Help us make history as Die Jim Crow expands into a non-profit record label, unlocking more voices and releasing high-quality content on a consistent basis.
Over 50 musicians in five prisons, four states. Ohio, Colorado, South Carolina, Mississippi.
14 formerly incarcerated musicians in New York, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Kansas, and Alabama, to name a few.
Dozens of unreleased tracks from 2014 to now. Many more to come.
"For me this means more than just music. It's more along the line of being heard when you're feeling invisible. I left my son back when he was three years old -- he's 19 right now.
So there's a lot of things he's only heard about me -- like the fact that I used to do music on the street... but to actually be able to have him hear me again, real live, it does much more than anybody ever knows."
- Ach, Allendale Correctional Institution. Fairfax, SC.
In 2013, a 23-year old artist-activist named Fury Young got the idea for Die Jim Crow, a concept album about racial injustice in the U.S. prison system written and performed by formerly and currently incarcerated musicians. At the time, Young was halfway through Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow and listening to Pink Floyd's The Wall in heavy rotation, searching for a social justice cause that drew him in the most. Though he had never experienced incarceration, Fury was close with community members who had, and felt a strong pull toward the issues of mass incarceration and racial injustice.
For four years, Young and his Co-Producer/Engineer dr. Israel (Doc) would collect recordings in prisons and with formerly incarcerated musicians across the country for the concept album LP. In 2016, they would release the Die Jim Crow EP, which was funded through a previous Kickstarter and would see its first music video premiere on RollingStone.com.
On a southern trip in March 2019, a major evolution occurred.
The journey began in New Orleans with a home recording of Albert Woodfox, who lent his voice to music for the first time. Mr. Woodfox spent 43 years in solitary confinement in Louisiana, the longest of any solitary prisoner in US history. Fury also recorded a video interview with Albert about his experiences with music while inside.
From NOLA, Fury picked up Doc in Mississippi, where they spent two days recording four rappers at a juvenile prison -- Central Mississippi CF Youthful Offender Unit. They spent the next 10 days in South Carolina recording a total of 22 artists at a men's and a women's prison: Allendale CI and Camille Griffin Graham CI.
When they got home, Fury brought up at a Board of Directors meeting: "This is becoming a record label." He had already discussed it with BL Shirelle and Maxwell Melvins, both DJC artists and board members, and the consensus was clear. A similar reaction was palpable at the board meeting. Stefanie Lindeman, a non-profit veteran and board member, brought up, "OK, we need to put together a three year strategic plan immediately." And from there, Die Jim Crow Records was born.
Alright -- it wasn't that easy. The Executive Committee of Fury, BL, Maxwell, Stefanie and grant writer Jennifer Shipon spent tireless hours over the summer of 2019 in meetings and phone calls, hashing out what the next three years would look like: a Single of the Month initiative, more EPs and LPs, mixtapes, and of course the Die Jim Crow LP.
So get excited. We start rolling out new work in May 2020.
"It's a sense of accountability. It gives me a greater responsibility to the people who I may have left behind."
- BL Shirelle, DJC Deputy Director, who spent over nine years in the PA prison system.
From these meetings, roles became clear: BL Shirelle is our Deputy Director, helping Fury run the label and producing projects of her own inside prisons (she is currently producing an EP at the women's prison in South Carolina, Camille Griffin Graham CI). Stefanie Lindeman is our Operations Director, overseeing fundraising and program operations, with Jennifer Shipon as her Grants Manager. And last but far from least, we have Maxwell Melvins as Senior Advisor -- who, as a Grammy-nominated recording artist who achieved this feat while serving a life sentence -- will be weighing in on the direction the organization takes creatively and programmatically.
Right now, all of our staff are volunteers. We have a mountain of work ahead of us and we need your help to make it happen.
You may already know the numbers:
- America is the world leader in incarceration, with 5% of the global population but 25% of its prisoners.
- Between 1990 and 2005, a new prison was built in the US every ten days.
- 2.3 million people in US prisons and jails.
- 4.4 million on probation and parole.
- 80,000 people in solitary confinement.
- people of color most disproportionately affected.
Do a quick google search. We won't drown you with stats and charts. You know why this is important. There are millions of silenced voices -- we find those who are making music that can change the culture. There are people who might never have a platform to tell their stories unless we record them. That is why your help matters. Let's turn this into a functioning organization, not a passion project. Those days are over. The stakes are too high.
Team Die Jim Crow
P.S. We have some cool rewards. For pictures, see this link!
Risks and challenges
Our main obstacle right now is long term funding. Kickstarter funds can only be used for non-discretionary purposes. This means we must spend the money from this fundraiser for products related to the label (i.e. equipment, travel costs, gear rental, artist payments, vinyl pressings, etc.) -- but we cannot pay our staff.
We are hoping to attract donors through this Kickstarter who can offer discretionary funds. With said funds, we will be able to pay our grantwriters Stefanie Lindeman and Jennifer Shipon, who are currently working pro bono, and this will enable us longevity-funding.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (37 days)