What is your life’s purpose?
As a committed artist and activist, it is my life’s work to shine a bright light on the often-ignored problem of slavery in our times-by guiding fellow artists to serve survivors of human trafficking with the powerfully-healing energy of the arts and engaging survivors in their creative unfolding, as they release trauma and reclaim their once-silenced voices.
How are you living your purpose?
I have formed an initiative, Crossing Point Arts: Bringing the Arts to Survivors of Human Trafficking. I train Teaching Artists to hold workshops for survivors, utilizing dance, music, visual arts, poetry, spoken word, drama, and song creation. Collectively, we have reached over 2,000 survivors of trafficking with our NYC-based workshops held in local anti-trafficking agencies.
In our workshops, survivors find the voice that was silenced by their exploiters and/or traffickers. There is a powerful moment we witness in every workshop, where the participant crosses over from the place of deep hurt into the realm of aliveness. The organization is named for every survivor who had to cross something-a river, a lake, a border, an ocean, a street-in order to escape their exploiter. The name Crossing Point Arts also represents that moment when they come back to life, as is demonstrated in the following story, one of thousands of stories that we have about survivors that we have reached.
” A caseworker called before a workshop recently to say, “Siara presents very severe PTSD and generally resists participation in any creative work.” Case-workers know their clients well, so we prepared accordingly.
Siara arrived late and came in looking disorganized and distressed. However, within moments, she was dancing and following the Teaching Artist brilliantly. The class, Afro-Puerto Rican Bomba, included gestures that present feminine power through forthright, self-possessed movements punctuated by a sudden, sharp drop of the shoulders. Siara threw her whole being into it. The disorder in her demeanor was gone.
At the end of class, she asked, “What is this we are doing? It makes me so strong!” She struck the pose she’d learned and smiled. “Can I stand like this in front of the judge when I go to Trafficking Court?!” She explained that, for 15 years, she was “like this” (doubled over, flaccid from the waist). “And, now, these movements-I feel I am back! I was dead for so long, and, now, I am alive. This is amazing!”
Siara (who had danced professionally in Ubud, Bali) literally came back to life through something about herself that she cherished, a part of her that was untouched by the trauma of trafficking. Her caseworker was utterly amazed, as no one has seen this side of Siara in her months of coming to their agency.
How did you find your purpose?
When I entered my 50s, I lamented to a friend who is 20 years older than me: “What can I do now? Before I know it, I will be 60. Then what? This feels bad.” Her wise answer: “Well, you are just getting started.”
When she caught wind of the fact that I had started this initiative (but was back-pedaling because I found the work so challenging) she pushed me very, very hard to start a nonprofit and keep going. I resisted, but finally gave in. I could no longer live with the ever-present feeling that I could be doing more for others.
There were three powerful forces that I had lived with since early childhood:
1) my acute awareness of the man-made catastrophe of slavery in the world,
2) my impulse to be of service, and
3) my abundant creative fire.
Each of these forces in my life grew independently. I continuously volunteered for impoverished children and adults, performed many benefit concerts for social justice causes, and donated money to anti-trafficking agencies.
I knew, in my heart, it wasn’t enough, but I had not yet made the connection. The day that these three parts of me merged I was thrilled, exhilarated, scared, but entirely intrigued. My friend was right. I was just getting started. I searched online and found no one had traveled the terrain of my idea in the US and thus began my journey of creating Crossing Point Arts.
What advice do you have for purpose seekers?
Notice what demands your attention. Give it your full focus. Listen to hear what makes your heart sing, or melt, or jump. Those are the clues that are central to your soul, and your purpose.
If an idea scares you, lie down until the feeling passes, and then get back up to see how you can get closer to it. Study it. Talk to many people. Ask good questions and ask stupid questions. Imagine being on the receiving end of your idea, and see how that feels.
If an idea makes you squirm and scares you, but you can’t stop thinking about it, go do it! It will bring out your beauty.
What resources do you recommend?
Human trafficking is one of the most dire and persistent issues of our times. There are an estimated 40 million enslaved people on earth at this very moment, more than have ever before. It is on every continent, including every state, city, and town in the US.
To learn more about human trafficking:
Here is a great Ted Talk by Rachel Lloyd, a former trafficking victim.
One of our workshops is shot in this CNN video, beginning at 00.53.
World Without Exploitation
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
My greatest inspirations:
The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Martin Luther King, Jr.
Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom by Catherine Clinton
Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela by Nelson Mandela
My Song: A Memoir of Art, Race, and Defiance by Harry Belafonte
Connect with Anne H. Pollack
Nonprofit Website: www.CrossingPointArts.org
Personal Website: www.AnnePollackProductions.com
Anne H. Pollack is a musician, composer, visual artist, writer, student of dance and an activist. Her sensibilities – and her awareness of the world around her – birthed Crossing Point Arts in 2013, by engaging the profound healing and humanity of the arts and offering it to a population that is hidden in plain view: survivors of human trafficking.
In the midst of NYC’s brilliance in every arena of the arts, Pollack saw an untapped connection between those who hunger for the nourishment of the creative experience and those who hunger to share it. Having researched the topic of enslavement for many decades – and the ensuing cultures and creative outpourings throughout human history that came into being to tend to the wounds of slavery – Pollack recognized that the NYC area held a minimal connection between its community of artists and survivors of trafficking. Determined to call upon an innately human instinct, that is perhaps as old as slavery itself, Anne seeks to reconnect a missing link by ‘Bringing the arts to survivors of human trafficking.’
A noted expert in the field of human trafficking aftercare through the arts, Ms. Pollack has more recently been a guest speaker and/or panelist at: Yale University, William Paterson University, Macaulay Honors College, The Yale Club, LaMama and the NY Writers Alliance. Anne is a Fellow of the 2017 AARP Purpose Prize.
As a musician and composer, Pollack has received numerous grants from National Endowment for the Arts, Meet the Composer and Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. Trained as a flutist and cellist, Pollack has released two CD’s – Worlds Collide (1999) and Diaspora Pulse (2005) – as multi-instrumentalist, arranger, producer and composer. Leading her ensembles internationally since 1980 her musical arenas reach from Indigenous Roots Music of the African Diaspora, to Jazz, to Near Eastern Music, to Afro-Brazilian Shamanic Music, to Classical Music.
Her lengthy experience as a small business owner has given Anne the skills to manage her resources creatively and with great success. As a Restorer, Dealer and Technician of Fine and Vintage Flutes, she has spent more than 35 years refining her talents, as she has dealt with world renowned soloists, orchestral flutists, studio musicians, Broadway players, professors from conservatories of music and students alike. Internationally acclaimed for her work, Pollack’s sensitivity and dedication to excellence have forged for her great respect in her profession.