Samantha Sutherland promotes Red Thread Movement at music venues over the summer

by   |  07.06.11  |  Honors Student Achievements

I am currently in Ohio, filling in some free time before our next festival. This summer, I decided to take a non-profit my roommate and I started (the Red Thread Movement) to different music venues, primarily festivals, to try and spread the word, educate people about trafficking, sell some merchandise and hopefully get some media attention to help us out with publicity.

Each festival/venue has a different feel and draws a different kind of crowd. It’s important to be able to adapt to fit the audience that you’re educating, so you can pick the key points you want to emphasize and you can put it in the most relatable terms for them. I love that every stop is so vastly different, we are able to interact with a huge range of people and it is interesting to see their passions and their hearts.

The first benefit show we were booked at was hosted at a bar where a local church met. We were there for 12 hours straight and noticed that there are very distinguishable differences in the crowds that hang there at different time slots. Everyone was incredibly nice, but the night crowd was something else to handle (for obvious reasons). With increased rowdiness came a surprising increase in passion as well. Earlier in the night, a woman got onstage to talk about the safe house she runs in Dallas and was, for the most part, ignored. I expected the same when it was my turn to take the stage but, when I started speaking, I was surprised to find everyone watching attentively in silence. It caught me off guard, especially when, as I was leaving the stage, they started chanting “Stop those traffickers” as random audience members were like “Hey guys, go buy one of these bracelets!” and “Yeah! They’re only 3 dollars!”

The next day we headed to Arkansas and then Tennessee. We talked to a few shop owners in Franklin who agreed to carry our bracelets.

This past week, we were at Ichthus Festival in Kentucky. The crowd appeared to be largely Jr. High kids and mainly youth groups. We had to make our spiel about Red Thread slightly more kid friendly. The first day was spent talking to hundreds upon hundreds of kids about who we are and where the proceeds go. By the last day, however, we had more people that would stop by for 10 or more minutes asking in-depth questions and desiring to educate themselves more on the issue. A couple people even pulled up a chair and sat with us awhile. I was excited that they had such difficult questions, because it meant that, not only were they being smart about who they donated money too, but that they actually were supporting our mission and not just trying to be trendy.

The second night of the festival, I had a phone interview with a radio in Austin. I did a radio interview with a friend while we were in Nashville, but this was my first live one. It was fun! The host was incredibly supportive and gave me plenty of time to explain our organization. I’m going to be meeting him at a festival later this summer and he said he would mention us every time he was onstage at the festival. Also, one of the speakers at Ichthus apparently mentioned us specifically while he was speaking, he must have come by the booth to talk to us earlier, but a lot of people claimed to have heard about us through him.

We were also lucky to have 5+ of our supporting bands there, along with 2 other bands that are friends but not official members. Aaron Gillespie, who played a benefit for us last semester, still sports his Red Thread. When I was meeting with Mikeschair, whom I’ve known since I was about 15, one of their wives was immensely interested in partnering to do some big outreach through their fans. She had researched a lot about us beforehand without even knowing that I would be coming by!

Brittany got some coverage on CNN earlier in the summer and it’s been cool to see the results of that publicity along with a few other articles that we’ve come across that have sent people our way.