Announcing the winners of A3C Action 2017!


This past weekend at the A3C Festival & Conference, five civic ventures from around the US took the stage for A3C Action, a pitch competition searching for the best ideas that use hip-hop culture and art to address social justice challenges. The five competing ventures were selected from more than 140 applicants from across the country.


Atlanta's own, Marcus Blackwell, Jr. of Make Music Count won first place, with a grand prize of $10,000. However, because of the strong bonds the organizations built over the days prior to the pitch competition, the finalists collectively decided to divide the prize money, with Make Music Count opting to accept $5,000. 

The mission of Make Music Count is to increase elementary and secondary students’ mathematical skill development through piano playing and reducing their math anxiety. By incorporating music into each lesson, students become engaged through music while simultaneously learning mathematical concepts. 


Breaking the Chains was awarded the second place prize of $2,000, followed by Media Rhythm Institute at $1,000 and $500 to both Real Life Poets and Girls Cut Films, Too. 

Congratulations to all of the 2017 A3C Action Pitch Competition finalists and the winner, Make Music Count. Through the exposure and mentorship provided by this competition, these five organizations will continue to use music and hip-hop culture to positively contribute to their communities.

Judges of the A3C Action pitch competition included Liz Havistad, Hip Hop Caucus’ Chief Operating Officer and Executive Director, Dallas Austin, Grammy-award winning Superproducer & CEO of Rowdy Digital Media, Nora Rahimian, #CultureFix Co-founder and Lead Strategist, No Malice, Hip Hop Artist and Founder of REinvision, YoNasDa Lonewolf, Human Rights Activist/ National Organizer Public Speaker, and CCI's own Programs Director, Melonie Tharpe.

Meet the 2017 Finalists 

Make Music Count | Atlanta, GA

The mission of Make Music Count is to increase elementary and secondary students’ mathematical skill development through piano playing and reducing their math anxiety. By incorporating music into each lesson, students become engaged through music while simultaneously learning mathematical concepts. Each lesson is based on learning musical notes in a song. Each note is derived through a mathematical equation that varies from addition and subtraction to algebraic equations. Therefore, solving math equations leads directly to playing the piano, and a more positive attitude towards math.

Girls Cut Films Too | Atlanta, GA

Girls Cut Film too is an initiative to train and equip teen girls with the skills needed to be competitive in the film production industry. The program is a Summer Film Institute for Girls that will expose them to various fields within the film industry such as producer, director, scriptwriter, camera operator and more! The goal of the program is to give our girls a realistic dream of fulfilling a career in an industry that has been underrepresented by females in the past.

Real Life Poets | Birmingham, AL

We will implement the Teen Poetry Initiative within a minimum of two of the nineteen Birmingham Public library neighborhood branches and at Real Life Poets community arts hub in the East Lake community.  This allows direct access for middle and high school age youth in Birmingham City Schools, which is 95% African-American. Arts activist and teaching artist training will be facilitated at the Real Life Poets community arts hub which is directly situated in one of Birmingham’s most underserved communities.  The cycle of poverty, crime, and hopelessness that plagues many underserved communities in Birmingham is real and its consequences are often brutal and heartbreaking. We realize that, when compared to the impressive military-style hardware of police and tough-talking rhetoric of the political cycle, this program may look very small, but we will not give up on our city’s children. The effective moral imperative to offer a job-training, non-judging route for the city’s youth, and with that, hope for their future, does not have a shortcut.

Breaking The Chains | New York City, NY

This project would be implemented in New York City at Rikers Island jail. Rikers is the second most populated jail in the nation, while demographically 16-21-year-olds account for over 20 percent of its census. My past five years working with youth at Rikers as an art facilitator, youth counselor and Director of Programming for Friends of Island Academy has allowed me to tether relationships which will allow this project to be a success on the inside. The "Raise The Age" act which was recently passed states that all 16-17-year-olds will be removed from Rikers by October 2018 but still leaves a great number of 18-21-year-olds, some of whom are sentenced while the majority sit for years with open cases while awaiting an outcome. There is a huge amount of idle time during their incarceration which doesn't require meaningless programming but rather substantive interaction. Some of the most genius writers, poets, MCs, etc are incarcerated but lack outlets to express themselves while being refueled and supported by other artists. Creative mentorship and art advocacy not only allows space for expression but is also a springboard to guide young people into other needed discussions and decisions. This project will allow for youth within four facilities at Rikers to write around specific themes and be featured in monthly performances during their incarceration.

Media Rhythm Institute (MRI) | Baltimore, MD

The goals and mission of Media Rhythm Institute to encourage, promote entrepreneurial thinking and empower youth to expand their knowledge of the media industry through research and hands-on documentary projects.  Our goal is to inspire young people to pursue a career in the media profession and also improve their quality of life by offering encouragement and exposure to positive opportunities to learn about their history, network with community leaders, and learn about the music, media industry and the many career paths that exist within it. Media Rhythm Institute also provides mentorship opportunities and peer consulting in an effort to provide youth with the tools, skills, and support necessary as they matriculate through middle school, high school, college and on into adulthood.

Andrea Cervonea3c