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Enterprising African-American creatives , small business owners, and more are using crowdsourced funding platforms instead of traditional loans with success.

By Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond

“IT TRULY TAKES A VILLAGE” was the all caps theme of the updates Raquel Griffin posted on, an online funding platform that bills itself as “a new way to fund and follow creativity.”  In January 2011, the New York-based photographer and stylist who has racked up impressive credits styling for the likes of Adrien Brody, People magazine, and MTV, wanted to shoot an editorial spread that would address the absence of blacks in 1950s fashion photography—and she needed $3,500 to do it. Using Kickstarter to launch a 30-day campaign that included a video and written pitch to her “village,” Griffin surpassed her goal in three weeks, ultimately raising $4,607. Although starting her Kickstarter campaign was free, a 5% fee was then levied on Griffin’s pot of creative capital.

This charge is worth the tremendous empowerment Griffin gained through joining the “crowdsourcing” trend. With budgets shrinking in response to the recession, particularly in publishing and other creative industries, artists like Griffin have had to conceive of new ways to fund their passions. Through crowdsourcing (or crowdfunding), entrepreneurs are turning to specialized sites that help them fund projects that traditionally would have been impossible to produce without the support of financial gatekeepers.

By sidestepping institutions like banks, crowdsourcing sites allow anyone with access to a computing device to raise money from friends for their ideas. Many black artists—and more—are already riding this wave.

“The old way of getting money is dead,” declares LaShunda Davis, owner of ‘Cure Beauty Bar nestled in Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill neighborhood. “Knowing that banks were totally not giving out loans,” Davis continues, she opted to make her pitch on GoFundMe to acquire more capital. “My thought was to get people and friends involved.”

The concept of tapping your community instead of a bank appealed to singer Imani Uzuri, who has toured the world promoting her first album, which  performed with The Roots on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.” In less than two months she raised over $18,000 to produce her second album through Kickstarter. She has good reason to exclaim: “Community is power!”

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