*Rapper/actor Common is doing his part to help youth in Chicago with the launch of AAHH! Fest.
The first annual event will be held Sept. 20-21, 2014 and feature an all-star line-up of performers from across the country. In addition, AAHH! Fest will include a job-shadowing program that will allow youth to learn about the many operations associated with producing high-level outdoor events.
AAHH! Fest is one of two projects organized by Common’s Common Ground Foundation, Donda’s House, Inc. and the Chicago Urban League. Others involved in the effort include Alternative Schools Network (ASN), Centers for New Horizons, and the Chicago Jobs Council.
Common, along with fellow rapper Rhymefest, who serves as the creative director for Donda’s House, and the Urban League’s CEO Andrea Zopp was on hand Thursday to announce the launch of the AAHH! Festival and Chicago Youth Jobs Collaborative. Both projects are dedicated to supporting Chicago youth and organizing resources to secure year-round jobs for young people ages 16 to 24.
For Common, the chance to obtain a job is something that’s priceless in laying the foundation for a worthwhile future.
“I am very proud to be where we are,” the rapper said during a press conference at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art. “I know what a job can do for a human being. It takes up your time for something productive. If we get these kids jobs, I guarantee: we’ll see less crime in the streets. But we have to be the change.”
“Our goal is to give youth the platform they need to express themselves, said Donda’s House executive director Donnie Smith said about AAHH! Fest. “This festival allows us to shine a light on the talent that exists and to push back against the negative narrative about our city’s youth.
News of the festival comes amid troubling times for youth in Chicago. A University of Chicago study found that over half of the victims of gunfire in Chicago are between the ages of 10 and 25. The report further noted that young minority males are vastly over-represented as both victims and offenders of gun violence. Some of the factors that result in the gun violence poverty and mental health problems.
The other project that Common and Rhymefest have aligned with is the Chicago Youth Jobs Collaborative. The venture, which is set to launch in the fall, seeks to provide jobs to a minimum of 1,000 young people with plans to increase that number each year over the next four years. Overall, The Collaborative hopes to positively impact 15,000 young people over the next five years.
“In addition to providing financial resources and a strong work ethic, jobs keep youth out of harm’s way,” stated Zopp. “We issue a call to action to the public, private and non-profit sectors. Summer jobs provide tremendous opportunities, but we often hear strong pleas from young people for year-round jobs.”
Proceeds from the AAHH! Fest will support the Common Ground Foundation, Donda’s House, Inc., arts education programs in Chicago Public Schools, and the Chicago Youth Jobs Collaborative.