“You have to have a place where you can test out new material and not get judged for it. We wanna be that place,” says Bryan Bessette, talking about Freedom Cafe’s new teen music night.
On October 21st, The Freedom Cafe will be holding their first teen open mic night. The event will be called Freedom Friday Teen Music Night and it will run from 7pm until 10pm. The Freedom Cafe is a non profit cafe in downtown Durham, NH. The Cafe is located across from the Mill Plaza in an old fraternity house. The Cafe works to end human trafficking to make a difference in the world through events, promotion, and engaging the community. The Cafe hosts “Perform for Freedom” every Wednesday night which is an open mic night for all ages. This event, unlike past open mics, will be the first open mic at The Cafe specifically designed for teens.
Bessette is the president and program director of the Freedom Cafe. “[Having] open mic night was really a good way to engage people,” says Bessette. Bessette’s main goal is getting the word out about human trafficking, and he has found many different fun ways to do that. “The [open mics] are a great opportunity for us to educate people on what we’re raising money for and how it’s helping,” Bessette says, “By giving people that bigger picture, it helps people to feel like they’re a part of something larger.”
Bessette wanted to create an event that really highlighted teenagers. He talks about how teens are at a vulnerable stage in life and are at the right age to learn about what’s going on in the world. “If as a teen you are beginning to be aware that [human trafficking] is an issue, it has a layer of prevention and a layer of stopping trafficking from happening,” he says. “We have something here that I’d love to include with the high school students, to create that safe experience.”
Rachel Vaz, Assistant Program Director of the Freedom Cafe, expands on this idea. “When you’re in high school, there’s not a lot of places where you can just hang out. With the drinking age being 21, trying to find a place to just hang out is sometimes not even a possibility” said Vaz, “[Freedom Friday Teen Music Night] is a really cool opportunity to just get people together and have some sort of freedom to hang out with your friends while being in a safe place.”
[Freedom Friday Teen Music Night] is a really cool opportunity to just get people together and have some sort of freedom to hang out with your friends while being in a safe place.
Vaz is a UNH student intern at the Freedom Cafe and became interested in the cafe from a friend. “When I first heard about the Cafe I was really confused on what it was but when I got here, I thought ‘wow! this is awesome!’” said Vaz. She loves the atmosphere of the cafe, and the mission. “I’m in love with coffee so hearing more about the trade free coffees really got me excited,” Vaz added. She is hoping the teen open mic night will be a great way to introduce the Cafe to more high school students and teach them about their mission.
One high school student who has been to many Perform for Freedom events is Tom Jeffery (‘17). “I like the vibe a whole lot. It’s a very, very good place with very, very genuine people,” says Jeffery. He was excited to learn about the Freedom Friday Teen Music Night. “I’m just looking forward to hanging out with people. It’s good to see people that are passionate about what they do.”
Jeffery is very involved in music in all aspects of his life. He performs all around the seacoast with various different bands and groups. He loves the idea of more teens sharing that passion. “It’s good for teens to look around them and see other teens like them. Very rarely do [teens] have passions that they really continue with if it’s only them doing it. If there’s other kids their age that they can connect with, they stick with their passion and that’s a good thing.”
Everyone at the Freedom Cafe is excited for Freedom Friday. The Cafe has never had an event that focuses on bringing high school students in, so they are hoping this event is the beginning of many more teen events at the Cafe. “I hope it will be a fun community building [event], connected to the mission to end human trafficking,” says Bessette.
For more on the Freedom Cafe, visit Lauren Quest’s article, Bryan Bessette: Ending Human Trafficking, One Coffee at a Time.
Writer: Skylar Hamilton
Photo Credit to Rachel Vaz