We Don’t Have to Critique the Joy Out of Everything

Yes, $1,000,000 is a not going to solve a $215,000,000 problem, but it does put forth an important question that should cause all Chicagoans to pause. On Monday, Chance the Rapper’s donation to CPS asked the question, “Are there 215 individuals in the city of Chicago who have the means to end this crisis?” 215 individuals who have compassion for people living in the city of Chicago, and don’t want to wait for the legislature to fix it. 215 individuals who can see that, through no fault of their own the children in CPS are paying the price for the misguided and boneheaded decisions of adults; many of which who do not send their children to CPS. Do not overlook this point because some aspect of Chance’s desire to donate comes from a genuine concern for the well-being of children in CPS because a few short years ago he was a child within CPS.

I don’t know how much Chance the Rapper has made in his short career, but I do know whatever it is, palls in comparison to the wealth of individuals like Governor Rauner. Yet, he’s stepping up. It’s not a perfect solution. Throwing money at the problems of morally bankrupt bureaucracies is not going to solve them, but it does achieve something important. It reminds all citizens that our communities are only going to do as well as our commitment to them. In this age of venture philanthropy where the motivations behind every gift is a return on investment, it is important to remember the merits of charity, a gift given out of love for another without anything expected in return. Chance’s actions remind all Chicagoans that they too have the capacity to uplift their communities. Maybe we don’t have a million dollars to give, but we have time; we have compassion. We have the ability to touch the lives of folks that live on our block every day through acts of kindness and generosity.

Many will debate the merits of Chance’s gift; whether it will accomplish any good; whether CPS will spend the money wisely? Whether it matters because a million dollar gift doesn’t address the decades-long system of oppression and racism that is at the foundation of Chicago Public Schools. For me, I’m going to applaud this young man and hope he inspires more like him. He could have held on to his treasure and criticized the school district from afar like too many others. Instead, he shared his blessings with his community. No matter how you look at it there’s something beautiful and inspiring about Chance’s gift.

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Chris Butler is first a husband and a dad. He has been involved across the spectrum of public engagement activities and has worked with a number of diverse constituencies in urban and suburban communities. He has also been involved in several political campaigns including his service as a youth and young adult coordinator for Barack Obama’s primary bid for U.S. Senate. Chris worked as deputy campaign manager and field director for A+ Illinois where he developed a strong, statewide field operation including over 500 organizations and 50,000 individuals around the state working to bring adequacy and equity to Illinois’ school funding system and as the director of advocacy and outreach at New Schools for Chicago, a leader in school reform in Chicago. Chris is a 2006 graduate of the Ministry Training Institute and holds a degree in civic and political engagement from Northeastern Illinois University.

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