The Red Umbrella Project is a small non-profit based in Brooklyn, New York that gives a voice to sex workers. RedUP produces a wide variety of media, where sex workers and former sex workers can share their stories. The work this organization does goes well beyond storytelling. They work against stigmatization and discrimination of sex workers and fight for policy changes to help protect the rights and safety of those working in the sex trade.
Sex work, for many, is synonymous with street prostitution. Sex work is any sex-related activity done in exchange for money and includes escort services, erotic dancing, modeling/acting in pornography, professional BDSM services, and phone sex services. Street prostitution is one of many jobs a person can have in the sex trade.
The Red Umbrella Project grew from a “Journalism for Sex Workers” workshop that former sex worker, Audacia Ray, co-taught in 2006. RedUP hosts media training programs and educates sex workers in things such as memoir writing, improv and theater classes, and various skills workshops. They publish a literary journal, Prose & Lore, and also have an archive of live-recorded podcasts (link below) where sex workers share their stories.
The Red Umbrella Project has also produced a documentary, Red Umbrella Diaries, which highlights the stories of seven sex workers that will be released at film festivals this year.
The Red Umbrella Project helps sex workers understand legal documents and procedures so they can advocate for their own legal rights and safety. Sex workers are more vulnerable to violence, but given that some sex work is illegal and almost all sex work is stigmatized, they are often afraid to go to police.
The Red Umbrella Project participates in the yearly International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers that is held as a memorial to the 49 women, many of which were prostitutes, that were killed at the hands of serial killer, Gary Ridgway in the state of Washington.
The images used in this post were from The Red Umbrella Project website. http://redumbrellaproject.org/
RedUP on twitter https://twitter.com/redupnyc
To learn more about sex worker advocacy:
- Sex Work Activists, Allies, and You http://www.swaay.org/about.html
- Sex Workers Outreach Program http://www.swopusa.org/
- HIPS, DC based organization http://hips.org/
- International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers http://www.december17.org/