Fast-rising star Chance the Rapper on Monday donated $1 million to Chicago’s schools as he waded into the middle of a political feud that threatens to close down classrooms weeks early.
The “Coloring Book” rapper, who last month won three Grammys including the prestigious Best New Artist award, threw a national spotlight on a long-running rift over school funding in the third most populous US city.
Chicago has warned that its public schools could shut on June 1, three weeks ahead of schedule, due to a gap of more than $200 million in funding.
“This isn’t about politics, this isn’t about posturing, this is about taking care of the kids,” Chance the Rapper told a news conference at an elementary school that he streamed to his millions of social media followers.
The 23-year-old artist, a Chicago native who attended public schools, said he was donating $1 million to support arts programming and was not looking to replace state funding.
He also promised that his group Social Works Chicago would match every donation of $100,000 with another $10,000.
“This check that I donated is a call to action. I’m challenging major companies and corporations in Chicago and all across the nation to donate and to take action,” said the rapper, at times reading formally in contrast to his on-stage poise.
Chance the Rapper has long been an activist and has made appeals to end Chicago’s street violence. His father Ken Williams-Bennett is a veteran Chicago political figure who was an aide to former president Barack Obama.
Former first lady Michelle Obama, who has mostly kept a low profile in the weeks since leaving the White House, hailed Chance for “giving back to the Chicago community, which gave us so much.”
“You are an example of the power of arts education,” she wrote on Twitter.
Chance, whose real name is Chancelor Bennett, last week met on the school funding dispute with Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, a Republican.
Rauner last year vetoed a funding plan for the schools in a dispute with the legislature as he pushes the school district to reform ballooning pension costs and fix what he calls longtime mismanagement.