Opinion

It’s One Thing to be a Celebrity from Chicago, It’s Another to Help

Photo courtesy of Timothy Hiatt

From gun violence and political corruption to debt and discrimination, Chicago is infamous for its many problems. But with the city’s public school system on the brink of collapse, Chicagoans young and old are looking for a hero now more than ever.

At 23 years old, Chance the Rapper has stepped up and accomplished more for the city than most young celebrities who call “Chi-city” home.

From the South Side’s Chatham neighborhood, Chance is engaging in political dialogue and utilizing the media to draw awareness to the city’s struggles.

On March 3, Chance the Rapper met with Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner to discuss funding for public education in the city. He’s also been vocal about Mayor Rahm Emanuel and gun violence.

In less than one month, Chance has raised more than $2.2 million for CPS. Unfortunately, that money doesn’t scratch the surface of CPS’ $215 million debt.

In a March interview with Billboard Magazine, Chance said he had an responsibility to help his hometown.

“It is my job just as who I am to bring light and attention to public school funding, broken formulas and especially how it affects my hometown where there’s 90 percent minority students,” Chance told Billboard. “We all individually play roles in the betterment of kids of Chicago and it’s an on-going conversation of the detriment of Chicago, but we can all really get involvedhere.”

His message was a call to action.

But that call wasn’t answered by many celebrities from the Windy City.

Instead, celebrities without a Chicago connection answered Chance’s plea. Scooter Braun, a music agent most known for finding Justin Bieber on YouTube, and comedian Hannibal Burress were two celebrities who decided to put thousands of dollars toward funding CPS.

Lupe Fiasco, Kanye West, R Kelly, Vince Vaughn, Bill Murray, Common and Jennifer Hudson are only a few of the hundred celebrities who call the third largest city in the United States home.

But when Chance asked for help, they stayed silent.

That hasn’t always been the case. To say all these celebrities haven’t done anything for the city would undermine the charities and organizations they’ve funded.

Lupe Fiasco, from the West Side and raised in the Madison Terrace housing project, headed the creation of the Neighborhood Start Fund. It identifies startups for investment in specific neighborhoods, and then reinvests profits into funds to fuel more startups from those communities.

Kanye West wasn’t born in Chicago, but calls the city his home after moving there when he was 3 years old. He founded the Kanye West Foundation, which is now known as the Donda Foundation — named after his late mother.

The rapper has also appeared in a series of PSAs for Strong American Schools and hosted a benefit concert.

Common, who was raised in the Calumet Heights neighborhood on the South Side, has continued to put jobs in Chicago’s economy for the youth.

He puts on the annual AAHH Music Festival, which he calls his “very personal commitment to his hometown Chicago … to bring jobs, education and inspiration to the city,” according to the official festival website.

For Chicago specifically, West and Common created 20,000 jobs for youth in 2014.

Although West, Fiasco and Common didn’t respond to Chance’s masked call to action, what they’ve done in the past is noble, it just isn’t enough. But the responsibility to help the city shouldn’t all be on them.

More Chicago celebrities need to step up. A call to action shouldn’t only be extended to those from neighborhoods affected by these troubles.

Celebrities should use their fame to garner awareness for the issues in their hometown city. It’s one thing when musicians and actors reference their struggles in the city during their upbringing, but it’s another thing to actually make an effort to change the reasons why so many people struggle.

Celebrities not only need to take pride in their hometown, they have to take pride in helping their hometown. That’ll make the people living there proud of where they’re from too.

We saw this with Chance’s donation. If you’re a celebrity and have the means to provide financial support or stir up awareness for a city you claim as your hometown, then you should do something for it, rather than watching people suffer.