Mary Mary poses with CGI children and founder Dana Hammond at the West Angeles Community Development Corporation Unity Awards Banquet
Tomorrow evening, the nonprofit Choice Group (CGI) will host its inaugural fundraising event in Santa Monica, CA with special guests Mary Mary, LA-based singer Akelee, Grammy-winning producer (and board member) Warryn Campbell, and Brad Moser, a local Wells Fargo branch manager who’s being honored for his dedication to the organization. (Wells Fargo is also a title sponsor.)
CGI is dedicated to bringing music education programs to children living in foster care and the Los Angeles inner city. Founded by Dana Hammond, the fundraiser is also a celebration of the five-year anniversary of the organization.
“Knowing that so many schools are taking their music programs out, CGI offers that outlet for kids to have something meaningful and life-enhancing after school,” Mary Mary’s Erica Campbell said in a press release statement. The fundraising goal for tomorrow’s event is $50,000, a figure that Hammond admits might be too large for the 150 to 200 people who are expected to attend, “but I’m a man of great faith.”
Hammond himself was a foster child, and is inspired to do his work by the deep cuts to the city’s arts programs. Moreover, there are career development opportunities through the group. According to information CGI provided us, one in six local jobs are in the “creative industry” and that industry is the second biggest business sector in the area.
We sent Hammond a few questions via email to gather his thoughts about his organization and those he serves. To purchase a ticket or otherwise support CGI, click here.
Madame Noire: You were in foster care as a child. What should everyone out there know about the system and the children in it?
Dana Hammond: I believe it gave me an advantage. I work with some of the most resilient kids. I believe they aren’t even aware of their own strength. People should know foster youth have an advantage because some are forced to grow up really fast and as a result they understand things about life at age 12 or 14 that most adults take years to understand. If I were to compare the journey of foster youth to being in college, I would consider foster youth to be [a] “Ph.D. program of life.” I believe foster youth are geniuses.
MN: What sort of effect do you see these programs having on the kids?
DH: I see a number of the effects, such as witnessing confidence increase in CGI youth because they exceed their own expectations when composing original music for the first time. I see overall growth when youth who have come into the program with some disciplinary challenges become challenged to learn a very complex music software application called “Logic.” We see his or her focus positively shift into learning the software. I also observe the effects during our life-skills activities when the question about money and success arise, and youth are able to correlate success or money as a byproduct of having a strong work ethic and dedication to their goals and objectives.
MN: What will the funds be used for?
DH: I love this question because I like to show how the revenues directly impact the youth. Choice Group Inc. has grown from offering one program to now offering four programs within a very short period. The funds will be used to hire instructors and part-time staffers to support our growth. We plan to increase the number of programs we offer throughout the year, which will enable us to serve more youth. We’ve already began our “Social Entrepreneur” endeavor through securing partnerships with independent schools, offering our new media arts programs to those schools and using a portion of the proceeds to support Choice Group Inc. programs. We’re being creative and proactive to produce a sustainable organization.