It’s a cold and overcast morning in downtown Atlanta on February 1, 2012. Janie Chu is working her way through a maze of cables and instruments just before sunrise in front of the Georgia Capitol building. She bends down to connect cords to her keyboard and electric guitar, then stands up to look at this electronic landscape. There’s no band, no fanfare and no roadie. On this day, Janie is doing it all by herself. She’s working off a few hours of anxious sleep and adrenaline for the torch she is about to pick up and carry.
In a few hours, she will perform in front of an eager crowd gathered to support anti-sex-trafficking legislation for Lobby Day. She will also premiere her song “Dear John” which addresses the issue. The song would go on to be featured in PSA videos to fight trafficking.
That performance marked a major turn in Janie’s vision for her career. It was a public declaration that she is not only a musician but an abolitionist, too. After singing the last note of her last song, she joined everyone else in knocking on lawmakers’ office doors in the Capitol. In that moment, it became official: Janie’s activism and music would forever be intertwined.
Three weeks after that pivotal show, Janie released her sophomore album The Human Condition on which “Dear John” appears. The project is the follow-up to her 2006 debut, Roots. But in the time that passed between the two albums, Janie became a passionate social justice activist, deeply involved with anti-trafficking causes in her hometown of Atlanta. This happened after she was disturbed to learn that Atlanta was a major hub for sex slavery in the U.S. Disturbed to the point of taking action.
She spent years researching and volunteering with advocacy and aftercare organizations and connecting with sex-trafficking survivors by hearing their horrific stories. Even her release party for The Human Condition was part of a benefit concert to end demand and fight the commercial and sexual exploitation of children.
Janie’s musical gifts used to be the impetus for her hustling to get gigs and recognition for those gifts alone. Now, they are not just about her anymore. Instead, they are a tithe of sorts. The offering she gives in gratitude of being able to be a light in darkness and to give voice to the voiceless.
In July 2013, Janie launched her “3for3 Campaign”—a three-month effort that benefits three aftercare programs for sex-trafficking survivors in three cities: Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Miami.
Janie is also spearheading a music compilation dedicated to fighting trafficking called, Exposing Darkness: Artists Bringing Trafficking to Light. It will be released as part of the Price of Life NYC Invitational in October 2013, which will draw thousands of college students from several campuses to take part in fighting trafficking.