Most of us know Chance the Rapper as a hugely popular Grammy-winning, world-touring, chart-topping producer, writer, artist, and performer. (Thanks to Mint Chocolate Chance, now we can add Flavor Guru to that list too!) He IS all that, but to Justin Cunningham and Essence Smith, he’s also just their old friend from high school.
It was that friendship, along with a shared commitment to giving back to their Chicago community, that led the three of them to create SocialWorks back in 2016. Since its founding, SocialWorks has done an enormous amount of good, raising millions of dollars to “empower the youth through the arts, education, and civic engagement.”
We’re proud that a portion of Chance’s proceeds from Mint Chocolate Chance will go to SocialWorks. Here’s more about the organization you’re helping to support with every delicious scoop.
The SocialWorks Mission
SocialWorks came together when Chance and his friends realized that they wanted to take the work they were already doing in the Chicago community to the next level—it was a way to reach more people, more effectively.
The projects underway before SocialWorks was created, like an open mic series for high school kids and a winter-coat drive for people experiencing homelessness, were rolled into the new nonprofit, which today is built around five initiatives split between two categories.
Helping people with their immediate needs:
- Kids of the Kingdom: a summer program for kids ages 5-13 (it was actually started by Chance’s great-grandmother over 40 years ago!)
- OpenMike: a monthly space where high schoolers can perform, share, and connect (based on a program that Chance and his friends loved in high school, run by their mentor, Mike Hawkins)
- Warmest Winter: assistance for people experiencing homelessness (a year-round program that offers coats, clothes, food, toys for kids, and resources for jobs, housing, education, etc.)
Helping create system-wide change:
- The New Chance Fund: an arts and literature fund that has raised more than $5 million for Chicago Public Schools ($100,000 grants have gone to 51 schools, which have already seen test scores and other measures of success go up)
- My State of Mind: mental health and wellness services (when this program launches it will transform the way people in Cook County, Illinois, access services and get the kind of specialized help they’re looking for)
“Dignity and Love”
“It’s all about dignity and love,” Justin told us. “If you lead with dignity, if you lead with respect, then people feel it.” SocialWorks is about giving back to the community that Justin, Essence, and Chance love.
It’s personal. It matters. They remember what it meant to them as kids for Mike Hawkins to create a space where they and their friends could be themselves. That’s why, despite everything else Chance has going on (including, of course, making new ice cream flavors), he jumps on SocialWorks calls with partners or potential new collaborators, he pitches new ideas, he offers visions for new initiatives.
“Chance is involved in everything that we do,” Essence said. “We get the question all the time, because he’s a celebrity and a rapper, ‘So do you even see Chance?’ And we’re just like, ‘Yeah, he knows about it all. Nothing gets out to the public before passing his desk.’”
How We Can Help
Chance is aware of the power of his celebrity, but he doesn’t just want to tell kids, “Hey, you can do it too.” SocialWorks’ initiatives go beyond that—the goal is to pass on the tools that people need, as well as provide the support and encouragement to use them. As Justin said, it’s more like, “You can do it—and I’m here to make sure you can do it.”
That’s a powerful way to invest in people, to invest in their future and the future of their community. Chance gave $2 million of his own money to SocialWorks early on, and over the years donations have come in from big donors, brands, and everyday people, all of which has allowed Chance, Essence, and Justin to dream bigger—and the bigger they dream, the more people they can help.