Megastar hip-hop entertainers Kanye West and Common are showing love to their home city of Chicago by collaborating with local organizations in an effort to bring 20,000 jobs to inner-city youths.
West’s Donda’s House and Common’s Common Ground Foundation have teamed up with the Chicago Urban League to create the Chicago Youth Jobs Collaborative, a movement to mobilize public, private and non-profit stakeholders to push for more resources and funding to create and support youth employment opportunities.
The collaborative will launch in the fall with an eye toward providing year-round jobs to a minimum of 1,000 youth, with the intent to increase this number by one thousand per year over the next four years.
“Today we issue a call to action to the public, private and non-profit sectors to join this effort to make year round investments in our youth,” Andrea L. Zopp, president and CEO of the Chicago Urban League, said in a statement. “Summer jobs provide tremendous opportunities, but we often hear strong pleas from young people for year round jobs…Year round job opportunities and support services will significantly improve the well-being of our youth and strengthen our city. We owe it to our young people to make this investment in them.”
Black teens—particularly Black males—were the worst hit by the recent recession’s declining labor market. According to a report by the Alternative Schools Network previously reported by the AFRO, across the nation a mere 17 percent of African-American males between the ages of 16 and 19 were employed. But the picture was even darker in Chicago, where 92 percent of young Black males remain jobless.
“Black teens, especially males, are the most neglected group of people in America,” Dr. Boyce Watkins, a professor of finance at Syracruse University, told kulturekiritic.com. “If they were White, this would be recognized as the crisis that it is. An idle mind is the devil’s workshop and nothing good happens when we condemn our children to sit around with nothing to do.”
In fact, in a city where the streets are stained with the blood of slain Black youth, employment is likely the best answer to detour troubled youth from a life of crime, advocates said.
“Obviously, one of the biggest reasons our kids are going through what they’re going through is because of poverty,” Common, a rapper and actor, told poppinlines.com. “I was doing an event in the neighborhood and there were some kids from Englewood and I said, ‘Man, what do y’all really need? What’s gonna stop this?’ And they were like, ‘We need money. Man, if we could work.’
They want a chance.”
As part of the initiative, Common and Kanye also launched an annual music festival, the AAHH! FEST, to help finance the jobs and other programs. It will be held Sept. 20 and 21 at 6300 S. Hayes Drive, behind the Museum of Science and Industry in Hyde Park. The lineup will showcase local youth talent and artists from across the city and country.