Mo Betta & SantaCause (Washington, DC)

Mo Betta & SantaCause

(Published Originally 11.18.16 on ARTISCEND.COM)

Written By J. Randolph

Maurice McClanahan, better known by his stage name Mo Betta, has raised more than $30,000 in support of SafeShores–a nonprofit focusing on child-abuse prevention and recovery. The cause had always been near to his heart but as an artist, McClanahan’s crusade was as much about changing the narrative of Hip-Hop music in the area as it was his passion for charity.

In 2011, following a massive brawl at the 5th annual DMV Awards, local media attention shifted towards nightclub violence and the culture that influenced it. Clubs were shut down inside the city and across the metropolitan region as media fanned the flames stirring civic resentment. Within every generation, music (especially youth music) endures public scrutiny. From Jazz musicians of the 1920’s to Rock-N-Roll of the 1960s, community and political criticisms have followed nearly every genre. So it came as no surprise when Hip-Hop and Washington DC’s unique native genre-Go-Go, begin to draw the same criticism.

But instead of complaining, McClanahan started brainstorming ways to combat the stereotypes that were confining and condemning the music birthed in the nation’s Capital.

He was an artist, a rapper, but he knew that the media stereotypes weren’t an accurate reflection of what he was seeing and experiencing. McClanahan came up with the idea for the twitter hashtag #SantaCause.

As an established artist, he used his connections in the local music scene to put together showcases and fundraisers. Tapping everyone from radio personalities to chart-topping superstars, McClanahan used his network to push #SantaCause around the entire DMV. Within his first year McClanahan had raised more than $5k and by his third year, he was pulling in $15K within a matter of few months.

The idea was to fundraise for a different charity yearly alongside his fellow artists, redefining a cultural image while serving their respective communities. “I already knew of ‘Will Rap for Food’ and [the] Game’s Robin Hood foundation. There were already artists doing positive things but that never gets the attention”, said McClanahan.

Although the initial intention was to work with various charitable organizations, McClanahan found himself more and more engaged with the cause at Safe Shores. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, over 700,000 child-abuse victims were reported nationally in 2015. And, despite national trends actually declining in the past few years, DC Child and Family Service Agency reported a 36% increase in reported complaints of abuse and/or neglect. The statistics hit home for McClanahan who had witnessed friends and relatives endure the burden of abuse and maltreatment.

Still it wasn’t until a chance encounter with a fellow humanitarian that McClanahan would end up devoting his focus and his #SantaCause organization solely to SafeShores.

During a fundraising event, local businessman and philanthropists Tony Lewis Jr. invited McClanahan to visit with some of the kids he’d been fundraising for. McClanahan fell in love with the kids, the atmosphere and the team at the Safe Shores DC facility and never looked back.

In October 2016, McClanahan was awarded the DMVUndaground Best Hip-Hop Philanthropists award for his continued commitment to charity throughout the city. Always candid and never compromising, McClanahan used his acceptance speech as a platform to challenge more people to get involved and to do more to give back in their communities.

Now in its 5th year, #SantaCause has helped raised thousands in partnership with SafeShoresDC but McClanahan’s legacy of giving and charity extends far beyond the hashtag. Renowned DJ and co-star of 93.9WKYS’s ‘Fam In The Morning’ DJ Quicksilva, said of McClanahan, “I’ve never been a part of a charity in DC and not seen this guy whether it was his charity or somebody else’s, he was always there on the frontline”.

McClanahan’s spirit of community and his dedication to philanthropy isn’t just a spectacle to applaud but something we should all aspire towards. His tireless dedication and extraordinary sense of community stands out in a world of artists seeking to “get” without being willing to “give”.