Free the 350 Bail Fund is a relatively new organization that addresses mass incarceration by aiming to undermine such modern-day slavery practices in Dane County.
The fund seeks to provide bail for black prisoners in the county’s jail system while also seeking an end to the unjust system in general. The ultimate goal of the organization is prison abolition.
Free the 350 raises money through direct efforts at events they hold while additionally continuing to increase awareness within the community. Their latest event was an underground hip-hop benefit held at the Art In, located at 1444 E. Washington Ave. All of the profits from the concert went toward the Free the 350 Bail Fund.
The benefit concert featured nine local artists prepared to express their truth through music. Among the artists who performed at the event was University of Wisconsin sophomore Dequadray White.
White is an art major in First Wave, a scholarship program intended to foster the highest potential of creativity in students. First Wave scholars have performed all across the world whether on Broadway, BET, the National Battle of the Bands or elsewhere.
White’s older brother, who also raps, inspired him to pursue music. His brother warned him to avoid the negatives associated with rap and hip-hop because there are so many stereotypes that promote the business as a “bad thing.”
The budding musician is all about self-love and care. For White, emotional expression is the most important aspect of his music.
“Music always gives words to how I feel,” Dequadray said.
No stranger to the stage, this isn’t the first time White will perform at a concert fundraiser for Free the 350.
Last year, White performed at a benefit co-hosted by the Madison General Defense Committee Local 100. White continues to perform at these benefits because he recognizes it is important to help in any way he can.
“It’s about putting your message out there, not about the recognition,” White said. “What will I do to change the climate, but also keep my peace.”
UW graduate student and Madison General Defense Committee Local 100 member CV Vitolo-Haddad said issues like the search for justice and equality are prevalent in the lyrics these artists reveal.
“This event is a way for us to showcase hip-hop in a natural way and really provide a chance to get people listening,” Vitolo-Haddad said.
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The Madison General Defense Committee Local 100 strives to provide defense and relief for members of the working class oppressed by the economic struggle, Vitolo-Haddad said.
While the main purpose of Free the 350 Bail Fund is to raise bail money for individuals who need some assistance, it contributes to so much more.
“It’s great to see how much solidarity exists already. There’s a sense that we are building a community that wants to make a difference,” Vitolo-Haddad said.
Despite the overwhelming amount of snow coming down Saturday, the crowd was present as ever. It is a great feeling to know you are contributing to such a worthy cause while having fun and learning from others’ experiences at the same time. Above all, Free the 350 Bail Fund raised $965 to contribute to the release of black individuals unwarranted into the jail system.
Surrounded by great energy, love and good vibes, I discovered a lot of new, local artists that no one should be miss out on as they continue to produce more music and grow in the Madison scene.
For more information on upcoming events, you can “like” Free the 350 Bail Fund on Facebook, follow them on Twitter @FreeThe350 or check out their website.