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!

Kevin Bales

FTS Co-founder Kevin Bales

A newly recognized form of slavery is gaining attention among activists, thought leaders and philanthropists. It is forced marriage, and it’s a problem in many parts of the world.

FTS Co-founder Kevin Bales will be discussing forced marriage and other aspects of the modern abolition movement next week at the Trust Women conference in London.

This global conference, sponsored by The Thomson Reuters Foundation and the International Herald Tribune, is about “putting the rule of law behind women’s rights.”

You can see a preview of Kevin’s presentation in this short video where he discusses: “Why Slavery is Different for Women.”

Kevin was also featured this week in a Thomson Reuters article called “Slavery Beyond the Sex Trade.”

Slavery in this Week’s News

We see slavery and trafficking stories throughout the world each week. It’s great news that journalists and bloggers are exposing the problem of slavery, and examining solutions to it. Awareness creates momentum for change. Here are 10 top stories that caught our eye:

1. Senator John Cornyn [Press Release]. “Senate Passes Cornyn-Blumenthal Child Protection Act of 2012.” http://www.cornyn.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=InNews&ContentRecord_id=e354c0a4-8956-4e14-82af-338155b4b7ad&ContentType_id=b94acc28-404a-4fc6-b143-a9e15bf92da4&f6c645c7-9e4a-4947-8464-a94cacb4ca65&Group_id=bf378025-1557-49c1-8f08-c5df1c4313a4

2. The New York Times. “How to Stabilize Congo [Debate].” http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/11/29/stabilizing-the-democratic-republic-of-congo

3. UN News Centre. “Humanitarian needs could rise if situation in eastern DR Congo remains unresolved.” http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=43637&Cr=democratic&Cr1=congo

4. United Nations [Press Release]. “Honouring International Day for Abolition of Slavery.” http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2012/sgsm14676.doc.htm

5. Ecouterre. “Abercrombie & Fitch, Forever 21 Fueling Modern-Day Slavery.” http://www.ecouterre.com/forever-21-abercrombie-fitch-fueling-modern-day-slavery-through-negligence/

6. Wall Street Journal. “Business Groups Specify ‘Conflict Minerals’ Issues.” http://blogs.wsj.com/corruption-currents/2012/11/26/business-groups-specify-conflict-minerals-issues/

7. The White House blog. “Fighting Human Trafficking in Cambodia.” http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/11/26/fighting-human-trafficking-cambodia

8. EBONY Magazine. “Liberation Music: Esperanza Spalding Swings for Freedom in All-Star Benefit.” http://www.ebony.com/video/entertainment-culture/esperanza-spalding-swings-for-freedom-in-all-star-benefit-392

9. Trust Law. “Slavery beyond the sex trade.” http://www.trust.org/trustlaw/news/slavery-beyond-the-sex-trade

10. Charisma News. “Nepali Sex-Trade Victims Call Themselves ‘Walking Dead’.” http://www.charismanews.com/world/34694-nepali-sex-trade-victims-call-themselves-walking-dead

Marie was rescued from slavery in Haiti during the holidays last year.

What is the greatest holiday gift you can imagine giving?

How about freedom?

That’s the gift Marie* received last year, thanks to your continuing support of Free the Slaves.

Marie was a restavèk slave in Haiti. Restavèks are children sent away by impoverished families to live in wealthier homes.

They work difficult and demanding jobs as maids and nannies. They endure physical and sexual abuse, and are denied proper nutrition, sleep or education. In short, they are domestic slaves. Marie was enslaved at age 8.

Fortunately, Free the Slaves and our Haitian partners were training residents in her town to recognize slavery, to protect and rescue children, and to help vulnerable families find ways to care for their children at home. They formed a child protection committee, which they call a KomAnTim.

The KomAnTim learned about Marie’s situation. Malnourished and hungry, she had been caught taking a snack without permission from the woman who enslaved her. As punishment, the woman burned Marie’s hand in an open fire.

Members of the KomAnTim sprang into action, contacting a local court. The slaveholder fled town, leaving Marie behind. One member of the KomAnTim adopted Marie into her home to give her the love and care that every child deserves. Marie is now enrolled in school.

Your contributions allow Free the Slaves to work with groups like the KomAnTim in 600 communities around the world—in Haiti, India, Nepal, Ghana, Brazil, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These groups are transforming their communities, eradicating slavery, rescuing children and adults. They are the vanguard of a global movement for freedom.

Last year, Free the Slaves supporters like you gave Marie the greatest gift a child can receive. Will you give that gift of freedom to another child this year?

Please donate to Free the Slaves this holiday season.

Thank you!

(*Marie is not her real name.)

We’re all excited that Esperanza is arranging an evening of remarkable music on December 4th in New York to benefit FTS. Buzz is building in the media, too! We hope you can join us. There are still tickets available for the event at the City Winery.

Esperanza just recorded a personal video invitation for her friends and supporters in New York, and for abolitionists like you too!

This concert is an amazing opportunity to see a Grammy-winning jazz musician performing up close. Esperanza will host a meet-and-greet reception with VIP ticket holders, and she’ll be auctioning off personal items – all to benefit Free the Slaves.

I was asked by a journalist the other day why we “chose” Esperanza to be our “spokesperson.” The truth is that she chose us! She was quietly contributing to FTS when we noticed her name in the database. So I gave her a call – and she picked up the phone herself in the middle of a photo shoot. It turns out that Esperanza was already a fan of the FTS model of community-based action to end slavery. She immediately volunteered to help us do more. And that’s how the December 4th benefit concert was born.

If you live in the New York area, get your tickets now, or buy a ticket for a friend. It will be a night you’ll never forget.