At this year’s BET Awards, 24-year-old Chicago native Chance the Rapper won both Best New Artist and the Humanitarian Award for his efforts to improve Chicago Public Schools Foundation “for arts and enrichment programming.” His work includes donating $1 million to Chicago Public Schools (CPS), inspiring others, including fellow artists, to give, meeting with the governor, and interacting closely with CPS kids and fans.
Chance’s donation comes in part as a response to the lack of funding given to CPS and Chicago Governor Rauner’s veto of a bill that would have delegated $215 million in funding to CPS. The results of the veto could include laying off several teachers and even cutting the school year short. As Chance explains, “This means over 380,000 kids will not have adult-supervised activities in June and could possibly be put in harm’s way.”
Michelle Obama, fellow Chicago native, praised Chance for his efforts in a video played at the award show. She stated proudly, “Chance has been taking that big bright spotlight that follows him around and he’s shining it on young people in our hometown of Chicago. Time and time again he has been doing the work. Chance is showing our young people that they matter, that they have something inside of them that is worthy of being expressed.” According to Obama, Chance is a “role model and an inspiration.”
In his acceptance speech, Chance says he felt humbled by the experience, thinking that maybe it is even too early in his career to receive such an honor. However, he then said, “My God is putting the pressure on me so I can become who I’m supposed to be. Thank you black people. Thank you mom. I love y’all.”
In past interviews, Chance also credited the women in his life for inspiring him to be active in the community. Specifically, he mentions his civil rights activist grandmother and his daughter. Although she is not even two years old yet, once she is old enough, the musician hopes to enroll her in the Chicago public school system. “I’m a new parent and I want my daughter to be a CPS [Chicago Public Schools] kid,” he says, “and if there’s no more CPS then how’s that gonna happen? I’m trying to play my part.”
Chance said to Rolling Stone, “My grandmother volunteered herself and all her kids to work for [former mayor] Harold Washington’s campaign when they had no money. There’s a lot of women and men in my family, especially my dad, who are just leaders … There’s just always been a calling to, if there’s something wrong in the world to try and put some type of dent in it.”
He also said in an interview with Vanity Fair, “I think our duty as American citizens is to be involved and engaged in anything that affects us. As an artist, I have to use my platform, and as a dad, a brother, and a black man, I have to be as socially woke and present as possible.”
Chance’s most recent mixtape “Coloring Book” has already won three Grammys (Best New Artist, Best Rap Album, Best Rap Performance) and earned him extraordinary success. “Coloring Book” is also the first streaming-only album to ever win a Grammy. The young rapper is famous for refusing to sign with any record label. He is truly an independent artist and focuses less on how to make money and more on the impact of his music.
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