“Freedom of Expression” was the theme for The New Hollywood’s Benefit on Sunday for Free the Slaves—and they couldn’t have expressed it better. With rousing tributes to Marvin Gaye, Christina Aguilera, and Maya Angelou, the group sang, danced, and shimmied their way across a performance worthy of Broadway.
Alexis Carra, the director of the benefit and a Broadway veteran herself, told the New Hollywood Group to “sing, dance, be open, love, smile, create, and carry on a tradition of expression as a means of building relationships” as a way to get the audience to take action.
Performances of Chigago’s “Hot Honey Rag” and Alison Krausse’s “Down to the River” were featured, along with a choreographed medley of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” and Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary.”
In addition to exciting musical numbers, the group paid tribute to the names and faces of slavery survivors—such as Maria Suarez, a former slave trafficked to Los Angeles from 1976 (at age 15) to 2004.
“This isn’t a play. This isn’t fiction. This is someone’s life. I want to do her story justice.” said Beth Navarro, a TNH member who gave a stirring monologue about Suarez’s life.
Navarro was also responsible for gathering Free the Slave’s research about slavery for the “facts” section, a spoken word presentation by TNH performers that utilized top 10 facts about slavery in a metaphorical dance routine.
For Navarro, learning about the details of slavery was eye-opening, providing an inspiration for her monologue on Maria Suarez.
“When I saw some of the testimonials on their (Free the Slaves) website I knew I had to tell one of these stories. I pored over videos, their thought-provoking documentary, Dreams Die Hard, and read interviews conducted with freed slaves. I realized how ignorant I was to this issue. I didn’t reaize how wide-spread human trafficking was…and when I read Maria’s story, I had no idea it happened in my own backyard.” Navarro said.
Not all of the evening was somber, however.
There were also times for laughs, courtesy of TNH member Annie Tedesco. Sashaying her way across the stage in a leotard and legwarmers, Tedesco brought comic relief and Flashdance renditions, interrupting Emcees and posing for our camera with a “Freedom Sucks” sign.
Those of us watching the benefit from the Free the Slaves booth were impressed and inspired by the performance, and grateful to the New Hollywood Group for such a fantastic show!
“Hearing the ladies of TNH bring to life the transcripts of slavery survivors was deeply moving to me…it really helped show that the divisions between us and modern day slavery are really thin…and Annie Tedesco’s leotard was a nice touch.” said Anne Keehn, the Web Producer for Free the Slaves.
At the end of the night, the women of TNH invited all of the attendees to join them for an after-hours dance party, celebrating the freedom of expression.
Once again, thank you so much to the lovely ladies of TNH!