The Gothic Theatre has probably seen a few bras on stage since its beginning in the twenties. However, Tuesday night was the first night the Gothic was covered with thousands of bras. When walking in, there were bins full of colorful, gently used bras for the Free the Girls bra drive. The event was free but the guests were encouraged to bring a bra for the drive. It was going to be Denver's biggest bra drive, and their goal was 5,000 bras.
Typically, when walking into a show at the Gothic, there are people crowded around the bar trying to get the bartender's attention. On February 22nd, it was a different scene. People of all ages were gathering around the bar enjoying bottled water donated by Deep Rock and coffee from Solid Grounds Coffee Shop. The floor was not full of people trying to squeeze to the front of the stage, rather there were folding chairs in neat rows.
As the lights went out, one of the pastors from Next Level Church, which was one of the event sponsors, briefly spoke about the cause and the church before introducing the local talent. Regardless if the crowd was part of the church or not affiliated with any church, there was a room full of agreement when the pastor said, "We have a common ground, and common good. We all want to help."
There were a number of local singers who graced the stage who chose or wrote songs to express their feelings about the message of Free the Girls. The talent ranged from a singer/songwriter who played the guitar, a student from University of Colorado Denver music department, a singer from a musical family, and the sister of Kimba Langas, the co-founder of Free the Girls, who also sang, to Denver's own Andrea Ball.
Following the emotional performance from the women, there was a video of some of the survivors of human trafficking at Free the Girl's first safe house in Mozambique, Africa. The crowd's eyes were glued to the screen as they learned about the women who were able to get away from the horrid situation and support themselves and their family by selling bras. The women mentioned in the video ended up in human trafficking as young as nine and 14 years old.
Mama T, the other the co-founder, traveled several times to Mozambique and one day saw an umbrella covered in used bras. "Mama's curiosity was piqued, and through statistical and anecdotal research we learned that bras command top dollar in the used clothing market in Mozambique along with other countries," said Ms. Langas. "Mama T was interested in finding business opportunities for women rescued out of slavery and prostitution."
A bra to women in the United States is a no-brainer; you have to wear one. Many women have them in a rainbow of colors and different styles for different occasions. A bra is very different to the women in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa; it is a status symbol, a luxury item, and it might prevent them being raped. "Some women claim that those who wear bras get raped less, because the would-be rapist assumes that if she has a bra on, she must have lived in the city for a while and be more well-connected," explained Ms. Langas. "Compared to a girl fresh from the countryside is a much higher target to be taken advantage of." Women will spend as a much as two dollars, the minimum day's wage, for a used bra.
Free the Girls is relatively a new cause-focused company founded in April 2010 in Denver. Mama T and Kimba are friends and went to the same church. "I fell in love with the concept and cause," said Ms. Langas. She was asked to be a creative consultant and soon after became partner, co-founder, and investor in the company. They are the only employees at this point, and a few weeks ago they hired on an intern from the University of Denver and partnered up with their first safe house in Mozambique. They rely on social media to spread the word, get people involved, and go to the events. They currently have over 2,100 fans in 20 countries, and growing. Their Facebook fans are their ambassadors for their cause and many people at the event at the Gothic Theatre found the event through Facebook.
The only source of revenue they receive is by selling apparel. After Kimba spoke about the company and their goals, they had a mini fashion show displaying their shirts. The shirts are not loud and don't scream "help this cause now;" rather they are very simple and comfortable t-shirts and convey the message of women being feminine, yet empowered. Miss Colorado, Blair Griffith, helped Kimba introduce the models and described the apparel. All the models were unique women; the new intern, a volunteer, Kimba's mother, a woman in the military, and many more. The shirts have multiple purposes, and they are made slave-free in the United States. The shirts help raise awareness and revenue to cover their expenses, for example, shipping the bras to their destination.
The night was a huge success on many levels. The audience learned about Free the Girls, what they do, and valuable facts that will change their views on human trafficking. The crowd embraced the bra drive on Tuesday night and many people brought multiple bras to donate. "[Tuesday's event] we collected over 3000 bras, and now we have close to 5000 more." To learn more about Colorado's own Free the Girls go to freethegirls.com and become a fan on Facebook. The shirts can be purchased on their website. If you were not able to make it to the event and still would like to donate a bra, please mail to Free the Girls LLC at 8200 S. Quebec St., #A3-137 in Centennial, CO 80112.