DAWA opens free studio for Austin color designers


Antjuan Spoons, a local Austin rapper and saxophonist, said he was going through a period of writer’s block when Jonathan “Chaka” Mahone got in touch with him.

“Chaka reached out to me on Instagram last summer and was like, ‘Hey, I love your music. Keep doing what you’re doing,'” Spoons, whose stage name is his middle name, said. Mauritius. “I don’t want to go overboard, but I was also in the middle of writer’s block and was in that hole for about two years. (Chaka) reaching out to me really meant a lot and it definitely motivated me to keep going.

Mahone, himself a musician and member of the husband-wife hip-hop group Riders against the storm, in 2019 founded DAWA (Diversity and Wellness in Action), a nonprofit that elevates Austin-based color makers. DAWA is accepting donations for future grants.

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In mid-July, Mahone announcement the non-profit organization will open DAWA Studios, a free content studio for creators of color. The West Fifth Street studio has a range of video and audio equipment, from 4K cameras to professional light boxes. Content creators and organizations can use the space for podcasts, interviews, live streams, and live music performances. (At this time, this is not a studio for recording albums or music outside of live performances.)

With the addition of studio space within DAWA, Mahone said he wanted color designers to feel empowered to share their stories.

“I started DAWA Studios to create these opportunities for people here, saying, ‘Hey, we see you. We appreciate you. Come on in, let’s get it over with,'” Mahone said. stories. It’s time to leave our mark and not rely on anyone outside of our community to recognize the talent and beauty that is here.”

“It’s a studio for lions”

DAWA Studios accepts apps for studio use. With its grand opening slated soon, Mahone said he’s excited to continue raising the voice of creatives of color.

“There’s an African proverb that says ‘Until the Lion speaks or learns to speak, the glory of the hunt will always go to the hunter,'” Mahone said. “It’s a studio for lions, it’s up to us to talk.”

Ever Calderon, DAWA’s studio manager, is in charge of preparing material and supporting content creators in the studio. Calderon said DAWA is looking for people and organizations who want to improve their content, in the hopes that supporting new creators and artists can become a priority in the near future at the studio.

“We’re looking for more experienced people who have a proven track record of publishing content and are comfortable with it so we can get the best out of each other,” Calderon said. “And then eventually, once we get settled and all that, we can bring in new people and develop brand new shows from scratch.”

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Calderon chose to work with Mahone and DAWA because of their lasting community impact in Austin.

“Other people asked me, ‘Hey, can you come build a studio with me? Be part of my team.’ And that doesn’t sound like Chaka,” Calderon said. “(Mahone is) just a real person and just cares about the people here in the community. That’s why DAWA really stuck with me, because I felt the connection.

Spoons said that as an artist himself, he would recommend people to use DAWA Studios and its equipment as best they can to share their new ideas.

“As a content creator, I would do anything and use the resources I have because being here is a blessing and an opportunity that few artists have,” Spoons said. “That’s why DAWA is here: to help artists (in Austin) seize opportunities. This way we can all grow together.

Mercedes-Perya former management consultant for DAWA, said she believes the nonprofit will continue to fill in the gaps for creatives of color with the new studio space and more.

“People of color often don’t get the tools they need. And we don’t get supported the way we should, even when we’re inside these institutions,” said Perry, a project management professional in Austin. “I think that’s literally what DAWA is all about, and it’s already doing its job, so I’m really excited to continue to see how it fills those gaps over time.”

Spoons said DAWA Studios has better equipment and resources than other studios he gets paid for.

“I just paid $60 to $100 to studios that maybe don’t have the resources that DAWA has,” Spoons said. “Now that I have the space and the ability to come here and show my talents to the fullest, it’s something I’ve always dreamed of.”

Spoons said you can find him at DAWA studios in the next few months.

“I have a project coming out in May 2023, and I will definitely be here in DAWA Studios recording,” Spoons said.


“It’s something real”

For many people involved with DAWA, the organization has not only helped them create content, but also made them feel useful.

Perry met Mahone when he started with DAWA Funds in 2019. Perry first offered him project management services through his company, R^3 consult, but later it deeply aligned with DAWA’s mission. Although Perry’s involvement with DAWA has diminished, she still sees herself engaging with the organization in the future.

“I’m going to sit on the board and stay with DAWA because it’s also now a part of my heart,” Perry said. “I truly believe that DAWA means healing, and it has been a healing experience for me, for my crown chakra. I was able to get out of my mind and realize my own strengths.

Being surrounded by creative people and the energy of the DAWA community, Perry said, inspired her to create her own content.

“All the things that I say I want to create, I have to create those things now,” Perry said. “It’s literally the impact the organization has had on me personally. I can’t just not live to my full potential, that’s how it affects me.

DAWA Studios manager Ever Calderon works on the sound card while Chaka Mahone and Antjuan Spoons (aka Maurvice) rap.  Calderon is responsible for managing the equipment and preparing the studio for clients.

Perry also shared that a barrier to creating content for her was the lack of quality resources. With DAWA Studios, Perry said she felt confident knowing the studio’s equipment was high-quality technology.

“Knowing that I can walk into DAWA Studios now and sit down and record a few episodes of a podcast, a few episodes for a talk show concept idea,” is inspiring. said Perry. “I know I can do it and it’s going to be done very well, even though I know I can’t afford to do it as well as I want in my brain.”

Veronique Moore, Ben E. Keith Drinks marketing director, first saw Mahone perform around Austin in Riders Against the Storm. When the opportunity presented itself to Ben E. Keith to sponsor DAWA, Moore was convinced to support the organization.

A framed portrait of the DAWA Fund logo in the DAWA Studios space.  DAWA, used by the organization as an acronym for Diversity and Wellbeing in Action, is a Swahili word "Medication."

“When Chaka first offered DAWA to me, I thought it was a unique opportunity to help a community we had never served before,” Moore said.

Moore also said she feels a personal connection to DAWA’s mission. As a person of color, Moore said she appreciates DAWA’s approach to building community with people of color across Austin.

“I moved here in 2009 and immediately loved Austin, but I certainly struggled to find my community here,” Moore said. “Knowing the potential DAWA has to help people of color in the arts and music – when there are so many other great organizations that don’t focus on people of color in Austin and our community – I just thought it was time, (and) the time has long passed. (It was) kind of a way for me personally to help my own community.

While not a content creator herself, Moore said she considers DAWA’s work important and is excited to continue supporting their efforts in Austin.

“I just think Chaka is such an important voice in our community that I want to help him have the biggest impact possible,” Moore said.

DAWA Studios, located on West Fifth Street, offers professional light boxes, 4K cameras, microphones and speakers.  The studio also has a range of furniture for aesthetic and practical use.

Spoons also discussed how DAWA has affected the music scene for artists of color in Austin.

“Before DAWA, finding performances, finding funding and finding people to help artists was really difficult, honestly, because music is a game where it’s every man for himself, so try to find someone one to help you whenever you’re stuck in a hole” is a challenge, Spoons said. “And let’s say you work full time; you might not have time to go get ready for a show. , or you may not have the funds to go on trips or go to an open mic across the state. DAWA has definitely helped the scene by giving artists a platform in a way that I don’t. have never seen.”

More information about DAWA Studios

DAWA Studios plans to open to the public in late August. You can apply to use DAWA Studios on line. DAWA Funds is not currently accepting grant applications, but you can check their website, dawaheals.org, for updates. You can also donate and find out how to volunteer with DAWA online.

DAWA Studios is hosting a 50k Glow Up fundraiser livestream on September 18th. Find more information and a list of artists at Jonathan “Chaka” Mahone’s Instagram page.


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