Our Pledge To You


Mayoral candidate Ja’Mal Green: Chance a rapper, not a political ‘kingmaker’

Ja'Mal Green

Mayoral candidate Ja'Mal Green | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Chance the Rapper is a Grammy-winning hip hop artist, but there is no “kingmaker” in the mayoral race, candidate Ja’Mal Green said Thursday, arguing that “no one person speaks for millennials.”

“He counts for one vote. … There are no kingmakers. … No one person can speak for them. … Millennials do not follow blindly. They have to be motivated to even come to the polls. I don’t think one person’s response or voice can make them do that,” Green, 23, said.

Earlier this week, Chance threw his celebrity power behind Amara Enyia, declaring: “Very narcissistically, if I back you, you have a chance — absolutely.”

In an interview, Green begged to differ. He argued that he’s the mayoral candidate with street cred among millennial voters.

“Millennials know me. I led thousands of millennials in protest. I’ve been to a lot of high schools and middle schools and now, they’re able to vote. I’ve already established who I am with young people in Chicago. They know my work. They know my passion for change,” Green said.

“All of the other rappers and comedians and those with bigger bases are on the Green Team. That is because they’ve been around me for years knowing how much I’ve given to change communities. That’s why I have a lot of cred when it comes to the young people.”

Early Monday, Chance teased his 8 million Twitter followers with a post that could have meant he was running for mayor himself. By late afternoon, word had filtered out that the homegrown rapper would, rather, be endorsing a mayoral candidate other than County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, whose campaign is chaired by the rapper’s father, Ken Bennett.

When Chance decided to take sides against his father’s candidate, many people assumed he would throw his support behind Green because of their decade-long relationship and Green’s track record as a community activist.

After an anti-police-brutality protest at Taste of Chicago in 2016, Green was among 19 people who made headlines for being arrested. He pleaded guilty to resisting arrest, but felony charges alleging he hit a police officer were dropped.

He also helped to organize weeks of demonstrations that followed the court-ordered release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video.

Conventional wisdom was wrong.

In the interview, Green acknowledged he was surprised and disappointed by the Enyia endorsement because he has known Chance since they were in youth programs together.

Green also considers Ken Bennett a mentor and father figure–so much so that he joined forces with Chance to lobby Bennett to quit his job as Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s director of public engagement during the tumultuous days that followed release of the McDonald shooting video.

With all of that history together, Green said he found it “insulting” that Chance didn’t see fit to call him to deliver the bad news. Instead, Green said he learned of the Enyia endorsement from “people around” Chance.

Green initially scheduled a City Hall news conference immediately following the Chance endorsement, only to cancel it at the last minute.

By Thursday, he was on the offensive.

Arguing that it’ll take ideas to motivate millennials notorious for their political indifference, Green said he’s working on a blockbuster program tailor-made to create 50,000 jobs for unemployed Chicagoans.

“This platform piece is going to shock the world. Other cities and other countries are gonna be looking to say, ‘Wow. That is such a good idea, we want to implement this here,'” Green said.

“People will be seeing #GreenCardChi all over social media and everywhere else for the next couple weeks until this platform releases.”

Green said the program will “pay for itself” and “cross all industries, jobs and careers.”

But he refused to reveal specifics, other than to say it will “boost excitement when it comes to voting.”

“It’s going to get corporations, businesses involved throughout the city in a program that will help business and give incentives to business for being a part of this and also put people to work,” he said.

“Once it’s released, you’ll understand how big and how powerful this program really is.”

Green said it’ll take that kind of idea power to convince millennials to turn their street activism into a political force.

“Millennials don’t vote because they’re not talked to. … If they’re not talked to and they’re not engaged, then they feel like, ‘Well, you don’t need my vote’ or, ‘This is not something I’m interested in,'” Green said.

“We’re going to engage them. And they have a fellow millennial running in this race. That’s gonna make them excited. They’re gonna see some of their favorites come and help out in this election. They’ll come this time. We’re gonna have a huge turnout between 18-to-25 because I’m in this race.”