The statistics are what we always see and hear first when Chicago is mentioned. The discouraging numbers are actually what’s highlighted at the outset of Fighting for Chicago: The New Dissidents, Billboard’s documentary highlighting the artists who working on the ground level to create change in their community.
One gun seized every hour. 3,831 people shot and 678 killed. Over $660 million paid out over police misconduct.
The numbers alone are startling, but they only tell one side of the story.
The other, more heartwarming side of the equation belongs to the city’s fruitful art scene, specifically with music and spoken word, that’s given us the likes of Chance the Rapper, Vic Mensa, The Social Experiment and so many more in recent years. The incubator system thrives off artists reaching back to assist younger ones under them as they look to grow their own skills amid the fragile world that surrounds them. While they’re hands on in their city, these musicians are simultaneously part of the larger picture that’s seeing so many artists merge their work with activism.
The short doc features frequent Chance collaborator Jamila Woods, and spoken word artist-activist Malcolm London alongside the likes of Common, now a forefather for hip-hop there, and Rhymefest, perhaps one of the earliest, most vocal leaders of the urban scene’s merger of music and activism, as they discuss how they each got their start and how they’re reciprocating what they’ve been given. London speaks on the night he was arrested while leading the Laquan McDonald protest, while Woods describes how rise in social activity helped birth her “black girl soldier character.” The one shared strand is all of these young people helped nurture each other. Common perhaps phrases it best: “When I look at these new generation of artists, nobody had to tell them or teach them to do it. They just stand up and speak up when they see it’s necessary.”
Watch the documentary above and check out the written profile with words from Mensa, Woods, and more as well as a foreword by Common over on Billboard.