Alanah Davis remembers waking up March 13 in her Baltimore home and realizing that those in the arts community would suffer in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I had to cancel about eight weeks’ worth of events myself at the beginning of March and am continuing to have to cancel and postpone in-person events,” said the 28-year-old marketing consultant and spoken word poet. “I thought about how difficult that would be losing thousands of dollars.”
That day, Davis opened an emergency COVID-19 fund with $100 and the intention of raising more for struggling artists and freelancers. When she closed the fund in early April, she had disseminated more than $5,000 to about 130 recipients.
The distributions ranged between $25 and $100, which may seem small, Davis acknowledged.
“It isn’t a lot, but it’s like, ‘Get yourself something nice,’ or ‘Help pay your phone bill’ or something small,” she reasoned. “It’s a morale booster.”
Davis sought contributions from organizations such as The Awesome Foundation, The Warnock Foundation and Baltimore Creates (an extension of the Maryland Institute College of the Arts). More than 50 percent of the fund came from individual donors such as singer/actress Janelle Monae, who donated $1,000.
Ashley Yates, a 28-year-old vocalist who has known Davis since 2015, said she used $100 from the fund to pay off her cell phone bill and her partner’s. Yates said Davis gave without pronouncing judgement.
“I love that she doesn’t act like she’s bigger or better,” she said. “She is a mother, a community activist, an artist, and at the end of the day, she knows what it feels like to struggle sometimes.”
Davis said she would consider re-opening the fund if she got help reviewing applications while juggling working and raising two daughters.
“This interest extends far beyond COVID,” she said. “Artists are always kind of in a pinch because they don’t necessarily have resources or funds to tap all the time.”
Davis said some recipients have sent her artwork and bottles of champagne. Some qualified for unemployment and donated back to the fund.
Davis downplayed the idea that she is a hero, instead crediting her faith in God for sending her “a message.”
“It’s a spirit-filled thing,” she said. “This type of generosity is not something that I think we see and feel every day, and I think right now is especially a time when we need those reminders.”
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