When it comes to philanthropy in Chicago, one of the icons now known for such giving in the city is Chance the Rapper, who grew up in Chicago’s South Side. This area is notorious for gangs, violence, drugs, and a slew of other criminal activities, but perhaps the most damaging effect these activities has is that of the impact it has on children living in the region. Not only are they exposed to violence and recruited to gangs at a young age, but they are also drawn to these things as a way to escape living poverty, as approximately 13.3% of Chicago’s entire population did in 2015.
The rapper struck again in the city this past weekend, when he first served as Grand Marshal in Chicago’s annual Bud Billiken parade, which is an African American parade that celebrates and encourages students returning to school each fall. The parade is second in size only to the Rose Parade in the U.S., and this year Chance wanted to make the event even more special.
While sitting atop a white convertible car throughout the parade, Chance had 30,000 backpacks filled with school supplies waiting to be handed out to kids in the crowd. Volunteers from SocialWorks, Chance’s youth empowerment charity, and the charity STATE worked together to distribute the backpacks.
For many living in the city, the financial burden of buying school supplies for kids on top of other necessities, like food, can be too demanding. Although the Chicago Public School system has a program called Kits for Kidz that sell supplies at affordable prices, Chance wanted to do something more to alleviate the demands to provide supplies and essentials for students returning to school. This act was done independently from the government’s efforts, as the rapper said that he was unable to get through to officials.
“The governor gave me a lot of vague answers in our meeting, and since has called me over the weekend. Our talks were unsuccessful,” Chance said at the time. “Governor Rauner still won’t commit to giving Chicago’s kids a chance without caveats or ultimatums.”
On top of this act of giving and his SocialWorks charity, Chance is also known for donating $1 million to help cover deficit budgets in the Chicago Public School system. He was also the winner of the BET Humanitarian of the Year award this year. His most recent efforts with the backpacks were not his only gift to the city; he also held a surprise concert for free for his fans in the city.
At the concert, a pre-recorded video from former POTUS Barack Obama, who is also from Chicago, was shown on stage as a message to and about Chance.
“I wanted to just have the chance to say to all of you that the Bud Billiken Parade stands for so much of what our community is about,” Obama said in the video. “Chance, I’m grateful for everything that you’ve done on behalf of the young people back home. I am hopeful that everybody who is at the concert today, everybody who is getting involved, everybody who’s been part of the parade, that all of you are in the mindset that you could do anything that you want to as long as you put your mind to it.”
The charity that Chance partnered with, STATE, is also focusing their efforts on Chicago this back-to-school season and it all started with this first giveaway at the parade. Their general mission is to follow a “buy one, give one” philosophy, where they donate a backpack to an American child in need for every backpack they sell. They’ve also partnered up with the Chicago White Sox to do a backpack giveaway as well as an important partnership with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the public school system to give more bags away on the first day of school. STATE co-founder Scot Tatelman also had some great things to say about their work with Chance in this most recent giveaway:
“When we looked to Chicago as the focal point of our 2017 back to school donation efforts, Chance the Rapper was the guy we first set our sites on. He is walking the walk and talking the talk in his commitment to supporting the community in which he grew up. Every day.”
With this inflow of giving and a widening understanding of the problems that Chicago students face every year, hopefully the narrative of how city kids are seen and how they view themselves can help lift many out of poverty as they see their own self-worth and are able to focus on school because they have enough supplies. That’s one of the objectives for these charities, and it would be awesome if the gifts kept coming year after year.