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Marketing as a change agent for violence in Chicago, by PT IMC student

Violence wreaks havoc in Chicago. It destroys peace advocates, families and innocent bystanders. However, there’s hope through a few hip-hop music programs and marketing campaigns that are becoming the new negotiators of peace in Chicago’s streets.

Heart Changer #1: AMPED

“The rhetoric on hip-hop music that says “it’s all bad” is wrong and has undertones of racism. It provides a powerful tool for music expression, creativity and empowerment for youth,” said Dr. Maud Hickey, the Director of Northwestern’s AMPED program.  

AMPED, or Arts and Music Programs for Education in Detention Centers, is a music mentorship program that connects NU students with incarcerated juveniles to teach them the art of music.  AMPED creates an environment where students share experiences of struggle and triumph through music that heals and empowers.

“The residents love music making,” Hickey said. “They love being successful.  They love to create music that can’t be judged.”  AMPED has “Amped-up” the lives of over 400 students and created a series of mix-tapes to celebrate their talents.

Heart Changer #2: True Star Magazine

True Star Magazine’s executive directors Deanna McCleary and Na Tae Thompson use hip-hop, journalism and activism to lead youth to achievement.

“We watch kids transform,” Thompson said. “We remember when some could barely write a paragraph and then you look up one day and they are writing entire articles and scheduling interviews.”

True Star tackles political and social issues while celebrating hip-hop. In 2013, they created a campaign called “43 Seconds” which highlighted the fact that every 43 seconds someone is killed by gun violence. The campaign earned community respect and State Farm donated $70,000 to develop it. True Star is giving youth a voice in Hip-Hop and the power to end violence.  

Heart Changer #3: “Music Vs. Gun Violence” Campaign

Agencies solve clients’ problems with ease, but when Chicago Ideas asked Leo Burnett to help youth stand against gun violence, they had to call in music to help.  Brian Shemeda, Jeff Candido and the Leo Burnett creative team launched the “Music vs. Gun Violence” campaign to create a digital stage where everyone can “spit their verse” to end violence.

“The goal of the campaign was to turn negative lyrics which invoke violence into positive lyrics which invoke peace,” Shemeda said.

This positivity is growing and growing as artists contribute to the sound track of peace.  Music vs. Guns has grown from three and a half minutes to hours of music in a matter of months, with more than 70 emcees and features from celebrity hip-hop artists like Common and King Louie.

“Music at its core is storytelling, and all we want people to do is tell their stories,” Candido said. “Someone’s story may be the one that stops an act of violence.”

These organizations are showcasing how music education and cause marketing campaigns can touch hearts and end violence.