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Hip-Hop Philanthropy In The Trump Era - Chris "Preach" Smith

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We’re currently 47 days into the new Presidential administration
of Donald Trump. And it is safe to say that there is one word alone
that can leap to the minds of many to describe it - okay, two -
uncertain chaos. From the travel ban that has targeted Muslims
from six nations to rapidly increased deportation of immigrants
to frenzied deregulation, not to mention the tremendous cloud of
suspicion of foreign manipulation in the election and thus the
government, uncertain chaos is more than appropriate to depict
the feeling. And of course, people of color are squarely in the
crosshairs. What else can you call it when your current Secretary
of Housing and Urban Development is a Black evangelical conservative
who makes more news for ridiculous statements
and looking like a bemused doorman at press events? This climate
is why we celebrate news such as what took place in Chicago this
past Monday.

Chance The Rapper went back to his hometown and held a 
press conference at Wescott Elementary School to announce that
he was donating one million dollars to the Chicago Public Schools
system. This was after he met with Governor Bruce Rauner of
Illinois and went away with a high level of dissatisfaction with
possible bureaucratic stonewalling. The news generated a large
amount of buzz - but this is nothing new to Chance. The rapper
has been a keen advocate for the people of Chicago, from organizing
marches to the polling booths this past November to raising
over $60,000 for a charity that donated sleeping bags and
jackets to the homeless to now having a seat on the board
at the prestigious DuSable Museum.

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Jay-Z has also made great strides in this regard, announcing
this week that he is launching Arrive, a new company that
will be dedicated to helping startups launch successfully. This
is separate from his other startup ventures and expands on
his past contributions to these companies. Combine that with
his production efforts and placement of TIME: The Kalief 
Browder Story
, a documentary now airing on Spike TV that
chronicles the tragedy of a young man from the Bronx who
was imprisoned on Rikers Island without being charged for
three years. Browder was then released, and took his own
life shortly thereafter in 2015. The rapper will also be hosting
a town hall with fellow executive producer Harvey Weinstein
in conjunction with tonight’s broadcast. Jay-Z has stepped up
to bat for the people increasingly over the past few years in
both a public and private manner. In addition, Ice Cube also
is wrapping up a campaign to raise money for autism research
through sales of clothing bearing one of his popular lyrics.

So, why should this matter to you?

To have artists that engaged who is willing to use their
platform to mobilize and inform people is a wonderful thing to
see. It also may be the beginning of a resurgence of rappers
getting back and giving back in an increased fashion. It goes
without saying that there is going to be some skepticism
aimed towards rappers doing this. The easy play that is
enabled by some media elements (and reinforced by some
artists and their escapades) is that rappers are nothing
more than rapacious and unrepentant “thugs”. This is
the stick used to divide, demean and ultimately cause
indifference to suffering overall. This is what has to be
ignored. Some of us have spent quite some time wondering
why some artists don’t give back more to the community.
In a way, some do that to mask their own indifference or
chosen lack of engagement (I stress the word “chosen”
because it has to be said that not everyone is in a position
to give of themselves to causes depending on their situation.)
Having examples like this matter because it inspires others.
And in a way, it allows other people to not only get involved
with other actions from local groups and advocates but to
further spread the message to their circles. In an era
where news can spread like a wildfire thanks to social
media, the impact of these initiatives speak volumes. Is
it a replacement for the funds that will be lost to deregulation
and budget cuts like the one slated for NYCHA and the
Environmental Protection Agency? No. But in the face of
such stark change, one gesture can spur others. And we
need them more than ever. As much as we need more 
of the people to get involved, more than ever. 


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