Inspiration Information — The Freedom Awards

by aaron on November 15, 2010

“Tonight is not about despair, it’s not about depression… it’s about inspiration and hope.” –Sir Ken Robinson

Last Sunday I had the privilege of attending the 2010 Freedom Awards benefit hosted by Free the Slaves — one of the largest anti-slavery abolitionist organizations fighting modern slavery around the world.  It was a night overflowing with joy, inspiration, music, laughter and a rampant sense of global community.  What follows are my impressions from the event.

First, the festivities got under way with musicians parading down the aisles playing large traditional African instruments.  Which then led into a soulful, on your feet stomping, hand clapping, arms waving performance by the Agape International Choir.

The constant highlight of the night for me was the always wise, effortlessly brilliant and outrageously funny Sir Ken Robinson — who served as the Awards show host.  He set a pitch perfect tone between the gravity of the cause at hand and the levity of coming together to celebrate, elevate and energize the fight for universal freedom for all men, women and children.  He also went on an incredible stand-up routine rant about the shift in information in the age of instant media.  He spoke of his schoolboy days in university, where a full day (i.e. waking up at the crack of noon, then spending a hard 3 hours in the library before winding down with a cold beer)  involved spending 15 hours in the library (“remember those things” he quiped) looking for three references.  “Nowadays,” he joked, “you can read 150 billion pages in 15 seconds.  And if it takes any longer, we get irritable: come on, I haven’t got all… minute!”

“The point,” Sir Robinson continued, “is we can use the power resources at hand to spread the word about slavery and bring it to a stop.”  He mentioned how in 1790, nothing brought a quicker end to the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade than the widespread release of the following image.

Once people in Europe and America saw the sardine-packed state in which Africans where transported, the inhumanity of slavery in the Americas became unconscionable.  But very few people talk about slavery today, many don’t even know it exists.  And yet there are over 27 million people worldwide who are slaves right now.  Think about that.  An estimated 12 million slaves were shipped to the Americas in the 300 years of the Trans-Atlantic slave Trade.  Right now there are more than twice that number.  It is our job to spread the message however we can.  As Sir Ken proclaimed, It’s not just about giving physical freedom, it’s about freeing the mind. “

“A nation of well informed people who have been taught to noble and pride their rights, cannot be enslaved.  It’s in the region of ignorance that tyranny begins.” -Benjamin Franklin

Four Awards were given out, each to outstanding individuals working to free slaves in their home countries.  Academy Award Winner Forest Whitaker and Actress Camilla Belle presented JEEVIKA from India with the Harriet Tubman Award.  Michael Beckwith presented Roger Plant from the UK with the William Wilberforce Award.  Meredith Artley, the Vice President and Managing Director of CNN.com and actor Vincent Kartheiser from “Mad Men”, presented Anne Keehn with the Anne Templeton Zimmerman Fellowship.  Actors Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher presented Tina Frundt from the U.S. with the Frederick Douglas Award.

Interspersed throughout the inspiring speeches by the winners and the emotional documentary videos showing their work in the field, were several phenomenal musical performances, including the crowd favorite of Jason Mraz and the Agape Children’s Choir singing Luc and the Lovington’s “Freedom Song”.  (watch the little boy on the far left, he was dancing to his own drummer)

After the awards show, the party continued in the Freedom Rocks outdoor tent where food, drinks, shirts, photographs all went toward raising money and awareness for Free the slaves foundation.  People let their dreadlocks down, drew finger paint across their cheeks and get funky to intimate music performances by the Makepeace Brothers, Luc and the Lovingtons, Rocky Dawuni and Mr. Jason Mraz.  I got to reconnect with Conor, Aidan and Finian of the MakePeace who I hadn’t seen since our jam session on Kauai 6 months ago.  And lucky for me, they just finished recording their new album that day and handed me a hot pressed copy for my drive home.

Everyone was laughing, happy, motivated, uplifted.  To say the night was a tremendous success doesn’t do the spirit of the event justice.  People were inspired to be the change, to fight against slavery and make a difference.  And to top a near perfect evening off, as I was leaving the event, I bumped into my hero Ken Robinson and had the loveliest chat about teaching, education, and hawaii.

All in all a fantastic event for a great cause.  For anyone interested, I recommend checking out FreetheSlaves.net .

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