Advocacy, Abolition and Rock & Roll

This is from an article I wrote for CCM Magazine about how we use our rock band to expose and fight against the human trafficking.  This article was written in 2014 at the beginning of this chapter and my involvement with The Exodus Road and I’ve been with on multiple deployments.  

When I first picked up a guitar 20 years ago and started writing songs – I never dreamed that music could take me on such an adventure.  There’s always been something very compelling about trying to capture a melody when I feel like I’m close to finding it – like I’m chasing the echo of a tune we’re all born remembering – trying to put one note in front of another note to try to make sense of my questions and fears and longings and doubts.  But when I started writing songs for our new album, Commodity, there was a sense of urgency.  It felt like these songs were bleeding out of my soul in a way that I’ve never experienced before – like the song was meant to exist. 

Writing a counter trafficking album was not something that I set out to do intentionally – it just happened.  The stuff I’ve been reading and paying attention to these last two years especially has had to do with the plight of children in the world.  I’m friends with an amazing photographer named Jeremy Cowart and we’ve talked a lot about Uganda and he’s taken photos and done art therapy with former child soldiers.  The videos of his work in Africa and in Haiti moved me and I started writing lyric.  I was devastated two years ago while watching a video made by Invisible Children to expose the warlord Kony.  He’s kidnapping these boys and forcing them to carry guns in his insane war and my daughter asked me “Dad, why not God protect those boys?” – and the lyric poured out of me.  Because I don’t have an answer for her.  All I have is a song.  And then I started to hear more and more about daughters being sold by the hour at the age of six to sixteen all over the world’s red-light districts – I didn’t want to read about it – I didn’t want to think about it – but then I couldn’t get it out of my mind so I kept on writing these lyrics. 

Matt Parker from The Exodus Road approached me sometime during the middle of the songwriting process in a profound moment of convergence.  He heads a coalition of forces that go undercover to find evidence of the trafficking of underage girls and boys – and then they rescue them.  They need exposure – they need funding and he came to me to see if I wanted to talk about what they do.  I felt that same sense of urgency again – a compelling tug at my heartstrings to leverage everything I’ve built in my 15 year career to tell the story of these children – as loud and as often as possible – to tell it at 110 dB from stage – in these interviews – with people I talk with after concerts and at my kid’s baseball games.  But I don’t think that just singing about something will accomplish what we’re trying to accomplish – now is the time, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr said, to live with dangerous selflessness.  If I’m going to convince people to take the cause of the oppressed I have to be more than an advocate – I told Matt I wanted to do what he does.  My wife says no way.  But then the next morning Matt comes for breakfast and Anna says “take David with you – teach him to do what you do – this will be our legacy”. 



February of this year was my first trip to Southeast Asia.  I shadowed Matt mostly on a bunch of undercover missions and sat in on a ton of meetings with government officials, undercover operatives, police, people that run safe houses and restoration homes for rescued victims and partners in the coalition of The Exodus Road.  I’ve never been to that part of the world and I thought I was prepared for what I’d see because I’ve read so much about what’s going on.  But you never are prepared for what it feels like to sit next to someone that’s for sale – let alone a child.  Or what it feels like to watch surveillance footage of a gang of westerners trafficking eight year old boys on those humid streets.  The next day I was sitting at a restaurant, ten feet away from one of these predators, as the “trigger” in a continued investigation to find more about this gang and how they operate.  Our team followed that guy and found his address that day and followed the guy he met with.  We collect evidence, we build a target and then we make a raid to rescue the victims and disrupt the revenue streams of the traffickers.  My last night there I sat with a girl named June.  She’s 13 or 14.  She’s beautiful and quiet.  She was being offered to me for $60 or so for an hour.  We got evidence of what was going on there on hidden video cameras.  And then we left – but June is still there – and I looked back in the rush to leave (one of the operatives determined it probably wasn’t safe to stay any longer) and I caught her eye for a second.  And I couldn’t stop thinking about her my whole taxi drive up north – and then on the airplane to Japan and all the way back home. 

My brother Philip wrote several songs with me and rejoined me as producer after quitting touring with the band in 2010.  The record label the band had left in 2013 wasn’t interested in doing a full length album about sex trafficking – when I presented this idea to song writers and producers and A&R I’d worked with in the past they all said that it wouldn’t work at radio or it wouldn’t sell units and no one I met wanted to write or record these songs.  June’s story is not a happy story.  It’s not encouraging.  And counter trafficking is not safe.  So I decided to make an indie record and have Philip produce it.  I told him when I got home that I wanted to write about June – a girl whose body is being sold against her will – her innocence – her dignity.  And yet I think there was a glimmer of defiance in her eyes.  And maybe hope.  So we wrote about June – and we’re doing everything we can to give her  a voice. 

My second trip to Southeast Asia was over a month ago and I’ve been on tour pretty much non-stop since I got back.  It kind of seems like a dream or a movie or that it didn’t really happen.  I have photos and memories – memories of countless girls I met that were trying to sell themselves in smokey dance clubs – breathing that heavy air on those neon streets.  There’s a constant sense that your soul is eroding doing that kind of work and the fear of never making it back home alive.  But then I came home again and life seems normal most of the time.  Right before a concert last week they played some dub step and I was suddenly back in a brothel in Southeast Asia where they’re selling 16 year old girls.  I had to go outside because it was too much – the music brought back that rush of emotion.  The memories of all the girls I sat with – pretending to be a predator – pretending to be the very thing that I’m there to fight against.  It’s heavy – but I was only there for two weeks at a time – my guys in The Exodus Road are there year round. 

Someday, when slavery is a distant memory, they will talk about the day when the righteous rose from indifference.  Maybe these songs will be remembered as having contributed to the resistance.  We all know what it feels like to be reduced to a target demographic – we’ve been used – manipulated – marginalized – targeted and eventually discarded.  Our essence has been strip mined by the cold machinery of industry – squeezing us of our potential – reducing the melodies of our hearts to the lowest common denominator.  Our youth – exploited, our songs – exploited – our tears – exploited. 

But we’re so much more than skin and bones.  There is a warmth inside of us that cries out “I’m a soul inside a body – I’m not a commodity”. 

Maybe we can forget the notion that we were ever supposed to play it safe – let’s sing of freedom for the child of the front lines of conflict in Rwanda and Uganda.  Let’s sing it loud for the girls and boys on the streets of Brazil, or the hills of Laos and Cambodia to the red-light districts of Bangkok – let freedom ring – hear the bells chime like children singing in the spring time.

David Zach - 2014

13 comments

  • John Favors
    John Favors USA
    Thank you for this interesting thread, much appreciated. While taking a break from all the stress bought about by the pandemic, I have been into computer games. I had to check out [url=https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/roblox-download/nakdcncijhkcmddamddacldedjidnkon]roblox pc download[/url] for an entertaining pretense and little mechanical skills needed to build around the environments. The [url=https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/free-fire-pc-download/ccecnppcicpgeljifkagpngpgbabaepm]garena free fire download[/url] has been available for quite some time now as well. Both of these games are truly worth checking out, and given the limited communication brought upon by the pandemic, you can truly make sure that these games will keep you company.

    Thank you for this interesting thread, much appreciated. While taking a break from all the stress bought about by the pandemic, I have been into computer games. I had to check out roblox pc download for an entertaining pretense and little mechanical skills needed to build around the environments. The garena free fire download has been available for quite some time now as well. Both of these games are truly worth checking out, and given the limited communication brought upon by the pandemic, you can truly make sure that these games will keep you company.

  • Cain Harding
    Cain Harding
    It is the policy of FlightSlim to monitor all those activities which are happening on https://www.edugeeksclub.com/ for the sake of security. This will help the audience to know about every detail.

    It is the policy of FlightSlim to monitor all those activities which are happening on https://www.edugeeksclub.com/ for the sake of security. This will help the audience to know about every detail.

  • henry weston
    henry weston
    There's nothing more frustrating than when people don't listen to what we are saying. It is sometimes harder to get people to take you seriously when you have a mental health condition. Source: essay writing UK by British Essay Writers.

    There's nothing more frustrating than when people don't listen to what we are saying. It is sometimes harder to get people to take you seriously when you have a mental health condition. Source: essay writing UK by British Essay Writers.

  • Liam Willam
    Liam Willam London, UK
    I introduced this plan to lyricists and makers and A&R I'd worked with in the past they all said that it wouldn't work at radio or it wouldn't sell units and nobody I met needed to set up or account these tunes. By : Dissertation Writers - Dissertation Prime

    I introduced this plan to lyricists and makers and A&R I'd worked with in the past they all said that it wouldn't work at radio or it wouldn't sell units and nobody I met needed to set up or account these tunes. By : Dissertation Writers - Dissertation Prime

  • Lily Wilson
    Lily Wilson
    Great initiative.

    Great initiative.

  • ali muhammad
    ali muhammad Australia
    There's nothing more frustrating than when people don't listen to what we are saying. It is sometimes harder to get people to take you seriously when you have a mental health condition. Source: http://www.ukdissertationhelparab.com/dissertation-help-arab/

    There's nothing more frustrating than when people don't listen to what we are saying. It is sometimes harder to get people to take you seriously when you have a mental health condition. Source: http://www.ukdissertationhelparab.com/dissertation-help-arab/

  • skribblio
    skribblio Hoa Kỳ
    The post is very informative and useful. You and everyone are doing a great job. Go on. [url=https://solitr.online/]solitr[/url]

    The post is very informative and useful. You and everyone are doing a great job. Go on. solitr

  • rita
    rita Delhi
    Heavenly article. It's critical. As a home informational cost master local area, I truly like your post. A commitment of appreciation is all together for offering this to us. http://www.ritaescortsdelhi.com/

    Heavenly article. It's critical. As a home informational cost master local area, I truly like your post. A commitment of appreciation is all together for offering this to us. http://www.ritaescortsdelhi.com/

  • Jasmin Mark
    Jasmin Mark United Kingdom
    Let go of your worries and qualms when academic downfall befalls you. Make it a point to utilize a feature such as ‘UK dissertation writer’. This feature possesses individuals who have years of relevant experience, which enables them to curate work with meticulous precision. So get in touch with Crowd Content.

    Let go of your worries and qualms when academic downfall befalls you. Make it a point to utilize a feature such as ‘UK dissertation writer’. This feature possesses individuals who have years of relevant experience, which enables them to curate work with meticulous precision. So get in touch with Crowd Content.

  • Royal Essay Writers
    Royal Essay Writers United Kingdom
    You can get the best one from the https://royalessaywriters.co.uk/ for your amazing essay and assignment from the best academic service providers.

    You can get the best one from the https://royalessaywriters.co.uk/ for your amazing essay and assignment from the best academic service providers.

  • flavia110
    flavia110 londan
    I had to recognize that the affective power of rock and roll goes beyond that of leisure itself. https://royaldissertationhelp.co.uk/The timeless has been abolished and history.

    I had to recognize that the affective power of rock and roll goes beyond that of leisure itself. https://royaldissertationhelp.co.uk/The timeless has been abolished and history.

  • Appedology
    Appedology United States
    Appedology is a Top App Development Companies in USA that makes applications that are sensitive to customers and their requirements. With workplaces in New York, Chicago, and London, we're generally on the forefront of versatile innovation . It's our obsession to construct the best iPhone applications, regardless if the thought is huge or little. For more details plz visit our site: https://appedology.com/mobile-app-development

    Appedology is a Top App Development Companies in USA that makes applications that are sensitive to customers and their requirements. With workplaces in New York, Chicago, and London, we're generally on the forefront of versatile innovation . It's our obsession to construct the best iPhone applications, regardless if the thought is huge or little.
    For more details plz visit our site: https://appedology.com/mobile-app-development

  • Steve Falc
    Steve Falc Trenton NJ
    Very good post. I am currently looking for a service for writing essays and research papers for students. I am trying to choose the best one according to essaywritingservices.review. How do you like this service? http://essaywritingservices.review

    Very good post. I am currently looking for a service for writing essays and research papers for students. I am trying to choose the best one according to essaywritingservices.review. How do you like this service? http://essaywritingservices.review

Add comment