Rapper and actor Common, and the Common Ground Foundation; Andrea L. Zopp, president and CEO of the Chicago Urban League; and Rhymefest, creative director of rapper Kanye West’s Donda’s House Inc., held a press conference at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art to discuss the state of their organizations and upcoming projects and to announce the Chicago Youth Jobs Collaborative. The groups united for Chicago youth to advocate and garner commitment in organizing government, nonprofit and for-profit stakeholders to push for more funding and resources to create youth employment opportunities. With the common missions threaded through each organization as well as their distinct influence in specific communities, the groups rallied to both challenge themselves and others to create job opportunities for youths year round.
This collaborative is a strong, youth-centered effort focused on securing year-round jobs for young people ages 16 to 24. Community partners include: Alternative Schools Network (ASN), Austin Peoples Action Center (APAC), Centers for New Horizons, Chicago Jobs Council and UCAN. In addition to inaugural partners, the collaborative looks to secure partners in the private and public sectors. Launching in the fall, in the first year, the Chicago Youth Jobs Collaborative seeks to provide year-round jobs to a minimum of 1,000 youth with the intent to increase this number by 1,000 per year over the next four years, for a target of 15,000 youth impacted over the next five years.
“Today we issue a call to action to the public, private and nonprofit sectors to join this effort to make year-round investments in our youth. Summer jobs provide tremendous opportunities, but we often hear strong pleas from young people for year-round jobs,” Zopp said. “In addition to providing financial resources and a strong work ethic, jobs keep youth out of harm’s way. Year-round job opportunities and support services will significantly improve the well-being of our youth and strengthen our city. We owe it to our young people to make this investment in them.”
The Common Ground Foundation and Donda’s House also announced the launch of an annual music festival, the AAHH! FEST. The proceeds from the festival will support the Common Ground Foundation, Donda’s House, arts education in Chicago Public Schools and year-round youth jobs initiatives. Specific event plans leading up to the festival can be found at www.dondashouseinc.org or www.thinkcommon.com.
“Donda’s House Inc. is thrilled to partner with the Common Ground Foundation and Chicago Urban League along with several other community organizations across the city to host open mics, giving youth the opportunity to express themselves in a safe and nurturing event. Talented youth will be selected to showcase at the AAHH! Festival in September,” said Donnie Smith, executive director of Donda’s House.
The AAHH! FEST will be held Sept. 20-21 at 6300 S. Hayes Drive in Chicago. Day One will feature a diverse, all-star lineup of talent from across the country and Chicago. Day Two will be curated by Donda’s House and showcase Chicago’s aspiring talent. The AAHH! FEST will also host a job-shadowing program, which allows youth to learn operations connected to producing a high-level outdoor special event.
“With the joining of these great organizations, we hope to continue the efforts of so many other organizations and the city of Chicago to create opportunities throughout the year for our youth and challenge our city to do even more on the ground. Our efforts will culminate in a musical celebration every year that will include resources offered to Chicago kids, directly related to placing them with an opportunity that can provide them hope and stability,” Common said.