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YouTube Unveils First ‘Black Voices’ Class of Creator, Music Artist Partners

Todd Spangler
·3 min read

YouTube announced the inaugural 2021 class of partners for its #YouTubeBlack Voices program — a group of 132 creators and artists from around the world who will receive funding and support from the video giant.

Last summer, amid racial-justice protests across the U.S. and in other countries, YouTube announced a $100 million fund dedicated to Black creators as part of a multiyear initiative. The 132 artists and creators picked for the first round of grants, announced Tuesday, will get dedicated partner support from YouTube and seed funding for the development of their channels. YouTube also will host training sessions, workshops and networking programs.

“In the aftermath of the tragic and shameful killing of George Floyd in June, we wanted to dial up and show our commitment to this community in a new way,” said Malik Ducard, YouTube’s VP of responsibility, in a call with reporters.

In 2016, the video platform hosted the first YouTube Black Summit in L.A. with a range of influential creators. “That was, for me, my most inspirational, potent moment at YouTube,” Ducard said. YouTube has supported Black creators in the years since, but after the events of 2020, he said, “We wanted to do more.”

The 2021 #YouTubeBlack Voices creators come from seven countries — the U.S., the U.K., Brazil, Australia, South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria — and include musicians, beauty entrepreneurs, comedians, activists, poets, personal trainers, teachers, parents and photographers. Profiles of some of the creators in the program can be found at this link.

Ducard declined to say how much YouTube is investing in the 2021 class of creators. But, he said, “These are meaningful partnerships and investments for these creators.” There are no strings attached to funding, he added: “The creators can invest in their content and themselves as they see fit.”

For the first wave of selections, YouTube invited creators who had previously participated in YouTube Black events and programs to apply and evaluated applications across a number of factors such as channel performance and engagement metrics. All candidates were reviewed by a global panel of YouTube staffers with knowledge of and/or experience with Black music and culture, according to YouTube. Ideal candidates were interested in establishing a long-term channel strategy and releasing original content between Q4 2020 and Q2 2021.

Ducard said YouTube will open up the #YouTubeBlack Voice program to an open application process for the next round of grants. YouTube’s goal is to have more than 500 creators funded through the program over the next three years.

Of the 132 YouTubers, 21 are music artists. Lyor Cohen, global head of YouTube Music, told reporters the goal is to provide long-term career development to up-and-coming artists.

“It’s hard to understate the impact Black music culture has made not just in America but around the world,” he said. “This is not just us doing for them. They do for us because they make our products better.”

Added Ducard, “Our hope is these artists will become the biggest and most influential Black voices on our platform.”