On Friday, artist and activist Jonathan "Chaka" Mahone announced the launch of a new privately funded Black Live Music Fund.
In a video announcement about the fund on Facebook Live, Mahone said his short-term goal is to raise $50,000 in the next six months to provide grants of $2000 to $2500 to at least 20 Austin-area musicians, entrepreneurs and promoters who "are already doing things that are benefiting the Black community."
Local music patronage organization Black Fret, helped kick off a fundraising drive with an initial donation of $10,000.
Mahone, who is half of the husband/wife hip-hop duo Riders Against the Storm, began pushing the idea of the fund in June as the Austin Music Commission deliberated on how to allocate money from the new hotel occupancy tax-funded Austin Live Music Fund. (Mahone is vice-chair of the commission.) After months of discussion and analysis, the commission voted unanimously in October to recommend that 50% of the money in the fund should go to artists and organizations representing historically neglected and disenfranchised communities in Austin’s music scene.
Though the idea for the Black Live Music Fund originated in discussions about city money, Mahone said he realized that he "didn’t want to have a Black Live Music Fund underneath any type of city ownership."
"It's about bringing resources to a place and putting those resources back out to the community so that community can benefit and that community can grow its own resources, its own power," he said. "And we don't necessarily need the city to do that. We can do that ourselves."
In the long term, Mahone said money from the fund could go toward things like building an "online platform where people can come and learn and see and hear the beautiful, powerful, magical things that are happening with Black musicians in Austin." Eventually, as the fund grows, he hopes it could help Black entrepreneurs open music venues, he said.
He believes we are at the beginning of a time of "Renaissance, rejuvenation, and reformation of Austin music," he said.
"There (are) so many people out there that are doing such amazing work. And we want to fund that. We want to support that. We want to give these musicians and the promoters and entrepreneurs that are in this scene the tools that they need to really grow the scene," he said.