Alabama’s Blackbelt Benefit Group in running for national grant

Alabama’s Blackbelt Benefit Group in running for national grant
The Blackbelt Benefit Group is working to make the region's art and music more available and visible to Selma-area residents. (Karim Shamsi-Basha/Alabama NewsCenter)

Selma’s Blackbelt Benefit Group (BBG) wants the public to help with a last-minute push in voting for a Levitt Foundation AMP (Your City) $25,000 grant.

“Voting ends tomorrow, Tuesday the 20th of November, so please vote,” said Andrew Slagel of BBG.

The foundation is looking to give a $25,000 matching grant to 15 cities to offer 10 free concerts. BBG and Downtown Gadsden Inc. are two Alabama organizations out of 41 nationally looking to make the top 25 in voting. From there, the finalists will go through a review process and the winners will be announced Dec. 18.

The public can log into, register via email addresses and vote up to five times.

Blackbelt Benefit Group wants to kick Selma arts scene into high gear from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Slagel and the BBG are committed to improving life in the Black Belt region. BBG founder Clay Carmichael started BBG to make life in his hometown more exciting. The organization’s motto is “Putting the ‘fun’ back in fundraising.”

“This coming Friday, we have Art Jam,” Carmichael said. “A great event where we serve dinner and present local and Alabama musicians. Willie Sugarcapps will be here as well as 12 local artists. There will also be live pottery-making, dancing, painting and other entertainment. It’s a night full of art.”

A couple of weeks ago, Carmichael and the BBG manned the bar for a storytelling event at ArtsRevive, a Selma gallery.

“Our goal with the Blackbelt Benefit Group is to highlight the good things about Selma and the region, and to give back to the community,” Carmichael said. “We also have fun while doing it.”

The BBG offers events throughout the year. Every first Saturday, the group opens the doors to the Selma Music Hall with local music and food trucks. About 150-200 people show up to enjoy the food and entertainment.

The Levitt AMP grant would help the BBG do even more to draw attention to regional musicians and artists.

“We have this beautiful and unused amphitheater on the Alabama River at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Ten free concerts there would be great for Selma,” Slagel said. “But you have to vote by this Tuesday, the 20th. Please vote; it takes a few seconds. We love living in Selma, and we want to bring in good things to our community.”

For more information, visit Blackbelt Benefit Group on Facebook.

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