Danyel Smith is in pitch mode. The Oakland native has a limited amount of time to spread the gospel of the project she is launching with her husband, Elliot Wilson. She has just a few days left until the Kickstarter campaign ends for HRDCVR ends and she determined to convey her vision, and get it financed.

“We want it to be a monument to what the world looks like now, what the diverse world looks like now, what the multi-stream as opposed to the mainstream looks like right now,” Smith says. “We at HRDCVR want to over-serve the underserved.”

HRDCVR is a magazine in the shape of a book. In a world were many think innovation is synonymous with digital, Smith’s team has decided to go with print. They have a serious social media campaign and are using crowdfunding to get the project off the ground, but HRDCVR is about giving the people something tangible. The array of stories and range of artwork printed on high-quality paper, and packaged together with a hard cover will speak to “the new everybody.”

“People have asked, ‘is it post-racial?’ No, it’s actually racial,” states Smith. “It’s not us all melting into each other or everybody suddenly being wonderful and magically equal. It’s representing everybody.”

Her pitch is strong. It’s passionate. She launches into the vision, almost without prompting.  It’s hard not to want to send her a check as soon as she pauses for a breath.

“The best thing about having a pitch that is right is that your passion is in it. That it’s authentic and it’s passionate and it’s true and that’s your actual dream. I would hate to have to pitch something that was my halfway dream.”

It’s a dream that comes from acknowledging that the industry she’s dedicated much of her life to is missing something. Smith has been a journalist for years. She’s stood at the helm of VIBE and Billboard and had her byline in many more publications. She’s experienced the clichéd best of times and worst of times in the industry.

“It just bothers me the way journalism has been. I’ve been in it for 20 years and it just bothers me,” she says. You can almost hear tears in her voice. Quickly, Smith channels that frustration into fuel to push the topic at hand, HRDCVR, and how her hometown has molded her career.

“Oakland just gives you this thing of…” she trails off, searching for words. “…it’s not always pretty, not always easy, but you’ve got to figure it out. Are you going to complain about it or are you going to build it?” But building it hasn’t been easy. In fact, this is the second Kickstarter launch for HRDCVR.

“You know that whole thing, ‘fail quickly and boldly’ and all of that? When I got to Stanford, I was like, ‘Oh, that’s not for me, I’m from Oakland, honey, we do winning. We’re not doing failing in East Oakland.’ But I began to understand what it meant. It’s just another way of saying if you make a mistake, get up quick, brush yourself off and keep it moving.”

Recognizing that the launch wasn’t just right, the team decided to start over. They changed the financial goal and the rewards for backers. HRDCVR reached 100 percent funding in a matter of days, then upped the ante and decided to go for 200 percent funding.

“We’re pushing for more because we want better,” says Smith. From better paper to high-quality ink, the team is pushing, but the main part of funding is being able to really pay the people who contribute.

“I come from a people who, like pretty much every other African-American person in the U.S., my people were slaves on that side of the family,” says Smith. “So, I’m not really fond of this whole ‘free-ish.’ I’m not saying there’s not some places for it where maybe it’s cool, but uh-uh, if you work, I’m trying to give you something.”

In addition to paying freelancers and staff, HRDCVR will offer fellowships in print, design, social media and leadership if the campaign raises $60,000.

“I believe that creativity is thought and execution, and these things are labor, and I’m of the mind that if you work,” says Smith, “you should be paid for the work, and that’s one of the things that we are raising money for at HRDCVR, frankly.”

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2 Responses

  1. Gloria

    I’m confused as to why you are writing a promotional piece for this Palo Alto based project when, the creator cancelled the Kickstarter funding on May 22?

    It is very clear from the Kickstarter page that her vision is blurry. She doesn’t have concrete plans only a lot of maybes and and ideas “that may well change” and “We’re still sorting it”. And it doesn’t seem to be economically sustainable.

    There are a more than a dozen Kickstarter projects that are based in Oakland that would be more relevant to your audience.


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