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Friends For Equality hosts benefit show for Nationz Foundation at Smatter 8/5

AmyDavid | August 2, 2017

In February, RVA Mag gave you the lowdown on the the very first Friends For Equality musical compilation and benefit show. Then in May, the collective released Friends for Equality Vol. 2, with Hoax Hunters dropping the first single. On Saturday, Nancy Kells, the organizer behind Friends for Equality, will put on the second benefit show at Strange Matter, this time with proceeds going to benefit Nationz Foundation.

Started in November 2016, Friends for Equality is a local music and zine collective that raises money for social justice and civil rights organizations. Like much of the country, after Donald Trump was elected Kells was feeling down and trying to figure out how to process it all. “Right after the election I was devastated and took it pretty hard. I was talking to my friend James who runs Fox Food Records in the UK and we were just talking about the state of the world. We were like, ‘let’s do something positive’,” said Kells.

Thus, the first volume of Friends For Equality was born,  a 42-song release featuring artists and bands from all over the world. Proceeds from album sales were split between the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and Southern Poverty Law Center. The first benefit show was thrown in February, with proceeds going to Virginia organizations Forward Together and Sister Song. You can read our interview with Kells on that subject here.

The Friends For Equality 2 show will bring an all day day festival to Strange Matter this weekend. The first half of the day will be dedicated to a marketplace with over 20 local vendors, and at night several Richmond bands will bring you some good tunes for the cause. Dave Watkins, Sammi Lanzetta, Private Cry, The Skin, and Womajich Dialyseiz, (Kells’ band, an avant garde group) are scheduled to play the benefit.

By day, Kells works as a job counselor for The Choice Group as part of the Hampton Roads team partnering with the Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services to help those with disabilities to find jobs.

Kells said she decided to pick Nationz Foundation as the benefiting non-profit for the second show after reading GayRVA.com’s December article on the organization’s founder and Executive Director Zakia McKensey, who was looking to raise funds to build a homeless shelter and emergency housing place for LGBTQ individuals. “I researched into what they were doing and the more I learned, I was so impressed by how much Zakia is doing for the community,” she said. “I was really inspired to help raise money.”

McKensey,  a local trans activist, started the organization in May 2015. Nationz offers HIV/AIDS testing and a food pantry. Since the winter, McKensey has been working to buy a house in Northside to set up an emergency homeless and drop-in shelter for the LGBTQ community.

Last time we talked to her, McKensey needed to raise $200,000 for the house, and she said they still have a ways to go to reach their goal. “Some of the money we have transitioned to use for emergency housing because we have seen so many people that are being displaced, and we’ve received some funding for Diversity RIchmond to start the emergency housing program,” McKensey said. “There’s been such a need for people; we actually helped about seven individuals this year since January, putting them up in hotels, helping them with security deposits or part of that first month’s rent.”

Nationz Foundation received a $4,000 grant from Diversity Richmond in December to go toward their food pantry and emergency housing, as well as their annual Red Party Workshop. McKensey said there’s such a need for safe housing for LGBTQ individuals who become displaced because right now there isn’t a place for them to go. “Either because they’ve come out to their parents about their lifestyle, they’ve lost jobs, they couldn’t afford to keep their place…” she said. “We help them find jobs, build resumes, help them with clothes so they can look more professional when they go to these interviews.”

Nationz will have a booth at the marketplace during the day, along with Black Apron Soap, Canine Adventure  Decadence by Meme- homemade cupcakes, socio-political art collective Elbow Room, Friends For Equality & Elizabeth Owens, Furever BeadsGlobal Threadz & ThriftsGrabinska Studio, Heathen Homestead/Mo Karnage, Heebie Jeebies Jewelry, Laura’s Botanicals LLC., Naturally Devine Herbal Apothecary, Night Owl Emporium RVA Naturals, NorvedaRabbit & Wren, RawJawBone Graphics, Richmond Vinyl Graphics and Veterans Computer ArtSasa’s Body GlamShira Brooks Studio, SweetTooth, The Guardian Dragon Organic Herb & Tea Shoppe, Winged Roots Creations, llc and Zoe Brzezinski Tarot Card Reading.

Every vendor donates $25 for their table, and all of those proceeds, in addition to admission donations and money from a raffle, go back to Nationz Foundation. Along with the raffle, Kells said there will be goodie bags with codes to download the first and second volumes of the compilations. Pins, stickers, t-shirts and the first issue of Friends for Equality’s zine will be also be available for purchase.

“I tried to expand a lot from the last event to make this one a lot bigger, a lot more going on, and more opportunity with items to sell to raise money,” she said.

According to Kells, the first show raised around $300 for the show, and she is optimistic for the second go-round. “Any exposure for what these organizations are doing is great,” she said. “I think with the marketplace and the fact that its local, there’s a lot of people who don’t know about Nationz who are in Richmond. I hope to get the word out more about what they’re doing.”

As for McKensey, she’s is looking forward to getting closer to her goal with the upcoming fundraiser. “I’m really excited about the fundraiser, I’m looking forward to the marketplace and all the vendors, seeing the bands and making a whole day Saturday,” McKensey said. “We’re going to put part [of the proceeds] toward going to the shelter and part toward the fund for emergency housing, so that if people are still in need, we can still help them.”

The Friends for Equality benefit show kicks off this Saturday, Aug. 5 at Strange Matter. There’s a suggested donation of $5-$20 for the evening musical event, which starts at 7 PM. The marketplace is free to attend and runs from 2-6 PM.