Over the past six months, the COVID-19 pandemic has had an outsized and devastating impact on artists and musicians. Memphis creatives—whether student artists or professionals—have lost income due to cancelled gigs, lessons, and more.

So, back in April, Memphis Music Initiative established an Emergency Relief Fund to provide some short-term, immediate relief for the individual musicians, young people, and grassroots organizations who are part of our extensive network of programs. In total, the Fund granted $98,450 to 11 organizations, 43 individual musicians, and 18 youth to replace lost income and support ongoing youth engagement during the pandemic.

Musicians were able to request funds to recoup income from canceled performances across the country, recurring performances, group and private music classes, and more. Memphis’ arts and grassroots organizations, who likewise experienced significant setbacks when the pandemic hit, quickly developed innovative ways to engage participants online but sought capital investment to implement these changes. Youth applicants were able to request a technology grant, or up to $300 for the creation of new artwork pieces created in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Naturally, Memphis’ young creatives did not disappoint.

In reviewing the submissions, we were humbled by these students’ thoughtfulness in responding to an unprecedented national crisis—and by their sheer talent. We know you will be, too.

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Jakobi Abdur-Rasheed created a short film on how the COVID-19 virus has disproportionately affected low-income areas.

Nadifah Abdur-Rasheed created an art series on the effects of self-isolation in quarantine.

Jasmine Jackson wrote a poem highlighting her perspective on living during a pandemic.

Jacquez Johnson created fan art of an anime show called Dr. Stone, where
the main character makes a vaccine for the evil COVID-19 (represented as a monster).

Kenneth Reed composed an instrumental piece to showcase the light through these dark times.

Judah Sawyer developed a scene using music and visual art to represent some of the most pressing struggles in our world—including COVID-19, pollution, and our current political system.

Aliyah Walker composed an aria titled “opera nera: il retrogrado (Black Opera: The Retrograde).” The piece utilizes expressionistic techniques to highlight her experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.

LaDarryl Winsley II wrote a song titled “Thank You“— a toast to the money and opportunities lost to the pandemic, that will eventually come back around. Because “This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.”

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MMI remains incredibly grateful to all the Memphis artists who power our creative economy and the young people who are the beneficiaries of Memphis’ storied cultural heritage. Without them, there would be no MMI.