Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

This startupper’s Million Swag Surf could be the new AIDS Walk

Turn my swag on — for a good cause. Jason Mowatt is on it.

Organizer Jason Mowatt at Trap Karaoke.

(Courtesy photo)

Jason Mowatt thinks swag surfing could be this generation’s AIDS Walk.

“When I look at the social good space, you see the AIDS Walk and the Susan G. Komen 5K and you ask like, ‘What does a walk have to do with AIDS or breast cancer?’ But really it’s just an event that builds community and friendships. When I look at my generation I’m like, ‘What would we do?’ We might not do a 5K or an ice bucket challenge but we could do a swag surf.”

If you’re not familiar, swag surfing is a bit like a group huddle set to rap music.

The dance comes from the 2009 kinda hit “Swag Surfin’” by F.L.Y. (Fast Life Youngstaz). Since then, the dance has taken on a life of its own. It’s been called by BuzzFeed, “The dance of our generation.”

If you’re a Technical.ly Brooklyn reader, you likely know Jason Mowatt already. He’s the creator of the now quite-famous traveling concert Trap Karaoke and the director of marketing at the Williamsburg startup Thunderclap.
Mowatt said his idea for a bone marrow drive came from a personal experience of his six years ago. In 2010, one of his friend’s nieces was diagnosed with leukemia. She was 12 years old and was in the Broadway production of The Lion King. Famous names, including Alicia Keys raised awareness for her cause, but because the girl was half Hispanic and half Black, matches were hard to come by. She didn’t receive a match, and she died. 

“It’s actually within our power to change this,” Mowatt said in an interview. “The more I looked at the problem, I looked at it as a marketer, so in terms of content and distribution. This particular issue isn’t marketed that well and you need people to be engaged because they actually have to sign up. I thought you need content that people are gonna care about and it’s not enough to say I’m doing this social good project. People just rest on that idea that people will want to do it.”


So Mowatt has initiated a project called the Million Swag Surf.

The idea is to go to music festivals and events and organize a whole-crowd swag surf in the name of bone marrow donation. Bringing people together in a single moment, arm in arm, swaying to the music together and thinking about a serious issue, will leave a lasting impression, Mowatt says. He’ll set up booths where people can sign up to become bone marrow donors.

Currently, Mowatt said, there are about 560,000 Black people on the national bone marrow registry. Mowatt’s goal is to raise that number to a million. His first stop is this weekend at the Broccoli City Festival in Washington, D.C. Headlined by Future, Mowatt expects there to be 12,000 people in attendance when the music stops and the swag surfing begins. He’ll have aerial drones and GoPros in the crowd to capture the moment, taking footage he hopes will do well online and spread the message of the Million Swag Surf beyond just the people in attendance.

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