Using Music NFTs For Social Impact: Paying It Forward

My name is Heno. & I’m a first generation Ethiopian-Eritrean American from Takoma Park, Maryland. I’m an artist, producer, storyteller, community organizer, Web3 trailblazer & so much more, but today I’m speaking to you candidly as a 6’4’ Black man who lives in America. Growing up how I did, it was normal to not speak much on the things we dealt with every single day; whether it’s due to not wanting to burden anyone, not wanting to be labeled with any stigma, not wanting to appear weak or just because society has taught us how to internalize & suppress our trauma REALLY WELL.

Shot by Luiz "Bubba" Guitierrez, Styled by Karim Ali
Shot by Luiz "Bubba" Guitierrez, Styled by Karim Ali

A reality for people in the DC, Maryland & Virginia area that I am from is that if you have any kind of criminal record, especially a felony charge, it will significantly limit your ability to work & make an honest living. Already having a hard transition out of jail forces some to have to do what they initially did that got them in jail in order to provide or make a living which only further puts us in a cycle. These systemic & outdated structures make it very hard for people in marginalized communities to live decently & be productive members in our society. Recidivism refers to a person's relapse into criminal behavior, often after the person receives warnings or undergoes intervention for a previous crime. It is also used to refer to the percentage of former prisoners who are rearrested for a similar offense.

Tweet from Heno. in 2021
Tweet from Heno. in 2021

In many states, including Maryland, the use of cash bail creates a two-tier system of justice based on income. Individuals who can afford to post bail are able to buy their freedom, and individuals who cannot are detained for days, weeks, months, and even years at a time. Every day spent in detention increases the severity of consequences the poor must face, as the likelihood of receiving a criminal conviction increases in proportion to time spent in jail. Pretrial detention is disruptive to an individual’s life and can result in loss of employment, public assistance, housing and other needs. Thus, the current system of cash bail in Maryland leads to the criminalization & further impoverishment of the poor.

A graph showing the path from arrest to pretrial detention (source: Prison Policy Initiative)
A graph showing the path from arrest to pretrial detention (source: Prison Policy Initiative)

Keeping people in jail if they cannot afford cash bail is bad for their health. A well-documented body of research describes the negative health outcomes associated with and amplified by incarceration. This includes higher rates of HIV, hepatitis C, and tuberculosis. Incarcerated individuals also have a higher likelihood of chronic illness like hypertension, asthma, arthritis, and cervical cancer, as well as mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia. Black Americans often have disproportionately high rates of chronic and infectious diseases because of other social factors; these conditions are compounded by the impact of the prison environment, poor quality health care in correctional facilities, and the fallout after release from incarceration, such as lack of access to housing and jobs and a high rate of poverty.” (source: Commonwealth Fund).

Heno. performing in Oakland, CA during an All Black Lives Matter protest in the summer of 2020. This was shortly after the police killings of George Floyd & Breonna Taylor (RIP).
Heno. performing in Oakland, CA during an All Black Lives Matter protest in the summer of 2020. This was shortly after the police killings of George Floyd & Breonna Taylor (RIP).

My intentions, and my whole ethos in Web3, are to speak on things that folks may or may not normally speak on but resonate with (i.e. death, systemic oppression, my experience as a Black man in America, wellness etc.), and potentially inspire conversations that normalize finding comfort within the uncomfortable. From volunteering alongside organizations like Little Sisters of the Poor, the LAUSD to help support public schools, the People’s Programs in Oakland, and even fundraising efforts for the Wegene Ethiopian Foundation, I’ve always been very passionate about restorative justice & community work in the US as well as back in Ethiopia. Giving back is a big part of my “why” coming from an environment that prioritizes property and politics over marginalized people. With all of this being said, I’m happy to announce that I’ll be ushering in a new Restorative Justice Initiative into Web3!!!

What Does This All Mean? Well, I’m Glad You Asked!

Heno. & Andre Oshea at NFT100 Gala by NFT Now taken during NFT.NYC (Taken by BFA)
Heno. & Andre Oshea at NFT100 Gala by NFT Now taken during NFT.NYC (Taken by BFA)

My upcoming audiovisual collection in collaboration with Andre Oshea for my forthcoming EP, entitled “In The Meantime”, will be released on November 1st.

50% of the sales generated from "In The Meantime" will be placed in a wallet dedicated to supporting organizations combating recidivism rates & helping with bail assistance for non-violent crimes.

The 3D Animations paired with music from the EP will also be highlighted in tandem with a 3-part short film to coincide the musical experience.

All of this will lead up to my forthcoming album set to drop next year called “I’m Tired Of Being Hypersurveilled”. For more about this, here’s a Mirror Article + Crowdfund.

Organizations We’ll Be Supporting

The Bail Project: The Bail Project combats mass incarceration by disrupting the money bail system—one person at a time. We restore the presumption of innocence, reunite families, and challenge a system that criminalizes race and poverty. We’re on a mission to end cash bail and create a more just, equitable, and humane pretrial system.

Maryland Alliance for Justice Reform: The Maryland Alliance for Justice Reform (MAJR) is a nonpartisan, all-volunteer organization of more than 1500 Marylanders who advocate for evidence-based legislative and policy changes in Maryland’s correctional practices to support effective alternatives to incarceration, address inequities, and allow citizens returning from prison to lead productive lives.

Baltimore Action Legal Team: In times of crisis, BALT receives donations and posts as many bails as possible. As the COVID-19 crisis began, they saw fewer low level bails being ordered and an increase in the use of electronic monitoring. Consequently, they’ve begun assisting with home detention costs, as well. They also have community education + training, jail/court support & a movement lawyering workshop aimed at working with attorneys, law students, and law practitioners with a strong commitment to Baltimore and Maryland, as well as a desire to promote movement lawyering as one creative strategy/tool to resist and dismantle systemic racism and other forms of oppression.

We also have intentions on supporting Defy Ventures in 2023.

Closing Remarks

In full transparency, I never really saw myself living this long. Stepping into Web3 and finding my way in music have presented me with an opportunity to do something meaningful & beyond myself or any ego. Paying it forward is a big part of everything that I do and to be in this space amongst all this newfound abundance I see a responsibility to also be a good steward with said abundance. I’m not perfect nor do I aspire to be a role model or a person that acts holier-then-thou. I’m a real ass person that sees real issues in my community & wants to be apart of some real change.

I’ve always wanted to make the type of music that I’ve been making but be able to use it to support communities I have ties to; well before my entry into Web3. But now having all these tools to be able to do things like take revenue splits from my NFT sales & reinvest back into my community with the help of my growing community in Web3 is a dream come true… matter of fact a goal I’m currently actualizing.

Lastly, I’m really excited for listeners to be able to step into this new cinematic world I’ve been building towards (audibly & visually) as I play around with ideas centered around what “surveillance” looks like, how it relates to the innovations of tech, & its very real implications on marginalized communities everywhere just trying to exist - let alone be at peace. More news about this upcoming collection and a LOT more will be spoken on closer to November 1st.

This is a FREE NFT for folks who've read Heno.'s most recent post on "Social Impact in Web3 - Paying It Forward". Some very cool utility will be assigned to this NFT so, for that reason, the supply is limited.

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