Common, Donda's House, Chicago Urban League develop music festival, jobs initiative

April 09, 2014|By Ernest Wilkins, @ernestwilkins | RedEye

Rap artist Common announced Wednesday that his Common Ground Foundation will partner with youth arts organization Donda's House Inc. and the Chicago Urban League to develop a music festival and an initiative to create 20,000 jobs for Chicago's black teens.

The three organizations developed the initiative to help lower the Chicago-area jobless rate among black males, representatives said. A recent study conducted by the Chicago Alternative Schools Network found that 92 percent of black males aged 16-19 were jobless in 2012.

"It's one thing to provide summer jobs for these kids, but we're trying to provide year-round jobs," said Andrea Zopp, CEO of the Chicago Urban League. "We've had hearings and the kids have told us that they need jobs year-round."

Chicago rap artist Che "Rhymefest" Smith, co-founder of Donda's House, said that the job search process itself is a step to ending the problems plaguing black neighborhoods. If kids have opportunities to make good money legally, it might dissuade them from turning to crime, he explained.

As for the music festival, they're tight-lipped. The show will take place Sept. 20-21 behind the Museum of Science and Industry in Hyde Park, but the lineup remains a secret. "We're trying to get some of the great Chicagoans. That's all I can say," Common said when pressed for more information.

Donda's House, named after rapper Kanye West's mother Dr. Donda West, was created by Kanye West and Smith to provide access to premium arts instruction to Chicago's youth. "Our generation [African Americans in their late 20's and 30's] always talk about how the previous generation failed us and now it's our turn to succeed for our youth," Smith said about the new partnership. "This collaboration isn't about Kanye West, Common, Lupe Fiasco, or anyone. It's about necessity."

Common wants to extend his community efforts beyond the Common Ground Foundation which often flys under the radar, he said. "If people feel that they have the capability to help, they should look and see what the need is and serve that. We're trying to do that here."

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