Late last year Jared Ball, Darius Wilmore, Lawrence Grandpre, Zeke Berzoff, Chris Baron, and I founded the Baltimore Mixtape Project as a vehicle with which we could both help produce and disseminate politically progressive hip-hop. We've gotten a lot of positive response from supporters, suggesting youth in general and to the extent we still think of hip-hop as a youth culture, hip-hop, is an undertapped resource. Battle Bar:None a contest that will award over $2000 in prizes to the best rap and spoken word that deals with the school to prison pipeline issue, is our first contest and will be held this spring.
As part of a longer effort to make this project transparent enough to replicate I want to talk a bit about our funding mechanism. One of the tools we used to make this possible was Kickstarter, a web fundraising application. It allows you to draw support from across the world, with the only cost being the cost to create the startup page. In our case we created a video for the project and paid out about $200 for it. Our Kickstarter project goal was $2000–enough to pay out the cash prizes.
Kickstarter projects are searchable. An editor from The Atlantic Monthly caught wind of it and named the project one of twelve worth funding for the Christmas holiday. To be fair I don't think this led to a lot of contributions–probably because I wasn't aware of her post until ten days after she posted it. But the energy that post gave me, made it a lot easier to contact people directly to raise money. Although I had my doubts, we raised the cash prize money with ten days to spare. We're still looking for donations now, in an attempt to raise about half of the money for our total budget (which at this point stands at about $10,000).
Yesterday I spoke at an Occupy rally held at the site of a proposed jail for "youth charged as adults". Brought my children with me for the first time. For me the event drove home the fact that we need more scholar activists (and for the first time I'm willing to claim and embrace that title).
It also drove home how important the Baltimore Mixtape Project is.