Last Labor Day Weekend — yes, a good little bit ago — about 85,000 people swarmed the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for Philly’s 10th annual, Jay-Z curated, Made in America festival. Concertgoers braved the heat — boy, was it hot — for Bad Bunny, Jazmine Sullivan, Lil Uzi Vert, Tyler the Creator. Out of all those 85,000 concertgoers, I may have been the only one there for Cause Village. Cause Village is MIA’s hub of local and national charitable organizations who come to promote their … causes.
This year’s MIA is expecting just as large a crowd as last year. Philly’s buzzing in the best way about headliners Lizzo and Sza. The organizers of MIA know you’re coming for the music. With Cause Village, they hope you’ll learn to be more civically engaged while you’re there.
Cause Village has been a staple of Made in America since the beginning, says Dania Diaz, managing director of Team ROC, the philanthropic and social justice division of Roc Nation, Jay-Z’s entertainment company. “For over a decade now, a primary goal of Made In America has been to uplift the community and its members, not only with music, but with a commitment to positive change, and that is what Cause Village does,” she says.
Team Roc selects participating organizations — 29 last year — by looking locally, then nationally, to represents causes festival goers care about — social justice, financial empowerment, prison reform. This allows, Diaz hopes, “[for] the broad range of festival attendees to come and find a cause that they care about and also get involved in.”
The village, located on the south side of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway between 22nd and 23rd streets, was packed throughout MIA weekend. Festival goers of all ages and backgrounds seemed enthusiastically engaged at each booth. There was Galaei, a QTBIPOC racial justice org flying a pride flag and running a bubble machine, and the School District of Philadelphia’s Office of Arts and Creative Learning, a DJ booth and live speakers.
Meet the causes in Cause Village
So, in the off-chance you are looking for some civic motivation as we head into the summer months, check out a handful of the 20-some organizations who attended Made in America last year:
Bridges to Wealth (B2W): Financial empowerment. From Penn’s Netter Center for Community Involvement in partnership with the Shawn Carter Foundation, this all-ages, national program has been working to close the racial wealth gap since 2012. B2W does this through free financial education programs, available to high schools and through weekly investment meetings, which anyone can attend, free of charge.
Half a Million Kids: Housing for youth in foster care. “Our mission is to take all children eligible for adoption, which means the parental rights have been terminated by the courts, and place every one of those children in a loving home. We’re doing that through a multimedia campaign and engagement and mobilization campaign,” explains Leah Stauffer, the group’s founder. You can learn more about the work Half a Million Kids is doing here.
Dare to Hope: Youth suicide prevention. Sarah-Ashley Andrews started Dare to Hope after losing a friend to suicide. This was the organization’s sixth year at Made in America. They’ve returned year after year to educate people on mental health and how to live mentally well, in order to conquer youth suicide.
BanksGiving: Business and financial literacy. Chris Banks is a policy analyst for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the executive director and namesake of this Philly nonprofit. He says, “A lot of kids, especially minority kids, don’t necessarily have the ability to be as well-versed in their finances as others.” To change that, Banksgiving hosts youth finance and business seminars, pop-ups, and awards.
Share Food Program: Food insecurity. Share Food serves one million Philadelphians each month by making home deliveries and forging partnerships with local pantries. They also offer several ways to get involved: packing and sorting food donations, donating yourself. Learn more here.
Pennsylvania Prison Society. Prison advocacy and reform. Even the country’s oldest human rights organization was at Cause Village. “We have legal, statutory access to anybody who’s incarcerated in state or county custody in Pennsylvania,” says Kirsten Cornell, the group’s family and community support director. “This means that each week we have hundreds of incarcerated people and their loved ones reach out to us.” These requests range from difficulty accessing care to complaints about conditions of confinement. Get involved.
Galaei: QTBIPOC social justice. This radical social justice group is based in Kensington’s Norris Park. Galaei offers quick HIV and Covid tests, vaccination clinics, and a four-week summer camp for queer kids. Even more impressive: They turn down no one. They also need volunteers.
Unity in the Community: Gun violence prevention. “Providing alternatives to young men that are involved in gun violence,” is core to the mission of South Philly-based Unity in the Community, shares Executive Director Anton Moore. These alternatives include a carpentry academy to teach skills such as painting and assembling walls and floors.
HeadCount: Voter registration. This nonpartisan organization attends concerts across the country register those eligible to vote — and to engage everyone in democracy. Perks of volunteering: See artists like Kid Cudi and Harry Styles, for free.
Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective (BEAM). Black mental health and empowerment. This Southern California-based org does “trainings with corporate organizations and nonprofits to make better environments for Black folks to thrive in.” They make grants too.
Peace and Love: Promote peace; dispel violence. This Florida outfit brings awareness to social justice issues through fashion, arts, music and entertainment. “We encourage people to choose peace and love to replace the violence in the world,” says Rochelle Satchell, Peace and Love’s co-founder. (Their tote bags are on point too.)
1Hood Media. Social justice through art + education. “1Hood Media is a group of socially conscious artists with a mission to build communities through arts education and social justice,” says Farooq Al-Said, director of operations at this Pittsburgh-based group. 1Hood also teaches young people media literacy — and how to tell their stories in an authentic and positive way.
As — I assume — the only person at MIA for the purpose of Cause Village, I hoped to answer one question. Is the pop-up truly effective, or just for show? As I interacted with representatives from the organizations, the answer was clear. Cause Village is a vessel for positive community connection.
After last year’s MIA festival, organizers counted 25,800 “social impacts” over the weekend:. This number is a total of the pop-up’s volunteer sign-ups, donations, new social media followers, and people who stopped to talk at to representatives at booths.
Cause Village’s impact was qualitative as well. These organizations love the opportunity to share their work. The crowd of people constantly walking through Cause Village shows that the people love to listen. The Prison Society asked interested passersby to sign a petition to Governor Wolf to end to pandemic-era restrictions on prison visitation. By the time I signed, the box collecting signatures was almost full.
Sarah-Ashely Andrews of Dare to Hope uses Causes Village as an opportunity to, she says, have “people come and share their survivor stories, connect people to resources such as therapy. Talk about what we do, and raise money too.” For other organizations, it is an opportunity to register volunteers, raise money, and network with and for communities they support.
People travel near and far for the music of Made in America. But it’s for the positive vibe, too. It’s nice for Philly to be highlighted as a city that gives back, that cares about its citizens, that uplifts its neighbors and engages its visitors. These organizations are doing groundbreaking work, spearheaded by talented individuals. This is what Philly can and should be known for.
Made in America tickets are now on sale. The festival takes place Labor Day weekend, September 2 and 3.
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