MEET Justin: Musician and budding philanthropist
Justin Newton is a musician and budding philanthropist. Drumming in the local band This Piano Plays Itself, he can often be found at local gigs or in his bands tour bus taking to the road. Earlier this spring Justin decided to use his musical connections to make a difference, starting a small-scale fundraising event bring together music, food and community building. We sat down with him to find out how he got started.
What is your project?
The Atlanta Soul Project is inspired by SOUP which is an organization out of detroit which does community dinners along with fundraising for local community building projects. Its kind of a competition where there is a 5 dollar donation at the door, and 3 organizations present 5 min proposals, and do a 5 minute q & a with the audience. then the audience decides at the end of the night who they want to see get all the money from the door. Its micro funding so you can do anywhere from 200 to 600 dollars most of the time, unless you get a really good crowd. Then you might get more.
So, I just tacked on bands because that is what my background is-music. I thought it would be cool to showcase local music while also raising funding for community building projects. All while giving people food from local restaurants.
What challenges have you faced?
The challenge for me mostly, was that I had never done anything with nonprofits. It was hard for me to find organizations and once I did find organizations, some people were a little skeptical about how it would go down- me never having done this before. They wanted to see how the first event went and wanted to be involved after that. Also,right before the first event, I broke my collar bone. I was organizing and MCing and on pain killers, so I was kind of a mess.
What effect is your project having in the community?
I just really hope to help people raise money for things that are a good idea, things that are going to help the community and build Atlanta into what it has the potential to be. We are sort of a the New York of the South. But, we are a new city. A baby. Atlanta is a baby. I am just trying to help people with good ideas so they can help the community, giving them the financial necessities to do so.
What are some key issues, outside of your project, that you see around Atlanta?
Honestly- there are a lot. I can’t put my finger on one. Homelessness? The homeless population is in big trouble. There are a lot of homeless. From traveling around in a band on tour t and being in major metropolitan areas similar to Atlanta in size , I can say we have the most homeless I have seen openly and probably some of the worse off mentally and in general. They really need help.
We have a lot of dead public space in Atlanta that can be beautified. Doing that or giving people the opportunity and money to do that, is important. There is a lot of abandon shit in Atlanta that could be great. I hope this (my project) is a way to encourage that. Its an easy way for groups to make money. Just convince the audience that your idea is important.
Who are you collaborating with?
I have received tons of help from Friends and Family. Also, Anthony Harper at The Goat Farm has helped in a huge way by lending me event space and endless amounts of advice. My good friend Leah Melnick helped me out in finding community building projects and nonprofits. I would love to affiliate the project with some organizations around town who are willing to help. PURGEatl has expressed interest in helping. Also, H. Harper Station helped by donating soup for the first event, and Muss and Turner’s is lined up for the next event on June 12th.
Would you like to see this project replicated or expanded?
I have no problem with someone replicating the project. It’n not even my idea, Like I said, I got the idea from SOUP in Detroit. I just changed the P to an L and added some bands. It is something I work very hard at and take pride in, but nothing bad could come from someone copying it.
What kind of help are you looking for?
One way is getting the name out there. Helping with publicity. I am only one man with no money, no money for ads or flyers or anything like that. Anyone that would represent us by putting the event in a publication, newsletter or something would be great.
I will always need more restaurants to give food.
I really need people and organizations that need money and who are willing to participate.
When and where can interested readers find you?
I am at the goat farm coffee shop 3 days a week. You can also email me, theres a tumbler for the event. There is a Facebook site. I can even give out my phone number.
What are some of your favorite organizations around Atlanta?
I’ve always loved Woderroot. Everything they do is fantastic. The Atlanta Food truck Coalition is working hard on getting Atlanta some street food. Iʼve gotten into that recently. They would be good to collaborate with, especially with SOUL. There are so many! (W)ink, who won the money from ﬁrst SOUL. They do creative writing programs for inner city youth. Live Love is wonderful, they do a lot of work with the homeless. Stretella and Living Walls. They are all incredibly talented people who know how to organize an event. One Love Generation, Gloatl, and the Collective are all based out of The Goat Farm where I work and live, and they are all incredible people who do incredible things.
Who do you think we should interview next?
Do (w)ink, they are really great people.
What FEEDs your soul?
Food, community building and music.