The coffee, the cause, and the Freedom Café
Published: Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 15:02
It was more than they were expecting; everyone had a mug in hand, and the room roared to life with laughter and acoustic music. The Freedom Cafe has become a success in the making as of last Wednesday night when its “Perform for Freedom” open-mic night marked the grand opening of the coffeehouse.
“The realist in me is telling me that this is what we were expecting,” Café Manager Sean Matthews said.
But he couldn’t hide his optimism as shouts from Chaplain Bryan Bessette came from across the room, announcing that earlier that day the Café had raised $75.
Freshman Dave Adams is credited with the Perform for Freedom idea. He is a musician and was looking for a venue he could frequent where there wouldn’t be any pressure.
“It was a good thing overall. I can get people in and get another kind of audience and raise money,” he said. “It’s relaxed.”
Students and supporters alike descended upon on the Café in groups, gathering around tables, chattering amongst themselves, drinking refreshments and listening to music. The night progressed without any hiccups.
Senior Anna Berg, a freedom worker at the café, said she thought the night went great.
“Tonight was really fun,” she said. “There was really good energy to the place.”
Some students came with textbooks and notebooks, turning the Café into a new study spot to sneak away to regardless of the meaning behind the coffee.
“It’s a great study space,” Berg said.
The Café’s outreach coordinator, Mike D’Angelo, said he was confident with the turnout.
“If they’re in the space, they’re surrounded by the cause,” he said.
For those who wish to stop by the Freedom Café, prepare for hand-painted mugs; to-go mugs haven’t made it into the budget yet.
“For right now, there’s no budget, and we’re trying to promote the slow food ethos: slow down, enjoy the smells,” D’Angelo said.
According to the Freedom Café, Slow Food is becoming an integral part of the organization.
The Freedom Café buys its tea from White Heron Tea and coffee from Global Trade Coffee.
“We’re supported local companies. Fair trade and awesome — it’s a combination along with a great cause,” D’Angelo said.
Patrons could ask for hot cocoa and popcorn as well, for a suggested donation. Homemade pastries were also donated during the event.
Wednesday night Perform for Freedoms will always have the same setup: three 20-minute sets and then an open mic that features a sign-up sheet located in the rear of the building at the bar.
In between the sets and the open mic, Matthews gave a speech on the Café’s cause.
“We know this is a hard topic to cover,” he said. “So we started getting into coffee and tea.”
Matthews said he hopes that the Freedom Café will become a sort of safe haven for students and community members alike to have conversations. The Café is looking to educate with facts, statistics and figures. For emphasis, Matthews spoke on the Super Bowl and its high sex trafficking. The room went quiet.
“I will end there with an invite to get involved. Come sign up,” he said.
Signing up can be done through three different levels: a freedom worker; a volunteer barista; or a freedom drinker, who vows to drink his or her coffee and/or tea from the Freedom Café and attend meetings, Perform for Freedoms, etc.; and, in the future, a freedom fighter, who will actively try to end human trafficking.
The Freedom Café has a current fundraising goal of $1,000. Before opening night, it had raised $226. It raised $100 on opening night alone.
Elizabeth Strodes, a freedom worker, said she has no doubt in the Café’s fundraising ability.
“Once more people find out, more people will want to come,” she said. “Everyone loves to help. It’s just too much good energy.”
As the night wound down, a bluegrass jam was played on the piano and new and old friends chatted. Some voluntarily washed their mugs, some sat and read books. At 10 p.m., everyone cleared out and the evening was declared a success.
“This exceeded my expectations — how many people performed and the receptiveness of the audience,” Adams said.
Perform for Freedom is an open mic every Wednesday from 7 to 9 p.m. The Freedom Café is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and is located at 10 Mill Road.
“Students and townspeople come together (here). It’s a new concept to buy a cup of coffee. If people are behind that, then awesome. If they don’t think it’s that big of a deal, then no big deal,” D’Angelo said.