Chance the Rapper wrote a huge check to the Chicago Public Schools foundation today. At just 24 years old, the Grammy winning musician has been in the national spotlight all of about 30 minutes. Most music stars wait decades to make such a major philanthropic move - if ever. But he and Chicago go way back - and to understand why this gift is so cool, you have to know about Chance, his dad, and their remarkable Chicago roots.
Chance's father is Ken Williams-Bennett, a native Southsider and former aide to Chicago's legendary African-American mayor Harold Washington. He later worked for Illinois state Senator Barack Obama before the presidential run, and now serves as deputy chief of staff to Mayor Rahm Emanuel. That's a fierce legacy of civic love and service by any measure, and you can bet Chance's dad had some ideas about the kind of serious public work he wished to see his son do. Chance grew up with the Obamas in his life, and as his star rose, he helped President Obama with the My Brother's Keeper Initiative.
While Chance felt called to music early, there are two now-famous things most Chicagoans know about his career: 1) he dropped out of college to pursue hip hop and 2) his dad did what a lot of fathers would do in that situation - he completely flipped out. The pair weren't on speaking terms for a long time following the move.
The fates conspire for all of us. Chance's soaring career is the result of an unknowable alchemy - a mix of talent, grit, and luck. But that $1 million gift to one of the largest and poorest public student bodies in the U.S.? I'm going to credit the enduring influence of an awesome dad for that one.
Emilie, Principal and Owner