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YouTubers Are Donating Their Ad Revenue to Black Lives Matter Organizations

Budding beauty influencer Zoe Amira found a free, extremely online way to raise money for BLM — and now, many others are following her lead

Last week, Zoe Amira watched as her mutuals and celebrities on Twitter matched one another’s donations for the Minnesota Freedom Fund and Brooklyn Community Bail Fund.

As a 20-year-old burgeoning beauty influencer who is living with family in Chicago, Amira couldn’t afford to match as well (even though she’s arguably better at de-aging technology than Martin Scorsese). She’d recently started a YouTube channel, but it had only made $12 in Google AdSense revenue off two videos, as after three weeks they have just over 5,000 and 12,000 views respectively (with most of those streams coming the last few days).

Everything changed, though, when on Sunday, Amira uploaded a 56-minute video of crowdsourced art, music and speeches from young Black creators. She encouraged her 65,000 TikTok followers and nearly 32,000 Instagram followers to watch it, announcing all proceeds would be donated to charity. She titled the video “How to Financially Help BLM With NO Money/Leaving Your House (Invest in Future for FREE).”

“One hundred percent of the advertisement revenue this video makes through AdSense will be donated to the associations that offer protester bail funds, help pay for family funerals and advocacy listed in the beginning of the video,” Amira wrote on YouTube.

In about a week, the video picked up nearly 8.7 million views and raised just under $37,000 for organizations that help Black Lives Matter causes, including the ACLU and Black Visions Collective. “I felt useless, so it was nice to be able to see people in some kind of way mobilize and use their effort to contribute positively,” Amira tells me. 

Initially, Amira planned to upload a 12-hour video of a black screen for viewers to play while they slept. But Google often demonetizes videos without a creative bent. So instead, she put out a call on Twitter and TikTok, asking Black creators to send her self-tapes of their music, their art and other creative content. She received about 100 submissions in all. As such, the video is a collage of music from Gen Z artists and students, like singer-songwriter Mayyadda, activist Nick Daly and portraiture artist Ellie Downs.

Highlighting young Black creators like these was an additional way Amira felt she could help. “It’s been exciting to see a lot of people who said they felt like they didn’t have a voice or a way to help feel like they have some kind of avenue in which they can contribute and exercise their voice, too,” Amira says.

Her success has inspired other YouTubers — e.g., Cindy Marshall, Henrique Reacts and Hannah Lee Dugga — to create Black Lives Matter videos and donate the Google ad revenue generated from them as well.

That said, Amira is running into an unexpected issue with Google: They’re occasionally placing alt-right ads on her video. “People were like, ‘I got an hour-and-a-half-long Steven Crowder ad,’” Amira says. “There’s also a variety of ads about singing a birthday card for Trump.” She tried to block all political ads from the video, but Google wouldn’t let her. (A representative from Google didn’t immediately return a request for comment.) So now she just individually blocks ads by Crowder or Trump that viewers report to her.

In terms of the money she’s raised, she expects to be paid out at the end of the month and plans to donate it to a series of organizations shortly thereafter. In the meantime, Amira is encouraging her audience to create their own videos. Overall, she tells me, “I hope people feel proud and grateful that the money that would go to YouTubers on less serious topics is being spent in a way that’s really helping something they believe in.”