GrandStand Music Festival, a Michigan based non-profit organization, was to host a live event in Lansing this year with various performances by local artists coming together to raise awareness for human trafficking.
“Since our first event, GrandStand has evolved to include a strong network of an advisory board, Registered Student Organization at Michigan State University, musicians who support our cause, and mentors from a wide range of industries.” says GrandStand president/CEO Kayla Green.
When COVID-19 caused local ordinances that banned large gatherings, the organization quickly pivoted their plan to host a series of online performances, GrandStand Jams, that “reach thousands of people around the world with music and resources for taking a stand against human trafficking where they live” according to Green.
100% of proceeds from the event will be donated to support The House of Promise, a Lansing based 501c3 organization that provides full-time residential care for women and girls who have been trafficked and gives them a place to heal, building skills for reintegrating into society.
“The founder of The House of Promise, Shari Montgomery, provides new information about the amazing work that she does in each GrandStand Jams show,” Green says. “We are so excited to be supporting her organization during these unprecedented times!”
The next online concert will take place Saturday May 9th at 8 p.m. EDT and features Detroit band Blank Slate. There will be a donation button available at the bottom of the screen for GrandStand Music Festival. Visit the GrandStand Facebook page to tune into the watch party.
“When you make a donation there, we use part of the donation to support the artists performing and give the rest to The House of Promise,” Green says. “You can also donate directly by visiting their website, or you can help to spread the word about the important work they are doing by sharing their information on social media.”
“The thing that most inspires me about this project is the immense potential that music holds to make a difference with this issue in unique ways that other mediums can’t,” says Green. “Human trafficking is such a complex and heart-wrenching issue to learn about that it can feel overwhelming and discouraging to approach. By presenting information in the inherently lighthearted and energetic setting of a music festival, my goal is to leave people feeling informed and inspired to take action, rather than defeated.”
Green explains that music also created an outlet for human trafficking survivors to share their stories.
“Many people who have exited the life of being trafficked suffer from PTSD and risk re-traumatizing themselves by talking about their experiences,” she says. “For some, speaking publicly means putting themselves in danger of being rediscovered and targeted by their former traffickers. By creating music with input from survivors, we can help to give them the sense that they have been able to have an impact by telling their stories without placing themselves at risk.”
Each GrandStand event designates a different organization to donate a portion of their ticket sales to. More information regarding donations and how to be involved can be found here.
“Last year, we donated to the Michigan Abolitionist Project, which has community groups across Michigan that give educational presentations and work to address the root causes of slavery,” Green says.
In addition, Child Protective Services, Families Against Narcotics, and the Kent County Area Human Trafficking Coalition/Solutions to End Exploitation provided keynote speakers at the last live event.
“Representatives from the Grand Rapids Red Project and the Salvation Army were there to talk with audience members about how their work serves populations who are particularly vulnerable to traffickers,” Green says. “The Grand Rapids Symphony and other local arts institutions shared information on the programs they offer that provide youth with access to music and teach them to use the arts to foster positive social change.”
“We also had everything from a martial arts school teaching self defense for women and children to an equine assisted psychotherapy facility that serves sex trafficking survivors in West Michigan,” she continues. “I learned so much from working with these organizations, many of which provided insights and guidance on speaking about the issue accurately and effectively. One organization that I would absolutely love to work with in the future is Thorn, which develops cutting edge technology to defend children from abuse and being trafficked online.”
Despite the shift of events to a digital platform, Green says GrandStand wants to preserve the interactive nature of their live events.
“[The] artist, the founder of the House of Promise, and GrandStand team members chat with viewers in the comments throughout our watch parties,” she explains. “We also host online coffee chats so people can tune in and talk with the artists that perform in the Jam sessions. Just like our live events, we make it our goal that each GrandStand Jams video leaves our viewers feeling inspired by great music, as well as feeling like they know more about a different aspect of human trafficking and how they can help end it.”
Green notes that she loves working with artists in a range of genres when putting together GrandStand events. She says she enjoys being surprised by the finished products the bands send back to her since the switch to online shows.
The first Jams session included a performance by Composetheway.
Green says that this year has been a rewarding experience in many ways.
“[This] has brought my team and so many of our supporters together around creating something positive in a time when it is extremely easy to feel isolated and wrapped up in all of the negative things happening in the world right now,” she explains. “Since GrandStand was founded with the aim of serving vulnerable members of our community who are now being affected most heavily by the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, it felt like my team had an opportunity, and responsibility, to bring support to these people as much as we could during this time. I am beyond thrilled that these digital performances have given us the ability to do that!”
Green says that moving online has allowed GrandStand to reach a larger audience whom may have never been able to attend a live performance. Moving forward post-quarantine, she says that she wants to incorporate GrandStand Jams into the annual event schedule.