Laundromat Project ‘pays it forward’ to 5 POC-led NYC cultural organizations

Laundromat Project ‘pays it forward’ to 5 POC-led NYC cultural organizations
The Laundromat Project on a field day in Bed-Stuy in 2013. Photo courtesy of the Laundromat Project.

The Laundromat Project announced Wednesday that its annual peer-to-peer fundraiser will see an inversion of sorts. Instead of raising money for the organization, the Brooklyn-based arts nonprofit’s People-Powered Challenge will “pay it forward” by using recent gifts to award $50,000 in total to five New York City cultural organizations led by people of color (POC).

The recipients — which include Kelly Street Garden, W.O.W. ProjectLiterary Freedom Project, BlackSpace and STooPS — will each receive $10,000 in unrestricted funds to “support their work utilizing the power of creativity to transform the lives of people of color in their communities,” according to a press release about the initiative, slightly renamed this year to People-Powered Pay-it-Forward. Awardees will be celebrated on The Laundromat Project’s social media platforms Oct. 25 to Oct. 29.

“Our belief is that when one artist or organization in our ecosystem becomes stronger, there is an obligation and opportunity to ensure that those with whom we are connected are able to do the same,” George Suttles, board chair of The Laundromat Project, said in the announcement. “These gifts are but a small seed of affirmation and acknowledgement of the work these grassroots organizations do every day.”

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Suttles continued, noting the aim to spur further support beyond the initiative: “We also hope that celebrating their work encourages our greater community of individuals, artists, and partners to do more in helping to support and sustain their efforts.”

According to the announcement, the selection process for the People-Powered Pay-it-Forward awards took into account past partnerships with the organization, in addition to the recipient’s size, operations and how it aligned with the nonprofit’s POC-Centered Principles as outlined on The Laundromat Project website.

Funds come by way of a “significant gift” from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott and her husband Dan Jewett, who awarded $2.7 billion to 286 nonprofit organizations, including The Laundromat Project, in June. The campaign marks the single largest award doled out by the organization since it was fully incorporated in 2005 with the aim of providing resources and financial support for New York City-based artists.

The initiative arrives amid a period of change for the organization, which announced last year its relocation from its two sites in Harlem and the South Bronx to a single, long-term headquarters in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy neighborhood — a move that united its programming and administrative efforts at 1476 Fulton St.

“This will be the first time we’re giving money rather than raising it during the People-Powered Challenge,” said Kemi Ilesanmi, executive director of The Laundromat Project and ALL ARTS editorial advisory board member. “The transformative gift we received this summer, along with the move to our new home in Bed-Stuy, began a new chapter for The Laundromat Project, allowing us to reimagine how to have an even bigger impact. We hope it will do the same for our People-Powered Pay-it-Forward Award recipients, allowing them to explore new and proven ways that will best serve their communities.”

More information about the recipients of the People-Powered Pay-it-Forward awards can be found on The Laundromat Project website.

Top Image: The Laundromat Project on a field day in Bed-Stuy in 2013. Photo courtesy of the Laundromat Project.