Germantown: How One Person Used Instagram to Raise More Than $10,000 to Fund Single Black Mothers

Rasheed Ajamu, creator of the MILF Project. (Courtesy Rasheed Ajamu)

“Well especially during the pandemic, it has been a little bit harder, you know, take care of things, stuff like that,” Kayla Blackburn said. “So, sometimes I had to keep behind or miss a day of work or something like that. So, it’s been helpful for just a little bit of adding things around the house. Um, as well as helping out with day care and stuff like that.”

With COVID-19, life became more challenging and tough for many people, including Blackburn, a 25-year-old, single, Black mother who was born in Mount Airy and currently lives in Germantown. She’s had to miss days of work to take care of her 2-year-old daughter and has struggled to pay household bills and the cost of day care.

One day, Blackburn’s close friend Rasheed Ajamu helped her with the bills and day care through his Mama I’d Like to Fund project. With one click of a link, Blackburn applied to become a grant recipient in hopes of assistance. Then she patiently waited.

While struggling and stressing during the pandemic, Blackburn was elated and grateful when she learned she would be one of the Black mothers to receive money in order to help pay for day care, bills, and household necessities. She was very proud of Ajamu creating a fundraiser to help single, Black mothers living in the city. Ajamu raised over $10,000 in the fundraiser.

Kayla Blackburn and her daughter. (Courtesy Keya Blackburn)

Born and raised in Germantown, Ajamu has been involved in several projects and organizations attempting to make positive impacts in communities throughout the city. The 25-year-old, known as Phreedom Jawn, provides Philadelphia’s Black community with resources, information, news, and opportunities via his Instagram account of more than 39,000 followers.

With intentions of starting a mutual aid project to help raise $10,000 for single Black mothers in Philadelphia, Ajamu teamed up with owner of Puss Tea, Asia Brown. While brainstorming and ideas over the phone, Ajamu asked Brown what resonated closest to her heart. When she said Black mothers, this led to the birth of the Mama I’d Like to Fund project, otherwise known as the MILF project.

Rasheed Ajamu discusses about the process of the fundraiser and why he wanted to help single Black mothers.

Ajamu and Brown’s collaboration, and their effort to draw attention to both the issue and fundraising efforts on media platforms, was the root of success for the project. In addition to their passion that fueled the MILF Project’s success, Ajamu and Brown already had the necessary materials and resources that helped aid the efforts behind the fundraiser.

“So, we made our goal about two to three weeks ago,” Ajamu said. “That was amazing. $10, 202. That is amazing. Couldn’t believe it. We’re gonna start it, maybe mid-October once we just finish all the internal work we have to do. I have to make sure I train folks to make sure they know how to do distributions and fill out certain forms.” 

Due to a lack of engagement and promotion of the fundraiser in the early stages of the MILF Project, which lasted from May until the end of September 2021, donations filtered in at a slow rate. Additionally, Ajamu’s schedule prevented him from spending all his time working on expanding the platform. Over time, an increase of Ajamu’s focus on the platform led to an influx of donations.

The MILF Project was run on a first-come-first-serve basis. For the fundraiser, Ajamu created a Google Form where Black mothers would sign up and list their preferred contact information and payment method. Once the 50 sign-up spots were filled, the form became unavailable.

With the need of training people to help distribute the cash funds, Ajamu contacted 27-year-old Erica Irving to help with the process of sending the money to the recipients from the fundraiser as well as connecting people for peer support. There were also monetary donations and a section to help donate services as well. 

“I’ve known him for probably about 10 plus years,” Irving said. “I consider him a sibling. Rasheed told me about his plans to create the “Mama I’d Like to Fund” fund. You know, just to be able to give back to a lot of mothers during the pandemic. It was extremely stressful for a lot of moms. So he wanted to find a way to help.”

Erica Irving helps manage and distribute resources to mothers. (Courtesy Erica Irving)

There will be more people that will help with assisting Irving with the distribution of funds, looking at each mother’s preferred payment method for the funds to be distributed to, confirming the information with the mothers by sending them screenshotted receipts. 

When Ajamu explained the plan of his fundraiser to Irving, she was very happy and excited to collaborate. There is talk of eventually creating a clothing, feminine, and hygiene drive together in the future.

“This isn’t an exchange,” Ajamu said. “This is simply just us giving, right. And so that’s what we want to do. That’s what we want to accomplish and just let mothers know that there is somebody who cares about them and that we care about them because I was raised by my grandmother. So, it doesn’t get any more single than that, right.” 

Having been solely raised by his grandmother, Ajamu was aware firsthand of the struggles and lack of the support that Black mothers sometimes face in life. The MILF Project was not an exchange where one had to prove themselves in order to receive something. Ajamu simply wanted Black mothers to know that somebody truly cares about them. 

“And so literally we got literally 50 sign ups and I literally made the form unavailable as soon as we hit 50,” Ajamu said. “And so those 50 moms, they have nothing to prove. Like again, the idea behind the Mama I’d Like to Fund project right or just any mutual aid project in general is that people don’t have to be deserving in something to get right. We identify them. We know that there’s a problem you know in our neighborhoods and just in general right. Moms in general need extra support.”

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