While Justin Dillon was touring with his band in Russia in 2004, his interpreter told him about offers she’d had to travel west for a job, Dillon looked into the “opportunities” and discovered they were fake jobs used to lure girls into sex trafficking. It was an incident that left Dillon reeling. He couldn’t let it go.
Dillon’s response was to couple his own passion for music with his desire to seek justice in the area of modern day slavery. Out of that he created the “rockumentary” film Call + Response, which he wrote, produced and directed. Scenes of injustice, such as 6-year-old girls working in brothels, are juxtaposed next to interviews with social justice experts, including the president of International Justice Mission, Gary Haugen, and human rights activist Ashley Judd. The film also features performances by several musicians, including Matisyahu, Cold War Kids and Natasha Bedingfield.
“We like to think, ‘Oh, I would’ve been on this side of women’s suffrage,’” Dillon says. “Or, ‘I would’ve been on this side of the Civil Rights,’ or, ‘I would’ve been on this side of the Holocaust,’ but if you can’t get on this side of [modern slavery], then maybe we need to question what side we would’ve been on if we were to be transplanted back to history. Because it’s the same thing, it’s still human rights.”
The documentary’s title plays off of the direct link between music and slavery: In the 1800s, slaves gained hope from singing out in the fields as they worked. Before slavery in the U.S., there weren’t verses or choruses in songs. That sense of call and response was born from the music of the oppressed, and it’s still present in music today.
Dillon seeks to show that today’s human trafficking is a form of slavery as real as the slavery of the 1800s. Right now, there are 27 million slaves in the world—more than at any point in history. “Being forced to work without pay under threat of violence, being economically exploited and unable to walk away—that is slavery,” he says. “If people could learn what slavery is, and work the term back into their vernacular, if they could take it out of antiquity and actually put it into current events and call it for what it is, that’s actually quite huge.”
Dillon also recently launched the online campaign “Chain Store Reaction,” which enables people to easily send consumer letters to chain corporations in an attempt to communicate their concern for slave labor.
“Like anything that moves society forward, we need commitment and innovation,” Dillon says. “There’s never been a disease that has been eradicated, or a human rights issue that has been wiped out without both of those things.”
For more information, visit CallAndResponse.com.