Be Heard: Guitar Center is celebrating artists, brands and organizations that are using music to raise awareness on critical issues facing us all, to help us heal, to bring us together—to make the world a better place.
Chance the Rapper exploded onto the scene in 2012 when he released his debut mixtape, 10-Day, which Rolling Stone called a “cult classic.” Since then, the 26-year old has dropped two follow-up mixtapes and a critically-acclaimed album, The Big Day, all without signing a major record deal. With three Grammys to his name, Chance continues to inspire and break boundaries with music. Now, he’s using his platform to give back to his native Chicago. He personally donated $2 million to fund education and mental health access, and serves as the Chairman of his non-profit, SocialWorks.
Founded in 2016 with Justin Cunningham and Essence Smith, SocialWorks aims to “empower youth through the arts, education, and civic engagement.” SocialWorks has contributed close to $8 million to the Chicago community with a set of diverse initiatives that are near-and-dear to Chance’s heart.
Break dancers showcase at a 2018 OpenMike performance in Chicago.
When Chance needed a place to lay down tracks for his debut mixtape, he found it at Chicago’s Harold Washington Library, which features a full recording studio for teens. Program coordinator Mike Hawkins mentored and inspired Chance and countless other youth there to realize their artistic dreams. After Hawkins tragically died in 2014, SocialWorks created OpenMike to honor him, which presents a safe space for high school students to share, express, network and perform with others. To date, SocialWorks has held 44 OpenMikes, with over 10,000 attending.
New Chance: Arts & Literature Fund
School funding for the arts is in short supply in Chicago; to address it, SocialWorks launched the New Chance: Art & Literature Fund. It brings programs and materials to schools that lack an arts curriculum. SocialWorks has donated $4 million to the fund, helping nearly 8,000 students.
Campers at Kids of the Kingdom 2019.
Kids of the Kingdom
SocialWorks also funds Kids of the Kingdom, a 7-week summer camp designed for kids between the ages of 5 and 13. Opened in 1977 by Chance’s great-grandmother, the camp offers interactive lessons plans in music, the arts, mindfulness and others. It is a challenging faith-based environment to foster leadership, advocacy and self-expression.
It’s no secret that Chicago can get bitterly cold—in January 2019, temperatures dropped to a record 23 degrees below zero. The city’s homeless are particularly vulnerable at these times; SocialWorks Warmest Winter initiative provides direct support to the community, and has distributed over 80,000 winter coats thus far.
My State of Mind
Chance has been open about his own struggles with anxiety, but says that growing up, mental health just wasn’t talked about. My State of Mind aims to fix that problem by offering grants to mental wellness providers, and by launching a comprehensive digital guidebook of a broad range of services that include both clinical and non-clinical care.
SocialWorks truly believes that everyone deserves a chance to lead a happy, healthy, fulfilling life. Get involved at www.socialworkschi.org.