On Monday afternoon, Chance the Rapper walked into the library of Westcott Elementary, a few blocks from where he grew up on Chicago's South Side. In one of his signature "3" caps -- sky blue -- and a hoodie the same color, Chance stood next to a group of students and announced that he would donate $1 million to Chicago Public Schools, the money going to after-school and enrichment programs. The funds, he said, would come out of ticket sales from his upcoming tour.
Reading softly from a prepared script, he described the money as a "call to action" for others to give as well, explaining that his non-profit, Social Works, would donate an additional $10,000 to a different Chicago school for every $100,000 raised. He'd texted with Common that morning and would soon share a list of participating corporations. Chance handed a $10,000 giant novelty check to Westcott's principal, who said she was elated that she'd picked up on that unknown caller this morning.
"As a private citizen, as a parent and a product of C.P.S," Chance said, "I'm asking that you guys join the fight with me. Organize with me. Mobilize with me."
Bernarde, the UberX driver who took me to the school from another part of the South Side and had heard about Chance's press conference on the radio, said it well: "Look at what other celebrities do to stay famous -- Kim Kardashian posing naked or Kanye saying something crazy on Ellen -- and then you see what Chance is doing to build on his momentum. He's positive and sincere. He's trying to do something for the city."
At the school, Chance explained that he needed the three Grammys he won in February to land a meeting with Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner last week. The two did not hit it off. In December, Rauner, a Republican, vetoed a bill that would have given the enormously indebted Chicago Public Schools a needed $215 million. Without the funds C.P.S. was now planning to end school 20 days early.
"This isn't about politics. This isn't about posturing," Chance said at the elementary. "Everybody and their mama knows about what's going on in Chicago." Some 400,000 children would be out of school for all of June and, especially in the city's neighborhoods racked by violence, he added, "possibly put in harm's way."
"Do your job," Chance repeated as a charge to Governor Rauner. "Give Chicago's children the resources they need to fulfill their God-given right to learn."