B-Side Studios has partnered with a global technology firm to sponsor two Chicago Students for Back to School Supplies and Technology.
School has begun or is soon to begin.and schools are faced with situations they never expected to encounter. Everything is different in 2020. The solution that remote learning presents requires technical support that is not always available. Beginning on a small scale, hoping to “make things better”, a local artistic entertainment company has put into play a way to help two students enhance their learning experience. This was the brain child of Maurice D. Proffit, founder and creative director of B-Side Studios LLC. Maurice generously took time out of his busy schedule to share how his idea is working in a Q& A with Chicago Splash Magazine. Maurice, please tell us a little about your company B-Side – Take it away!
Maurice D. Proffit: Sure thing. First and foremost, thank you very much for speaking with me regarding this initiative that we are launching. But first, yes, B-Side Studios is an independent entertainment platform based here in Chicago, IL whose primary focus is on granting independent artists a very strong sense of exposure. While many entertainment platforms hold a similar objective there are times when those platforms may have a clientele that is on a larger scale and the attention may naturally shift. Here with B-Side, we put forth a strong concentration of equity to ensure that artists of ALL levels are handled equally. Whether it be via exposure, compensation or education, it is important that each and every artist that comes on board for a project, leaves feeling artistically fulfilled.
Chicago Splash Magazine: Interesting concept for an entertainment company. What motivated this idea?
MDP: Personally, I’ve been on the receiving end (on SEVERAL different occasions) of seeing how imbalanced the industry can be towards artists. Much opportunity over there, but limited opportunity over here for a variety of reasons. Lack of experience, not a big enough name, connections are limited, not industry enough, etc. Many of those plights are not the artist fault, but it comes off as if it is. B-Side’s objective is to eliminate those roadblocks and instead, create an environment where even if you don’t know anyone on the scene, you always have a place here to grow. In a nutshell, we want to build bridges, not walls.
CSM: Those are very important words especially for all that is taking place right now.
MDP: Exactly. But the words are real. Never in our lives have we experienced this particular plight that extends across the globe. When you have an entire planet that is experiencing the same immediate threat, naturally there is a community action that takes place within us. Statuses do not mean anything, your social economic tier doesn’t hold weight, cultures should come together since we are all on the same level playing field of fighting for survival. That is how it seemed at the beginning of this pandemic, but since then it appears that the dividers came back into fruition. And the dividers come in many different shapes, forms and areas, and one of the areas that concerned me a lot was education.
CSM: And why is that?
MDP: One word, “Equity”. Similar to what I was explaining earlier, ensuring that all that are involved are treated equally and the visibility shows it, will only advance you further with progress, but it feels like many don’t understand this. While I am a strong advocate for safety, unfortunately, many of the kids that had to transition to remote learning do not have certain luxuries that other students may have that would allow them to continue to thrive in this uncanny environment. When Tim in the suburbs has the latest laptop, with an HD web camera, clear audible speakers/headphones with strong home Wi-Fi and a great deal of bandwidth, does not meant that Mike in the city has those same luxuries. But we expect them to take away the same learning experience? Absolutely not. This just furthers the divide that there is when it comes to quality of education that is offered.
I was reading an article the other day about these two young girls that had to sit on a bench outside of Taco Bell just so they could use the fast food chains Wi-Fi in order to connect with their remote learning access because they don’t have adequate Wi-Fi at home. And trust me, I understand that remote learning was a game time decision in the spring (since there was literally no other choice), but here we are at the beginning of the new school year and those inequities are still present. This concerns me a great deal.
CSM: Is this what influenced the initiative?
MDP: Absolutely. For years now, B-Side has been wanting to organize a Back To School community event (which we are still working on for something significant next year), seeing that we were in a position where that definitely was not going to happen in 2020, we felt that doing something on a smaller scale, could be just as impactful. Technology is the variable that centers around what we were speaking about, my “daytime” job is a Supply Chain management Technology firm named “Neogrid” and I am the project manager for international marketing. I had a meeting with my director and explained to them the idea I had about Neogrid partnering with B-Side Studios and together we could sponsor a couple of kids to ensure that their back to school experience was well equipped and prepared from a technological standpoint. Meaning, ensuring that these kids had laptops for the first day, that these kids had web cams, that these kids had strong Wi-Fi, etc. All in the name of ensuring that they were day one ready, and that is the name of the initiative “Day 1 Ready”.
CSM: A nice idea! I assume that Neogrid was open to this idea.
MDP: Yes, VERY much so! It was just a perfect pairing between how we (collectively) could use our resources to ensure that these kids are well equipped with the technology that they need for the new school year. Neogrid’s ideology as a company is moving forward in the smartest direction and we live up to that concept every day when we open our doors. B-Side Studios objective is creating opportunity that may not be there, so this partnership and the goal we are trying to accomplish makes this a natural fit.
CSM: Please tell me more about the two students that were selected and what they received.
MDP: Absolutely. So, in the interest of time, we didn’t have enough time to organize an essay contest or anything, so there are two young actors that have been in some previous B-Side Studios productions in the past (both in B-Side Films and Theatre), their names are Stephon Stevens Jr and Alaina Rios. They are both CPS students and these two kids have shown nothing but exemplary professionalism, hard, hard, hard work, dedication and a high level of artistic quality work It made sense to me that these two youngsters would be the ones to be the first recipients of this sponsorship. And don’t even get me started on their families. I have seen a mass collected effort from both of their families when it comes to supporting and encouraging them and their artistic passions. The families continue to play a pivotal role in their lives which should be acknowledged. Both students received gift cards to Best Buy (for technology), Staples (for back to school items) and a visa gift card (can be used for stronger wifi) totaling at $350.00 each.
CSM: There is no question at all that they should be ready and good to go come the first day of school. Where do you see this going in the future?
MDP: I want to see this expand obviously. Yes, I am VERY happy that we were able to sponsor these two incredibly gifted students, but I want this initiative to continue to grow where we can sponsor maybe 10 students next year. 50 the year after that, 100 the year after that and so forth. I mean, we should put forth a strong effort into the energy of investing into our future. To ensure that once we’re gone from this life, then they will be able to do the same for the young people under them and keep that mentality going. Our actions today determine our pathway within tomorrow so let’s make today count. I have had such an honor when it comes to producing and directing these kids and to be in a position where both the company I run and the company I work for were able to work together all in the interest of giving back, is very fulfilling. I encourage companies and businesses that are out there to come together and see this initiative continue to live.
CSM: I really hope this continues and that it grows. How can one get in touch with you?
MDP: You can find me directly on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mproffit5 or the B-Side Studios Page: http://www.facebook.com/BSideStudiosLLC / You can also find me on Instagram at @mrproffit and the B-Side IG page is @bside.studios . Our website is bsideproduction.com. It needs some updating but that’s all being worked on as we speak. Drop a line and say “Hi” and/or if you’re an artist (actor, singer, podcaster, etc), please keep B-Side Studios on your radar because we are growing this brand and taking it to new heights. We would love for you to come along on the ride with us.
Photos: Courtesy of Maurice D. Proffit