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June 10, 2024 30 mins
This week’s show featured Hook n Sync Foundation executive director Sasha promoting her organization as an opportunity for musicians in the metro to be heard and perform.  Then, Set Me Free Project executive director Stephanie Olson discussed her work with the FBI to prevent human trafficking around this year’s College World Series here in Omaha.
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Episode Transcript

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(00:04):
This is Community Matters, a weeklypublic affairs program to inform and entertain you
with some of the great people,organizations, and events in and around Omaha.
Now here's the host of the programfrom news radio eleven ten KFAB.
It's Scott for Heats. Thank youso much for being a part of our
program this week. I want tointroduce you first on the show to the

(00:27):
executive director of a group called theHook and Sink Foundation. Sasha is here.
Sasha, welcome to Community Matters.Thank you so much, Scott.
I appreciate you having me here.We've got a lot of fun events and
things coming up here to support thisgroup and their mission. But first let's
learn about this group. Absolutely yourmission. What is the Hook and Sink

(00:48):
Foundation, Sasha So, Hook andsingh Foundation is a five one nonprofit that
I founded about just over two yearsago, and with initially the vision that
I was going to help elevate localmusic and give singer songwriters a certain opportunity
performance platform, you know, kindof elevate and showcase them. A lot

(01:14):
of our local singer songwriters, andnot just here in Omaha, everywhere all
over the country, they don't reallyget the opportunity that some of these commercial
and it's not because they lack talent. They have Sometimes some of them hiding
in a corner would have way moretalent and gift and capability than once we

(01:37):
have, you know, on commercialradio. But they don't have the resources.
They don't have the network, theydon't have the context, they don't
have the support system, they don'tget the opportunities, they don't get a
platform pushing them. It's all aboutbeing in the right place at the right
time, having those resources and contactsand networks right and a lot of them
don't get that. And I wantedto, in my very small way whatever

(02:01):
I could to at least help that. And as I was doing that here
in Omaha. And I do notcome from this background at all. I
have no music in my background,except my entire family as musically oriented,
and my son was, my momwas, my sisters wore everybody around me

(02:23):
except I was the computer engineer.And not only was I am computer engineer,
and on my undergrad I have twograduate degrees. So I went in
that field and that was my pathat that time. And so I worked
for some of the largest computer softwaremanagement consulting companies and then eventually I started
my own software firm. I'm fromLawrence, Kansas. My two graduate degrees

(02:47):
are from KU and so I wasnot even remotely related to this field,
you know. And then life happened, and life happens to everybody. Sometimes
life has a way of kicking himin the blood and making him fall flat
on your face in the world.A series of traumas that happened, and

(03:12):
I was without a purpose. Andnot only was I without a purpose,
I actually didn't even have a reasonto be on this earth anymore. That's
what I decided. How long agowas that when you were feeling this way
it started about two thousand and eighteenish. What was it that suddenly hit
you in the head that music andbeing there for these performers would be a

(03:37):
big part of your purpose? Thatis probably the biggest question. So my
son was a musician in terms ofhe loved music. He was on stage
all the time. And then sowas my mom. And these were the
two most important things in my life, and I wanted to honor them and
basically, music, say my life, music was the only reason I'm still

(04:03):
here today. I played music twentyfour to seven. It elevated my mood
and I was in a very darkplace, and I realized the power of
music, and I wanted to giveback to music. And how better because
I had seen my son and hisfriends play music. They were you know,
I wanted to do something more forthem, and so I was like,

(04:25):
Okay, I am going to helpsinger songwriters, the local musicians.
And initially I didn't even know.Honestly, I had no idea because I'm
not from this field. I'm not. I don't didn't have any background zero
other than going to some concerts whereyou see, you go, you cheer,
and you come back. That hasnothing to do with this. So
just not being a singer or aninstrumentalist yourself doesn't mean that. You know,

(04:48):
you keep saying like, I haveno idea in music all you you
have an ear for it. Ido you. I grew up with it
and a heart for it. Youhave an ear for it and sometimes received
that music is just as important asputting it out there. So I'll sell
yourself short on this. Was therethank you when you had this realization.

(05:09):
Was there a specific song? No? It s because I think it'd be
funny if it was something like eatIt something way out of left field,
but it was not. I wishit was, and I listened to That's
why I'm trying to create and Iwill talk about a kinsinct's mission is basically
a united a unified, united platformfor all music, all genres, because

(05:34):
I listen to everything, anything thathas rhythm, anything that has melody.
The lyrics are very important to mebecause I identify with that. Anything that
moves me moves my feet, Iwould listen to. It doesn't matter what
language. It could be Japanese,it could be Hebrew, it could be
Greek. I don't understand the words, but I understand the music moves me,

(05:58):
you know. And that's true.That is the universality of music.
And so it wasn't really the heatI mess it was. But I was
kind of in that mode because notonly do I have two graduate degrees in
computer engineering, I was always ontop of my class, like I was
the four point oho GPA topper.I was always the one who got the

(06:23):
promotions first. So I was alwaysa go getter, achiever, over achiever.
And I was sitting there not doinganything, and I was saying,
what is my purpose in life?And at the end of it was several
years, I actually and when Ididn't do the deed, I was like,
Okay, why am I here?What is my purpose? If I

(06:45):
am here still, then the universehas a reason for me to be here.
That is when I kind of startedthinking here in the soul and not
so much thinking here in the headof what does my heart one? I
love the genesis of this organization,which again is the Hook and Sync Foundation.
We're talking with the executive director,Sasha here on community matters. You'll

(07:09):
find them on Facebook and Instagram.Before we talk about some of the events
coming up here, let's talk aboutwhat the foundation actually does. We know
how it was formed and why.So for people who are singer, songwriters,
instrumentalist musicians that say, well,I love what you're talking about here
and how you help people kind ofhave that platform? How does that work?

(07:30):
Do you go and listen to livemusic and then tell someone you know,
like the Billy Joel song man,what are you doing here? And
try and give them that platform andthey reach out to you. How does
it work? It kind of worksboth ways. So when I initially started,
I was trying to figure it outand it has evolved in just two

(07:50):
years from me doing initially starting offin doing like you know, open my
trying to give people that don't getup to all the time a stage to
perform, and they love it absolutely. People would then the moment they found
out, they would come clamoring,they would sign up, they would you
know, contact me. And initiallyI did have to find a few because

(08:13):
I am not from Omaha, I'mnot from music. I didn't know the
artists, I didn't know the venues. I didn't know a whole lot of
people. Actually I didn't know asingle person in Omaha. It was a
fresh start. And so right nowfrom that I am doing what I'm doing
this month in June thirteen through fifteenis a nineteen stage three days activating three

(08:39):
different districts citywide. Basically, Iwanted to take it all across the city,
all genres, like every genre youcan think of, and trying to
create a music festival that every kindof music and Omaha can come and be

(09:00):
a part of and be a trueintegrated platform for all bands, some very
senior, some very junior, juststarting off from singer songwriter solos to eight
piece bands. And I'm also tryingto not just all genres like even world

(09:20):
music, like I have a Bollywoodband. You know, I have an
eight piece mariachi band also, andeight piece is not normal. They're usually
a three or four. And Ihave taken two and three different mariachi bands
and put them together. And soI also have a Latin rock. So

(09:41):
I'm trying to get because Latin music. Somebody told me right as I came
to Omaha, it's the subculture.It's still an underground and I said,
why, you guys are as muchpart of the community, and you have
music, and it is beautiful music. It needs to come out and be
part of overall. It's music.So I am trying to put together every

(10:05):
kind of music and whoever there is, I put it out there. And
so that is what is going onnow is the first what nineteen acts on
nineteen stages, eighty eighty plus acts, ten national artists in over how many
days, three days, over threedays, three successive days or it's not

(10:26):
like this day over there and thena week later we're doing this. It's
just a day festival in different partsof town. What ver happened? What
army are you using to help youin terms of volunteers to get all of
this done, pull all this together, because I don't know if you're know
this is coming up in the nextfew days, Sasha, you know,
so how does this work? Iam still putting that together so so far,

(10:52):
and not only that, I haveput this together in eight weeks all
by myself, pretty much. It'scrazy. But I do have a huge
background in project management. That's whatthat's what I've done in you know,
I have worked in some of therarer airs. I have had my own

(11:13):
software company that I took from groundto the national level. So I have
dealing with numbers on a spreadsheet that'szeros and ones. These are artists.
These are people coming and saying Iwill not perform on the same stage as
that person. You got that partright. You've got to deal with people

(11:33):
in all of this. This isn'tthe spreadsheet. This is humanity and it's
horrible. Sometimes are you prepared forall? I have been learning a lot
last two years, Let's put itthat all right, Kelsey, been very
learning, good learning. Where canpeople go to see these performances? How
they get tickets? So there isan event out there on our Facebook and

(11:58):
the ticket link is on there.It's an event, Bright ticket link and
if they just do a search andeven Bright for one Omaha and the name
itself is one Omaha because I wantedto create a one unified Omaha. So
it's not so now I'm going togo a little bit more into the mission
part. So it's not just creatinga unified, integrated music community and a

(12:24):
music platform. It's really rallying thecommunity itself, the general community itself around
music because music is, as westarted saying, is the language of the
soul. And the first thing,because I'm an outsider, want to Omaha
be to this whole field of work. There were certain perspective that I had,

(12:48):
which is not common because people whoare grounded or have grown up or
been here for a very long time, they're used to it. To me,
it felt Oma is very segmented musicwise. The genres were and stove
pipe. They all had their ownlanes and they all worked in their own
lanes, but never really the wallswere there. And one band didn't know

(13:09):
another band, and they're musicians andthey have lived here all their life and
they all play music, but theydon't know about each other. They don't,
you know, there's no bonding,no marging, no overlap. And
the second thing I saw the samething with general community. There is even
geographical borders, like you know acertain demographic and North Omah has certain demographic,

(13:33):
in South omahas certain demographic and WestOmaha. I'm like, this is
not how a city grows. Youknow, you need to bring everybody together
into a melting pot. So Iwanted to rally the community, and I
felt, if we can create aunited music lovers community which everybody listens to

(13:56):
according to their personal taste, rightevery single and even between the same demographic,
some person might be listening to thisone genre and the other person might
be listening to another. But ifwe get a platform that is all gendres
everything and language barrier irrelevant of languagebarrier like a Bollywood or Latin, then

(14:18):
you bring out everybody you know andyou've got a melting pot that is the
community. And eventually, someday whatI would love to want my vision.
My vision's a little too big forme to handle by myself. And you
ask the right question, what volunteers, I don't really have that many.
But the thing is, and Iif there's one thing I believe in in

(14:39):
the world. One just one thingthat I believe hundred percent truly, that's
myself. I believe in myself somuch that I can make everything happen.
And I you know, a littlebit at a time, little bit at
a time, little bit, nextup, next step, next step.
But basically, if we can reallywork together, so one, Oma is

(15:01):
the first, very first step.The last two years have been more learning
and putting together festivals that work,bringing national artists, getting to know the
venues, getting to know the networkhere, the artists, everything, But
this is really the first step towardsbringing that whole community and the music world

(15:22):
together. And if we can keepdoing this right, eventually I would love
to have an Austin here, youknow, or Chicago, Detroit, New
Orleans, you name it, Seattle, those music communities are so integrated.
Nashville obviously is way too big,but Austin's called the music capital of the

(15:43):
world. So if we could andOMA has the potential, that is what
I saw the first thing as anoutsider. There are more creatives here.
Let's make sure people know where theyneed to go to be able to see
this. So again, the dates, the locations, how do people get
tickets? For the big event.So the dates are June thirteenth through fifteen,

(16:03):
and the first day, June thirteenth, is downtown and Old Market.
Downtown, we have the Capital DistrictPlaza, which has not been activated in
a long time, at least notfor concert like this. And then we
have five different venues in the OldMarket. The funnest thing, I got

(16:23):
a private parking lot in Old Marketfifteenth and Harney and we are calling it
Harney Street Live and Lout. Sothis is going to be the first time
Old Market will have a parking lotparty, and we will have two of
our actual visiting bands play over there. So that's June thirteenth, yes,

(16:47):
and that would start around six ishor maybe a little earlier, but six
ish and go tell The sound ordinanceis eleven o'clock. I hope to end
by ten thirty. And then wewill also have c WS visitors here.
CWS starts the next day, andI am hoping that they get to see

(17:11):
a little bit of Almaha music.You know, over the three days they
will be looking for something to do, and I wanted to serve that to
the visitors here in town. Andso then we have four other venues the
dublin Er, the Harney Street Tavern, the Well which is the Soso Coffee
and who am I missing about ofthe South the Cut Center. So they

(17:34):
are all in a line over thereon Harney Street. So it's very easy.
Is that just for the evening ofthe thirteenth or is that every night?
No, that is just for theevening. So the downtown district is
thirteenth, the June thirteenth, Junefourteenth is Benson and Midtown districts. So

(17:55):
we have four venues in Midtown andthree and Benson and then including the Waiting
Room and the River b Lounge,and then on fifteenth it is only Benson,
okay. And along with that we'llalso have a street fair in Benson.
I have had street closure apartments,and so I give an opportunity to

(18:17):
all our small business the minority homebased businesses, an opportunity to you know,
take advantage of this. And samething downtown two. So yeah,
it's it's a pretty pretty HUMANUSM.It's taken on a life of its own.
There will be some people who justare able to go to one place
to see one artist, they gota friend play, and they want to

(18:40):
do that and there are some peoplewho say, I want to do as
much of it as possible. SoI'm guessing there's like a one day pass,
there's a three day pass. Howdo people get tickets and you buy
them at the door? How doesthat work? Correct? And so it's
all about ristbands. It's very muchin the same vein as what blues in
the market for blues, does youbuy the risk? So they can purchase

(19:02):
the wristband day pass for the dayat any of the venues. So there
will be color coded, so Fridaywill have a different color, and Thursday
will have a different color and Saturdaya different color, or they can buy
a three day all of those tickets. Right now, the day passes and
the three days are on the eventbright the ticket center which is connected to

(19:27):
the event, and that is onHook and Sank Facebook. We also have
another Facebook paid set up just forthe festival. It's called one Omaha Festival.
And so they can go to eitherof those Facebook pages and be able
to get to the event and getto the ticket from there, but they

(19:49):
can also buy at the venue andHook and SNC is spelled hook h Okay
then in then Sink, s Yand CE Hook in Sync Foundation for the
one Omaha Festival. Find them onFacebook and that has the link to get
tickets and so forth. What's thesignificance of the name hook in Sync.

(20:10):
I am so glad you asked itis. I am so glad. It
is very special to me. Sothe hook and the n H and the
n are my son's initials and saysfor Sasha. So I just wanted to
honor him. Well, I thinkit's so great that you've started. And
I also wanted to make hook,the and the sinc are music terms,

(20:33):
right, So I wanted to havea music term for this to represent the
music. And then it's right,Yeah, you got to be in sync,
whether or not you're actually in theband in sync, and then you've
got to have a good Actually,that's funny. You asked that, you
know some artists Themsels said kind ofmad that I didn't even initially I just
thought hook is a music term andsink is a music term. They said

(20:56):
it is about like hooking the artistand then thinking everybody together. And I
never made that connection. It's actuallythe artist. Some of them did that,
and they said, oh, okay, it just makes sense. H
okay. In Sink, s Yand c Hook and Sinc. Foundation.
Find them on Facebook as well asInstagram. It's the one Omaha Festival coming

(21:19):
right up here June thirteenth through thefifteenth. On the evening of the thirteenth,
you've got a lot of different venuesin the Old Market. On the
fourteenth Benson in Midtown, and onfifteenth just that wonderful music scene in Benson.
Sasha is the executive director of theHook and Sink Foundation. Super cool
thing that you're doing. Thank youvery much for putting forth all of this

(21:41):
effort and thanks for telling us aboutit on Community Matters. Thank you so
much, Scott. I appreciate youhaving me here up next on Community Matters
this week, there is a bigevent coming to Omaha later this month,
of course, the College World SeriesBaseball Championships. But there is a friend
of this program who knows that thisannual event is about more than bringing baseball

(22:02):
fans to the Omaha metro. StephanieOlsen, the executive director of the Set
and Me Free Project, works toget people out of situations involving human trafficking
and shine a light on this veryreal possibility. Right Stephanie, we have
a problem with trafficking every day,and Nebraska as a whole. Certainly Omaha
is a hot spot for human trafficking. But any time there is a big

(22:30):
event, anytime there's money, there'speople, there is a higher demand.
And so we don't know the exactstatistics, but we do know that there
are people who come and celebrate withtheir friends that might take advantage of something
as horrible as trafficking, buying people. I would love to plead ignorance about,

(22:52):
well, how does this happen?But you and I have had enough
conversations over the years that I knowwhere some of this conversation goes. I
still want to have it, though, because not everyone does. They still
think of and you've heard me usethis example. They think of human trafficking
as the movie Taken Absolutely, whereyou know you were kidnapped and then sold
to some fat guy in a boatand it's just, you know, this

(23:15):
horrible experience, and sadly, thiskind of thing does happen, but it's
not usually kidnapped by strangers, isit. It's not, And it's usually
building relationships, and a lot oftimes on social media, we know there's
a huge, unfortunate increase of familialtrafficking, where moms and dads are the
traffickers, grandmas and grandpa's are thetraffickers. But when it comes to the

(23:37):
College World Series, there's a lotof miz and people think, oh my
gosh, I'm afraid to send mykids to the College World Series because they're
going to get kidnapped. No,and that's just a fallacy. That's not
something that's going to happen most likely, Right, So how does it generally
happen when some of these guys havebeen tailgating since Tuesday and it's now Saturday

(23:59):
and they're like, I've got agreat idea, yeah, you know,
and then there's some online resources.So primarily the increase with trafficking are going
to be the people traffickers are bringingin to the College World Series. And
that's why it's important for there tobe awareness and prevention with the companies that

(24:19):
are around the College World Series events, so hotels and restaurants and bars,
they need to know what to lookfor when it comes to things like that.
So what do we need to lookfor? Well, I think it's
important that we first understand what's nothappening. Again, what's not happening is
kidnapping a whole bunch of people aroundthe College World series. But when we

(24:41):
see things that might be unusual,maybe you've got a couple of people who
don't look like they match, somebodyolder, somebody younger, maybe somebody who
might be hyper submissive. That mightbe something to look for. But primarily

(25:02):
it's going to be those hotels andthose restaurants that are going to be seeing
that extra traffic and things that they'rethere needing to be prepared for to make
a difference. Actually, so someonesees a situation, they're like, I
don't I don't like the look ofthis. I get a bad feeling when

(25:22):
I see that older guy with thatyounger girl, And I just got a
feeling. I don't know, butI would I would hate to see something
that I can help prevent and notdo anything about it. What do I
do? Do I just go upand go, hey, what are you
doing? Or do I call thepolice? What do I do? Yeah?
I call Liam Neeson. Yes,if you can call Liam Neeson,

(25:44):
let him know that I want totalk to him. But otherwise, I
mean that is you know, don'tever intervene on your own. It's important
that we make sure that we're notparticipating, but that there are things that
we can do. Nebraska actually hasa human trafficking hot line, and so
they can call I'm grabbing this aswe speak before I give you that hotline,

(26:10):
though, if there is an immediateneed nine one one, contact nine
one one, and people are definitelygoing to be prepared. If you are
in trouble and you need help,you want to call the Nebraska Human Trafficking
Hotline, which is eight eight eightthree seven three seven eight eight eight.

(26:32):
But if you see something and youneed to report, you can contact eight
eight I'm sorry eight three three sevenfive seven five six six five, which
is the Nebraska Human Trafficking hot linefor reporting. No one's going to remember
that number, but they'll remember toask their phone what's the phone number for
the Nebraska Human Trafficking hotline, andthen they can find that number. Click

(26:55):
a thing and call the number exactly, or you can remember eight three three.
Please look, there is the lsL O okay, okay, p
ls L okay. Please look eighteight eight please look eight three three already
eighth see eight. I know there'sa little eight. Yes, we're talking
here with Stephanie Olsen, executive directorof the Set Me Free Project. What

(27:17):
is it that your organization does whenyou're able to intervene in the life of
someone who has been down a paththat he or she never thought you know,
I should say she or he neverthought they'd be going down. You
know, we really focus on preventioneducation because only one to two percent of
trafficked individuals are recovered and restored,striking statistic. So we want to stop

(27:41):
human trafficking before it starts. Sowe have a curriculum for all ages.
But one of the things that wealso do is have a curriculum and training
for survivors of human trafficking and peoplethat need to learn what does a healthy
relationship look like, how to besafe on social media? And then we

(28:03):
work with a lot of amazing organizationslike Project Harmony and organizations that do that
direct service, and so we doa lot of referrals in that sense as
well. Yeah, there probably aren'tgoing to be a lot of people who
will be able to intervene and savesomeone here going down to a baseball game
later this month in downtown Omaha.But for those people who are parents and

(28:30):
they say, yeah, my teenagerhas. I know some of this is
just standard teenage stuff, but Imean they've been withdrawn in a very disturbing
way. You know, the peoplethat they're hanging out with. I get
very nervous about. There's just someolder guy that's just been coming around and
it feels like he's grooming my kid, right. I mean, these are

(28:52):
things that you can look out foras a parent, real things, and
the amount of time they're spending onsocial media, who they're relating to you,
and just what you said, thosechanges. What used to be typical
is no longer their typical, andso what do you do in a situation
like that, because as a parent, it is a scary thing. But
that's where having those people and Ialways say traffickers build incredible relationships, we

(29:19):
need to build better ones. Andso that's one of the things we really
try and help the community, helpparents and caregivers do. How do you
talk to your youth about human trafficking, about social media safety and all of
those things. That is a StephanieOlson, executive director that sent Me Free
Project online at at set me Freeproject dot net. This has been Community

(29:42):
Matters, a weekly public affairs specialon cat one O three, Omaha's Greatest
Hits, ninety nine point nine KGrNews Radio eleven ten KFAB, Country's Greatest
Hits ninety three three the Wolf,and ninety six one Kiss That Them.
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