Let’s Count Our Heroes



photo by Carlos Javier Ortiz

photo by Carlos Javier Ortiz

You’ve probably heard the lament that nobody is working in Chicago’s communities to deal with the violence.

But that’s not the case. Not at all.

Heaps of organizations and individuals dedicate their time and hearts to making a difference.

The problem is, we don’t always hear about them.

So, we’d like to begin spreading the word about these heroes in the hood.

Hopefully we’ll have dozens of stories to tell here soon.


If your organization works in any way to deal with the contagion of violence that stains some Chicago communities, tell us about it.

Send us a few graphs and some photos. Or a video. Or an audio. Tell us what you do, and why this matters. It doesn’t have to be fancy. And you decide why your effort is linked to the campaign to heal Chicago communities.

Please make sure to let us know how to contact you.

And if putting this together is a problem, let us know and we’ll help you tell your story. You can also tell your story in English or Spanish.

Indeed, celebrating the heroes in the hood is one of the goals of our We Are Not Alone/No Estamos Solos.

You can reach me at Steve@chicagoistheworld.org, or 312 369 6400.

For example, this video tells the story of one effort by Rhymefest, the community activist and hip-hop artist, at a place called Donda’s House.


And here are sections from an interview that talks about this unique effort to use hip-hop as a way to stir lives in a new direction.

by Katie Karpowicz in the Chicagoist


“Rhymefest: I was working on an album called Violence Is Sexy and the theme behind the album is violence as a disease or a hurricane that moves from person to person, state to state and city to city. Twenty years ago we were talking about the Crips and Bloods in California. But what did we get from that? We got “Boyz n the Hood,” “Menace to Society,” N.W.A., a host of gangster rappers from the West Coast. Violence created a whole economy in the entertainment industry on the West Coast.

“When Tupac got killed it was like, “Oh my God, it’s real.” So then violence moved down South and we got Lil Wayne and Master P and The Hot Boys. Then Hurricane Katrina came and washed away the entertainment of violence. Now we’re in Chicago, “Chiraq.” Violence is still happening in LA. People are still killing each other in New Orleans. East St. Louis is worse than everywhere but it’s our turn. And what do you get? Documentaries, movies, Chief Keef. There’s an economy of violence. It’s sexy. It’s being exploited. So it’s not about black on black crime in Chicago. Black on black crime is around America but it’s just our turn to make money from it and it’s not really getting to the root of solving it.


“I was making the mistake of just being a rapper. We have Donda’s House, this premium arts program. I train young people every day, for no pay—I’m living off my royalties. At Donda’s House we give our young people the opportunity to get health and wellness training: meditation, yoga, diet information. We teach studio etiquette. We put them in the studio and let them record for free. [In May] we brought in the vice president of Def Jam Records [Chicago rapper and producer No I.D.] to answer their questions about the industry and why the industry kind of supports negative music in our communities. I realized that for me to put out an album only benefits the Rhymefest brand, it doesn’t do anything for what my real love is and that’s Donda’s House. So if I’m going to put out music, it has to be within the frame of this organization. But it’s not about me putting out music. It’s about how I can help these young people put out positive music that heals the world instead of killing the world.

“So, what we decided to do is put Violence Is Sexy on pause because we are creating a non-profit record label that isn’t about capitalism, selling records and how much I can be an individual. It’s a collective. We’re going to take the label and connect it to the curriculum of Donda’s House. So if we’re teaching them a 12-week curriculum that comes from Kanye [West]’s mom Dr. Donda West, we would like for them to have the opportunity after the class is over and they graduate to have a fellowship with this record label. It won’t be about how many records they sell, it’s going to be about how powerfully their music connects. We want them to tour shanty towns in South Africa then come back to Englewood with creative solutions and experience and music. And I think that this project does more for the world than my one album.

“We spoke to the vice president of Def Jam who expressed his support and has agreed that Def Jam will do our distribution once we get it set up.





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