On March 8, International Women’s Day, Hustlers for Humanity hosted a celebratory event, “Be Bold for Change” at Antioch University Santa Barbara. Hustlers, a local nonprofit started in 2014 by twin brothers Matt Turner and Daniel Colantonio, has spent its time working behind the scenes for various social justice causes and events. They announced during last week’s benefit that from now on, sex trafficking will be their number one cause. They plan to expand their organization to Northern California, promising they’ll go wherever they are needed.
The event began with a VIP cocktail reception at sunset, sponsored by vendors The Honey B cafe, Topa Topa Brewing Company, Lavender Oak Vineyard, and Water4life. As the remainder of the guests trickled in, World Dance for Humanity performed a lively flash mob. Tia Walker began the event by having the crowd of over 130 participants take a moment to honor the women they are thankful for.
The first speaker was Athina Brox, a BA student at Antioch University, who has also studied business in her home country of Norway. Brox spoke about women in business and said she hopes to coach and educate businesses on the importance of empowering and including women, stating “I think it’s important to speak for those who don’t have a voice.”
Sharon Byrne, director of communications for the UN Association of Santa Barbara, took to the podium to explain how she became passionate about fighting sex trafficking after she encountered it locally. She realized during her experience that neither she nor law enforcement seemed to know how to help, prompting her to get involved. She said she now works to educate and spread awareness about the problem and what to do about it in Santa Barbara.
Hannah Erley of The Rise Project, a new nonprofit, talked about efforts to create the first transitional housing project for sex trafficking survivors. The group works to meet the needs of survivors that often fall through the cracks. Through the help of Santa Barbara businesses they hope to collect enough donations to soon begin the project.
All the proceeds of the event went to fight local sex trafficking and exploitation, through the nonprofits involved.