Inside mtvU’s ‘The Backstory’ on Human Trafficking

By Amanda Cross, Student at the University of Central Arkansas

When it comes to the lives of others, we often make premature judgments. We can’t see their backstory, so we don’t know the whole story.

MtvU recently worked with a bunch of college students to produce a wonderful interactive experience on "The Backstory" on human trafficking.

Human trafficking is an important — not to mention dangerous — issue across the world. While it's easy to assume that this is more of an international problem, human trafficking is actually going on right in our backyards.

“According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline, human trafficking incidences have been reported in all 50 states in the last two years," said Noopur Agarwal, VP of MTV Public Affairs.

"The Backstory" uses dance, narration and your Facebook profile to craft an intricate story of human trafficking in the United States, featuring the choreography of Ailey II Artistic Director Troy Powell, music by Kenna and narration read by rapper Talib Kweli.

The idea for the project started with James Madison University students Jasmine Jones, Kristen Hotz, Danielle McLean and Liz Ramirez, who won mtvU's Against Our Will Challenge.

When I asked Jones why her group chose to use dance and narration to talk about an issue like human trafficking, she responded, “It was more just the interactive part of it, the interactive video. We just wanted to do something that would allow people to connect visually as well as audibly.”

Connection is something that allows college students to experience "The Backstory" the way that they do.

"What we tried to do with 'The Backstory' was make the issue of human trafficking feel very real and very personal. The concept puts the user as a central character in the storyline about two different trafficking victims," Agarwal said. "It pulls in personal information about the user if they connect with Facebook as a part of the experience. So it will pull in your Facebook avatar, your photos, your username, and it will really make you feel like you could know somebody who was pulled into human trafficking.”

Above all, this experience gets you excited about not only human trafficking as a cause but causes in general.

I talked with Jones about the best ways to get college students involved with causes, and she offered this piece of wisdom: “I think making it relevant to them and providing stuff that they're able to do. I know from me, personally, there’s a lot of causes that I might want to get involved with, but if I feel like it’s too big for me to get involved with, I can’t necessarily do what they're asking, and it can deter me from participating.”

"The Backstory" is a wonderful experience that allows anyone to get involved with the issue or even to just gain knowledge on the topic of human trafficking. The project really makes human trafficking an issue that any student can work on!

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