Talib Kweli (Courtesy of Talib Kweli’s official website)
In an effort to provide economic support to activists on the front lines of protests against police violence in Ferguson, Mo., rapper Talib Kweli on Friday distributed over $100,000 in grant money to support protesters.
“These are young men and women who have put their lives on hold to stand up for all of our freedoms,” Kweli says in a prepared statement. “The overly militarized police force in Ferguson has attempted to criminalize them by harassing and throwing them in jail for exercising their right to peaceful protest.”
The Action Support Committee, comprised of artists and activists, on Friday doled out grants to provide bail money for individuals arrested while engaging in peaceful protests, and other efforts that are not funded by foundations, Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of BlackLivesMatter movement and member of the committee, told NewsOne in a telephone interview.
“It’s supportive in a sense that folks on the ground are doing work, whether they have money or not,” Cullors says. “It will help people to do more work on the front lines without having to worry about money.”
The fundraising effort began in October after Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teen was shot and killed in August by then-Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson. Kweli, a longtime hip-hop activist and rapper; Tef Poe, a St. Louis artist; and Autumn Marie, an activist and curator, and others, launched a crowdfunding campaign at Indiegogo to provide legal support to Ferguson protesters. The campaign raised a total of $112,052, or $104,208 after 7 percent crowdfunding fees, according to a news release. The total surpassed the fund’s initial goal of $25,000, Cullors says.
She says a formal application process has been established to review requests and the first group of recipients received money Friday for a total of $48,800. A partial list of recipients includes: $35,000 to Missourians Organizing For Reform and Empowerment(MORE), which is designated for bail funds and legal support for Ferguson protesters; $2,000 to Artists As Tutors, which provides Ferguson students with homework assistance and training in creative writing and other arts; and $2,000 to the Revolutionary Reading Program: Freedom Fighters, which is collecting and disseminating historical Black literature for adults and children.
Of the remaining $54,000, $20,000 has been designated for Ferguson’s Action Support Committee’s Revolution School, which will train and provide technical assistance to local organizers. The remaining $34,000 will be dedicated to grants for programs committed to sustaining the recent momentum of social justice organizing. The committee is developing an application process and will release the next round of grants for the remaining balance in the late spring of 2015.
Besides Kweli and Cullors, other board members of the Action Support Committee include: Aisha Alexander, development director of Dream Defenders, Autumn Marie, and Diamond Latchison, of the Freedom Fighters.