Local artist uses music to raise awareness for human trafficking

They don't who you are. You're a princess, but your kingdom was stolen.

The initial words of "Sweet Princess" by local singer/songwriter Heather Evans are meant to be words of affirmation-words meant to comfort the many victims of human trafficking.

The song is just one fourth of "The Sweet Princess Project," an effort from Evans, producer/director Rick Green and Post House, LLC to raise awareness about what's often referred to as the modern-day version of slavery.

The project is also comprised of a short documentary, a behind-the-scenes video and a music video. All three aired for the first time last Tuesday, June 11, at the Gateway Film Center for a private audience, but the makers decided to release each element to the public after the showing.

You can watch them all below.

We talked with Evans, a Hilliard native, about how the project started as a resolution and evolved into a documentary, plus a little about her start as a musician. Her edited responses are below.

-Taylor Rogers, @rogerstaylorj

Photo courtesy of The Sweet Princess Project

How did you get started with music?

I started writing songs when I was 13 years old. I was plucking around on my guitar and was having fun with it, and my dad, for my 15th birthday, got me studio time at the PowerPlant. He was like, "I want to have your songs to listen to in the car." That kind of started something in me that I knew I wanted to do music. After recording and everything, I loved everything about it.

How did the project come about?

In December of 2012, I posted a picture on Facebook of my goals for 2013, and one of them was to make a music video to raise awareness about human trafficking. Rick [Green, formerly of the PowerPlant] messaged me right after I posted it and said, "Hey, I want to help you do number five on your list." I didn't think anything of it. I was like "Oh, he's a busy guy. He doesn't really have much time to help with this kind of a thing." Sure enough, he sent me an idea right away about what the story line would be for the music video, and it just sort of got the ball rolling. And it's just been exciting to see everyone rallying around this project, and it's kind of morphed into not just a music video, but a short documentary and a behind-the-scenes piece.

How did it evolve into these different elements?

Well, Rick came up with this amazing storyline for the music video, and I said "Rick, oh my goodness, this is really great. I would love to be able to tell some victims' stories." I have been working with organizations to help victims of human trafficking for years now, and I was like, "I know some specific people who could talk about it, and I would really just be able to raise more awareness and give organizations a media piece." And of course he was on board. He got this huge team of awesome filmmakers together, and one group handled all of the music video stuff, and one group handled the documentary, and another one was there filming behind the scenes, and it's all just kind of taken on a life of its own.

Why are you so passionate about this particular cause?

Marlene Carson, the woman who started Rahab's Hideaway and speaks on the video, spoke at the first human trafficking conference that I went to, and I heard her story, and I said, "Oh my gosh, I have to do something about this. I can't just hear her story and cry through this whole testimony and not turn around and do something and participate in what she's doing." It's kind of crazy, and it's so cool-she's the first person who inspired me, and she's a part of this project too.

But being at that conference I was literally sitting in this giant room of people, listening to all these stories, and I just had streams of tears down my face, and I had this thought, like, I had no idea about this. I had no idea that 27 million people were having to endure this kind of evil every single night, and they're unseen and unheard, and I just wanted to be able to shout out to everyone that this is what's going on, this is really happening. These are real people, they have real faces, and we have to have a few good people to stand up for them and be a voice for them. So I really feel like my music, my whole direction has changed to that-just trying to be a voice for people who don't have a voice, to give hope to those girls who are still stuck in it to just hold on, someone's coming for you. And we have to make sure there are people that are coming for them, too.

What do you hope people take away from the project?

Well, I definitely want people to see it and share it and just spread the message about human trafficking but also to just see the worth of people. I think we live in a culture where we kind of use people for whatever purpose we need them for, but every person has worth, every person has a purpose, and we need to really be sensitive to that, to who each person is. And to also raise up a new group of filmmakers, a new group of songwriters, a new group of poets, a new group of whoever is willing to advocate and use their voice to raise awareness about human trafficking and even people who go on the front lines and volunteer with these organizations. That's my hope-to rise up that next group of people who can spread the message.

Music video:

Short documentary:

Behind the scenes: