Chance the Rapper often shouts out his native Chicago in his music (“You cannot mess with the light/ look at little Chano from 79th,” he famously rapped in fellow Chicagoan Kanye West’s “Ultralight Beam”), but he doesn’t limit his Windy City advocacy to song form.
On Wednesday, Chance (real name Chancellor Bennett) showed up unannounced to Chicago’s City Hall for a city council meeting, arguing that the assembled aldermen should vote against Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposal for a new $95 million police academy. Chance said the city government should instead invest such funds in Chicago Public Schools.
“My name is Chance the Rapper. I’m here representing the city of Chicago: The students, principals, parents, and teachers of Chicago,” Chance began. “I think you guys are familiar with the work that I’ve been doing. We’re doing a lot of work with Orr Academy, which is just down the street from where this proposed police academy is gonna be at. This school, with just $100,000 in 3 years, is about to make some transformative changes. It’d be awesome, though, if we could get pools at their school, or a new library, or a museum, or any of the things that are proposed in the budget for this $95 million cop academy … There are a lot of different services that need to be funded. Obviously schooling is my big thing, but there are a lot of ways to transform the city without policing.”
This is not the first time Chance has publicly advocated on behalf of CPS. Back in March, Chance even met with Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner amid a high-stakes budget negotiation to convince him not to withhold funding from Chicago’s schools. When that didn’t work, he personally donated $1 million to CPS, and called for others to follow suit. The difficulty of that struggle influenced his stance on the proposed training facility, as he made clear on Wednesday.
“What are we doing? I’ve been asking for money for over a year now to fund these classrooms,” Chance told the aldermen. “But on the Fourth of July weekend, they announced they’re proposing a $95 million cop academy. What is y’all doing? It doesn’t make sense, and I’m very confused. You guys have a lot of power here, and that’s the reason why I showed up at 8 am. I feel like, maybe if you guys hear me say it…”
Chance is not the only person making this argument. Students, teachers, community organizers, and activists from around Chicago have banded together under the hashtag #NoCopAcademy to protest the proposed facility, and instead argue for community investment. CPS teacher Dave Stieber recently expressed the protestors’ frustration for the Huffington Post, writing, “Every year our students watch as librarians, counselors, social workers, support staff, security, and teachers are cut … Yet through all of this, Chicago always finds money for policing.”
When Chance showed up to City Hall on Wednesday, he was joining a crowd of protestors who had already gathered. Unfortunately, their efforts did not make much of a difference, at least on Wednesday’s vote. The city council overwhelmingly voted to acquire land for the proposed academy, with only Alderman Carlos Rosa voting against.
“A set back for now, but there’s a grassroots army rising up to break every chain, end racist policing, and put working and poor Chicagoans of all backgrounds first,” Rosa tweeted after the vote. “There will be other votes and this is just the beginning.”
Chance, too, continued to use the #NoCopAcademy hashtag in defiance of the city council’s vote. Watch the video of his talk below.