Wednesday nights in Durham are generally the most quiet. Students at the University of New Hampshire are engulfed in their workload and the party has yet to start. However, a small cafe on the edge of campus is making up for the lack of noise with an unconventional open mic event.
The Freedom Cafe is filled to the brim every Wednesday night with students from all walks of life. Some attendees are performers, some are just avid fans of live music, and some are fighting for justice. The Freedom Cafe is a non profit entity that aims to end human trafficking, as well as all commercial exploitation of all people. All proceeds are donated to anti-trafficking task forces, as well as families that were harmed by the corrupt industry.
Since its founding in 2013, the Freedom Cafe’s sole mission has been to provide an ethically sourced method of consuming coffee, tea and other goods for a reasonable price. They also offer a creative space for the community to share their talents and come together in the face of human trafficking.
Thomas Stafford, a sophomore at the University of New Hampshire, has been a frequent attendee of the cafe’s open mic events. He was attracted to the venue for its performance opportunity. “It's a great place to gain confidence in performing,” Stafford stated. “No matter what you do you’ll receive a standing ovation from the crowd. I’m just so grateful that the Freedom Cafe has created such a supportive community, and helped so many people come out of their shell.”
The unique open mic night also attracted Jordan Grant, a music major at the University of New Hampshire, who first learned of the Freedom Cafe from his resident adviser.
“At first I was coming for the music,'' Grant said. “But as I spent more time in the cafe I learned more about the impact of human trafficking on everyday life. I decided to start making more conscious decisions about my purchases. Clothes, food, coffee… it’s all a possible outcome of human trafficking.”
The performance opportunity is what draws most people into the cafe, but some attendees have decided to join the fight and volunteer their time to the space that has given them a platform to share their artistic ability. Alison Eagen, the cafe’s manager, started volunteering after seeing what the cafe had done for those involved.
“I had never realized how much impact human trafficking had on our everyday consumption until I started here,” Eagen explained. “People in third world countries are making as little as a dollar a day producing coffee, but it makes the coffee cheap for us so most people don’t question it.”
She further immersed herself in the program after seeing the dangers of human trafficking not only on a global scale, but in her own backyard. “Two summers ago there was a case of sex trafficking in a hotel right across from my old job,” Eagen said. She was unable to provide details, but drove home the fact that human trafficking happens right in front of us and we don’t notice it.
Alison goes on to cite a report from the International Labor Organization in 2014, stating that the human trafficking industry profits $150 billion annually from commercial exploitation.
“It’s huge,” Eagen exclaimed. “That’s bigger than Nike, Apple and Starbucks combined.”
Amidst all of the hustle and bustle of a University campus, the Freedom Cafe provides a relaxed and encouraging space to those eager to perform, and to learn about the impact of human trafficking on the world. The cafe lends itself to conscious consumption and freedom of expression, and encourages all people to stop in and become involved.
Whether it’s the guilt-free buzz of a smooth cup of coffee that you’re craving, an opportunity to perform, or information on human trafficking, the Freedom Cafe is the place to go.