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!

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.


December 4th brings an amazing opportunity for New York jazz lovers: “A Night for Freedom” featuring Grammy Award winner Esperanza Spalding performing in an intimate setting.

All proceeds will benefit Free the Slaves projects throughout the world.

Esperanza will be joined by vocalists Bobby McFerrin and Gretchen Parlato for an eclectic night of music from around the world.

She will incorporate two groups for the show: a jazz quartet and the Chamber Music Society band.

Esperanza has been a dedicated friend of FTS. She donated a share of merchandise proceeds from her concert tour this year.

“I so admire the work that Free the Slaves is doing to abolish slavery,” Esperanza says, “in particular, their philosophy of breaking the cycle of slavery. With their help, former slaves have access to local education and become empowered to create change in their communities and find sustainable freedom.”

The FTS benefit concert starts at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, December 4th at the City Winery in the South Village, 155 Varick St. It will include a live auction at the end of the night, with Esperanza acting as auctioneer. You definitely won’t want to miss it!

“I’m SO excited and grateful to be able to use my music to bring people together for this very worthy cause,” Esperanza says.

December 4th will certainly be a night to remember as we celebrate the anti-trafficking movement.

Please join us to appreciate how far we’ve come and how far we can continue to go in the future.


Tickets can be purchased through the City Winery website here.

You may know Esperanza Spalding’s music from her 2011 Grammy Award for Best New Artist or from her Oscar performance, or from her night sharing the stage with Michelle Obama on the Letterman Show.

Now get to know her giving side.

While on tour this spring, she’s donating a portion of merchandise proceeds to Free the Slaves. She’s almost certainly coming to your city.

Check out her tour dates here. Get tickets to hear Esperanza’s jazz-pop fusion, then buy a DVD or T-shirt to support Free the Slaves’ pioneering on-the-ground work to end slavery!