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Chance the Rapper’s charity includes two Rahm Emanuel allies

Students at Westcott Elementary School listen as Chance The Rapper announces he's donating $1 million to the Chicago Public Schools foundation on March 6. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file photo

The $1 million check Chance the Rapper is handing over to the broke Chicago Public Schools is coming through his relatively new not-for-profit organization, SocialWorks.

It’s a youth advocacy organization that the Jones College Prep alum says he founded with friends. People wearing SocialWorks T-shirts helped the Grammy-award winning rapper unveil his CPS plans Monday at Westcott Elementary School as a new #SupportCPS section appeared on the group’s website.

“I will push towards the goal of $215 million, and for every $100,000 we receive, SocialWorks will donate $10,000 to a school of our choosing,” the rapper, whose full name is Chancelor Bennett, writes on the site. “Charitable donations certainly help fill gaps to provide enrichment opportunities inside and outside of the classroom, but can’t make up for less-than-adequate state funding of our schools.”

Chance also criticizes Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, with whom he met on Friday, writing “The state of Chicago Public Schools needs to be remedied, and it’s the Governor’s job to lead that effort.”

The $1 million Chance is giving to the Chicago Public Schools Foundation is coming from concert ticket sales, as well as funds from promoters LiveNation, Ticketmaster, AEG and independent venues.

His charity includes two men who’ve been close allies of Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Chance’s father, Emanuel’s former deputy chief of staff Ken Bennett, is a director of SocialWorks, according to the group’s incorporation papers, filed in August 2016.

An attorney representing SocialWorks, Jesse Ruiz, used to be vice president of the city’s school board and once served as interim schools CEO. Ruiz currently heads the Chicago Park District board under Emanuel.

Ruiz said he wasn’t authorized to comment. The elder Bennett didn’t return telephone messages.

Asked in Westcott’s hallway whether he had had any contact with the mayor’s office or CPS officials, Chance kept walking without answering.

Chance’s father has spent a lifetime in Chicago politics, starting his career as an aide to late Mayor Harold Washington. He also served as state director for Barack Obama’s campaigns for the U.S. Senate and for president before joining the White House staff as deputy assistant and deputy director of presidential personnel.

The elder Bennett’s role as Emanuel’s chief liaison to the African-American community turned into a political hot seat last year during the unrelenting furor over the mayor handling of the Laquan McDonald shooting video. At one point, Ken Bennett nearly got beat up when he and another mayoral aide tried to deliver a letter from Emanuel to families impacted by the police shootings of Quintonio LeGrier and LeGrier’s innocent neighbor Bettie Jones.

A few months later, he left the mayor’s office to take a job at the Choose Chicago tourism agency where Rauner once served as chairman.

Top mayoral aides insisted Monday that Emanuel had nothing to do with Chance’s decision to go toe-to-toe with Rauner. Emanuel even tried to reach out to Chance over the weekend to coordinate with the music superstar, only to be ignored.


The mayor did manage to reach Ken Bennett, only to be told that Chance was not interested in coordinating with Emanuel.

“The mayor likes to be in control of everything. He has his own plan to save CPS and this is not part of it. But, Chance is his own man. He’s trying to solve this himself. Ken is not involved,” said a mayoral confidante, who asked to remain anonymous.

The rapper’s announcement of his afternoon press event came as Rauner’s staff was releasing its own options to plug the Chicago Public Schools’ $215 million budget gap, which is largely the result of its need to finance teacher pensions. Another top mayoral aide who asked to remain anonymous said Rauner’s decision to do that shows what a political box the governor is in.

“We’re not behind it at all and neither is Ken Bennett,” the aide said.

Westcott students noticed the news trucks lining the streets outside their school Monday afternoon, and student council members knew there was a “very special guest” coming to an assembly in the library, said student council treasurer Lanie Morris. She was stunned to find herself seated a few feet from Chance.

“He has great empathy with us,” Lanie, 14, said afterward.

Student council president Parrick Clark, 13, said Chance’s appearance was inspiring.

“When I make it, I’m going to give back to where I came from,” he said. “And I’m going to stay focused so I can come back.”

After making his announcement in the school library, Chance hung out with other students in the gymnasium.

Zekur Stewart, a former classmate of Chance’s at Jones Prep, said the gift was a moving tribute from a neighborhood native at the height of his fame. “This is inspiration, internationally,” Stewart said as he walked out of the school, headed to his home a block away.

Students at Westcott Elementary School hold a mock check Monday as Chance The Rapper announces he’s donating $1 million to Chicago Public Schools. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times