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Howard senior’s collective amplifies socially conscious music artists

Aisha June’s collective, 360 Creativity Saves Lives, seeks to empowers artists, builds community, fosters creativity at Howard.

Aisha June performing at Howard University’s 2024 Springfest. (Photo courtesy of Aisha June) 

In 2018, during her gap year, Aisha June said she thought about the social implications of music, and wondered how she would make an impact in the field. During this time, the graduating senior would develop the idea of forming a collective of artists to help bridge the gap between artists and community development. 

The marketing major from Chicago described feeling compelled to take the initiative to create a platform for artists that she felt was missing in her community.

“I feel like it wasn’t enough people who really cared about the social impact or the social mission or really cared about what their music was saying and how it could help somebody,” she said.

Her concept of social impact through music eventually became 360 Creativity Saves Lives, a collective that inspires the development of creativity amongst artists and strives to give artists the platform to be leaders in their communities.

June, 23, amassed more than 47,000 followers on Instagram and has made a name for herself making rap music and creating a safe space for other student creatives on campus. 

As her departure from Howard approaches, she has begun to think about the future of her collective outside of Howard’s campus and the legacy that will continue to be built on campus, even after her graduation. 

Since its founding in 2018, June says that 360 Creativity Saves Lives has dedicated itself to creating opportunities, community, leaders and experiences that pour into the community for artists. The collective has 48 members and has gone on to host various events such as open mics, curated live shows, pop-up shops and writing workshops. 

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It has also facilitated a festival, 360 Fest, and features performances from local artists and members of the collective. They held their second edition of the event on April 29. 

“I think for sure one of the ways that I see 360 Creativity Saves Lives growing and changing is being able to offer systems as well as a community and a growing network for all artists, especially artists who are at Howard,” June said.

June said that she partly decided to attend Howard so that she could bring 360 Creativity Saves Lives to a college campus, feeling that it was necessary to be around people her age equally as serious about music.

Within the first week of her arrival at Howard in 2021, she hosted her first open mic in front of the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts (COFA) building, eager to meet other student artists.

“The first ten days of me being on campus, I literally opened up the trunk of my car, grabbed the speaker, grabbed the mic, grabbed an extension cord, and went to the front of COFA and started playing music,” June said.

June smiling for a photo, while showcasing a 360 Creativity Saves Lives t-shirt. (Photo courtesy of Aisha June)

Since then, 360 Creativity Saves Lives has transformed from a one-person initiative to a student organization with 48 members.

Junior psychology major and human development minor from Washington, Zuri Franklin, said she first found out about the collective after signing up to perform at one of its open mic events and has been a part of it ever since.

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Franklin said that the collective is his support system at Howard and that the members push one another to be their best selves.

“We really let each other know that this dream that we are striving to attain is attainable,” he said. “It’s real, it’s achievable. It’s very much doable and that we are capable and we have the resources and the support system needed to do so.”

Zuri Franklin performing at the 2024 360 Fest. (Photo courtesy of Zuri Franklin)

Isaac Alicea, a senior business management and entrepreneurship major from King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, first discovered the collective through June after sharing multiple classes with her. 

Alicea, like many members of the collective, is heavily involved in multiple creative endeavors such as fashion design, audio engineering, as well as playing various instruments like the cello. 

His main pursuit, however, has been music production, where he produces mostly trap, R&B, and hip-hop beats under the stage name, Icy Tides.  

After graduation, he said he plans to focus his attention on growing his company, Artivism, defined as social activism through creative expression. 

However, it wasn’t until January of 2022, when June shared with Alicea her vision and goals for 360 Creativity Saves Lives that he really became a part of it.

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Alicea said that the collective has given him the opportunity to see what his dreams could look like in reality. 

Isaac Alicea performing at an open mic hosted by 360 Creativity Saves Lives. (Photo courtesy of Isaac Alicea)

“I’ve always wanted to be an artist and be able to live a comfortable lifestyle because of the art that I make,” he said. “Before you’re making money, and when you’re all alone, that can be a pretty daunting dream. And 360 has given me the creative community that has also given me creative confidence knowing that I can make it in this field.”

Howard University has long been known as a catalyst for many student artists with notable alumni such as singer Roberta Flack, music producer, Gimel “Young Guru” Keaton, and gospel singer, Richard Smallwood. 360 Creativity Saves Lives provides a glimpse at the new generation of student artists at Howard.

With the popularity of music streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music increasing access to music and shifting revenue streams, artists have a new landscape of music to tackle. According to data published by IFPI, streaming and revenues grew by 19.9 percent in 2020 and paid subscription services were a key contributor, growing by 18.5 percent. 

Moving forward, members of the collective feel confident that the organization will maintain a strong presence on campus even after June’s departure.

“360 is bigger than Howard, bigger than being a student organization. I view 360 as like a management company for creatives,” Alicea said. “So while June won’t be a student anymore, she’s still going to be the head, the leader, the president of 360, and she’s going to continue to grow the brand both on and off campus.”

June said that her plans are to keep growing, and further connect with her purpose. She intends to continue developing as an artist and creating opportunities for artists. For 360 Creativity Saves Lives, she wants to be able to scale it up as a business that grows and gives back to its communities. 

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Alicea shared that many excited underclassmen are prepared to take over leadership roles and have been allowed to understand these roles more in the past six months.

Franklin expressed that he has no worries about the future of the collective, and said that the upcoming changes will only further showcase the organization’s resilience.

“I think now is the time that we really begin to expand and that more members will step up to the plate to fulfill those leadership roles as our founding members begin to matriculate and finish their college careers,” he said.

William “Nick” Bradley, a junior sociology major from Atlanta, who goes by the stage name “OMG Banko,” has been a member of 360 for the past three years. He specializes in performance art, acting and filmmaking, and describes himself as a creative that helps execute projects and concepts.

Bradley said he first found out about 360 after attending an open mic that they hosted during his freshman year.

“I joined because of the values that 360 has,” he said. “We’re about creating a space for artists and bridging the gap between community and artistry, not only at Howard but in the world.”

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He describes the organization as a family, where members can call each other for anything.  

“During our meetings, we never forget to do a wellness check on how each member of the organization is doing, to foster vulnerability and connection between members,” Bradley said. “It helps us remember that we’re going through a lot of the same things.” 

Copy edited by Alana Matthew

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