YouTube overnight announced a first round of winners for its YouTube Black Voices Class of 2021, an initiative to invest in fresh narratives on the video platform “that emphasize the intellectual power, authenticity, dignity, and joy of Black voices.”

The 132 creators and artists are from the U.S., U.K., Kenya, Brazil, Australia, South Africa and Nigeria and include musicians, beauty entrepreneurs, comedians, activists, poets, personal trainers, teachers and photographers. All have participated in previous YouTube Black events, were invited to apply and evaluated on channel performance and engagement metrics. YouTube said it will open the application process for the next round of grants to a broader range of candidates over the next few months.

Ideal applicants in music – 21 were chosen this year – were interested in establishing a long-term channel strategy and releasing music by the middle of 2021, YouTube said.

The company will offer seed funding for the channel development, partner support, training, workshops and networking program. It plans to partner with more than 500 creators and artists globally through 2023.

The seed money comes from the $100 million YouTube Black Voices Fund announced last June. The company called Black Voices “part of the comprehensive work currently underway to make YouTube a place where Black artists, creators, and users can share their stories and be protected” as it seeks to become more inclusive.”

Malik Ducard, YouTube’s VP, Content Partnerships, said the fund and the initiative grew out of the YouTube Black Summit in Los Angeles four years ago that featured influential black creators on the platform. “We wanted to dial up and show our commitment to this community in a new way, and a much bigger way,” he said.

“There are millions of artist out there,” noted YouTube’s music chief, Lyor Cohen. The idea is “to help put a battery pack on some of these artists” who, he added,. “are also supporting us, making our product better.”

“This is not a flash in the pan,” he promised. “This is about keeping the drumbeat of change alive.”

Ducard said the awards have no strings attached – creators don’t give up ownership or control of their content.


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