cracks.

An estimated 40.1 million people live in contemporary slavery, according to the Global Slavery Index. TCU students involved with International Justice Mission (IJM), a student organization committed to fighting human trafficking, are joining a national movement to advocate for victims who fall through the cracks.

The Red Sand Project  is an artistic statement utilized across the world to demand the attention of individuals to human trafficking.  

Last night, around 40 IJM students poured the red sand in the cracks of the sidewalks from Frog Fountain to the Mary Couts Burnett Library for two hours, according to Jeanne Marie King, IJM vice president of advocacy and fundraising.

Red sand outside the Mary Couts Burnett Library. Photo by Olivia Wales.

“It was really cool to see so many people coming together to make today impactful,” King said. 

The unexpected dash of red in the sidewalk initially caused confusion among students, but provided an opportunity for questions and clarity.

“It’s the first thing I noticed this morning and I was very confused,” said Andrew Pluff, sophomore entrepreneurial management and business information systems double major.

After seeing the yard signs TCU IJM placed throughout campus, Pluff believes this is a powerful statement.

Signs throughout campus explain the purpose of the red sand. Photo by Olivia Wales.

“I think that [the red sand] is a great subconscious reminder of the problems that others face. When you’re in school, it’s easy to let the idea of human trafficking slip through the cracks,” he said.

First-year nursing major Elizabeth Rizzuto agreed that the message is effective once students are aware of it.

“The sand is everywhere, and in some places there’s less than others,” said Rizzuto. “I feel like this is a good representation of human trafficking.”

Other students remember the project and its message from previous years.

Mason Priess, a senior kinesiology major, said he immediately remembered the purpose of the red sand and believes it has a powerful message.

Photo by

The purpose of the red sand is to start conversations about human trafficking, which has proven successful.

These conversations will be continued today with IJM students tabling at the Founders Statue, drawing red X’s on their hands as part of the national End It movement, and encouraging other students to text or tweet their senators through the Speak Up campaign.

“We have the responsibility to speak out and stand up for those who can’t do so for themselves,” said Jordan Jones, sophomore social work major and IJM member. “Putting out red sand was such a small but exciting way to shine a light on those who deserve all of our help.”