Esperanza Spalding, Paul Simon, Bobby McFerrin, Gretchen Parlato – and Prince’s Sock – Make FTS Benefit Concert a Phenomenal Success

Esperanza Spalding at FTS Benefit 2012

Esperanza Spalding at FTS Benefit | Adriana Mateo photo for City Winery

Lightning struck Manhattan last night.

A good kind of lightning. The kind that sparks magic.

It struck at the City Winery, scene of our first-ever benefit concert in New York.

And it was breathtaking.

Esperanza Spalding, a long-time FTS supporter, organized an unbelievable musical event to raise awareness about slavery and raise funds for Free the Slaves.

She called it, simply: “A Night for Freedom.”

Esperanza’s elegant jazz performance was spellbinding.

So was her deeply personal talk with the audience about why she has chosen to take a stand against slavery.

A surprise guest — Paul Simon — dropped in to perform two classics for the packed house, including Sound of Silence.

Esperanza receives socks from Prince

Esperanza receives box with sock from Prince

The evening’s silent fundraising auction brought even more surprises.

Esperanza donated one of her bass guitars to be auctioned.

Prince dropped by to donate one of his guitars, too.

Esperanza had asked Prince to donate anything – even a dirty sock.

And, before the show, a box arrived from Prince, with his sock inside.

Esperanza entertained the crowd with the story of Prince’s sock. But she auctioned off his guitar instead.

Bobby McFerrin at FTS Benefit

Bobby McFerrin at FTS Benefit | Adriana Mateo photo for City Winery

The evening ended with a powerful improvisation by vocalist Bobby McFerrin, whose personal tagline says his singing can be “hazardous to your preconceptions.”

He riffed to a series of smiling photos we showed of slavery survivors who’ve been helped by FTS.

I’ve never seen anything like it.

It reminded me that our work on the frontlines helps to change people’s lives.

Last night’s benefit generated remarkable exposure about modern-day slavery and trafficking.

Esperanza was featured yesterday by NBC News, talking about her music, her heritage, and her efforts to help FTS end slavery.

Esperanza Spalding on NBC Cafecito

Esperanza Spalding on NBC Cafecito

I’d like to extend a huge FTS hug to Esperanza and all the people who made our New York benefit a success. Something special began last night. Everyone in the room could feel it. A new community formed. Many in the audience came for the music, but they left with a commitment to help people everywhere move from slavery to freedom.

Thank you, all!

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