-Contributing Writer-

Grammy-winning hip hop artist runs for office in the Windy City

CHICAGO (FinalCall.com) In what may be one of the most unexpected political announcements in Chicago’s Black political history, Grammy award winning artist Che “Rhymefest” Smith announced his campaign to run for alderman of the 20th Ward Oct. 21.

“For too long our communities have been dictated to without them having any say so,” said the 33-year-old “third generation” resident of the South Side neighborhood of Woodlawn. “This election will represent a clear contrast between fresh ideas and the politics of the past.”


Mr. Smith, who has been active with numerous volunteer organizations, said his campaign is about returning the community to the hands of residents.

“My first priority is that residents are engaged and they understand how local government works and have decision making power with their alderman on how their community is run,” he said.

According to a press release issued during the announcement, Mr. Smith already has enough signatures to qualify for the February 2011 ballot.

During the campaign, voters can expect him to use his friends and influence in the music industry for help.

“I know we can use hip hop to engage our community. Hip hop has often been presented as a weapon in the community, but it’s not, it’s a tool, like any other tool and we need to use it,” he said.

Mr. Smith has already received support from his friend Kanye West, another popular award winning artist from Chicago.

“Rhymefest has always been dedicated to improving the community he grew up in. He has a passion for social and economic justice and has what it takes to bring positive change to the Southside of Chicago,” said Mr. West.

With an education background that includes Columbia College and Purdue University where he studied radio, communications and education, Mr. Smith plans to roll out specific policy proposals during the campaign. He also has experience as a substitute teacher, youth counselor, artist and business man.

The media conference was held at Exclusively Yours Auto Spa, owned by Catherine Haskins. “Che knows what it takes to help small businesses succeed,” said Ms. Haskins. “He has fresh ideas for helping residents and small businesses.”

“Che lives, breathes for the continued success of the residents. He will work closely with our community leaders and those in positions to serve and protect and ensure that our voices are not only heard, but also recognized,” said Athena Mitchell, a 20th Ward resident and block club president.

Other supporters included community activists Wallace “Gator” Bradley and Noonie G. Ward, who have worked for urban peace and ending so-called gang violence.

Mr. Smith kept his message upbeat and refrained from criticizing incumbent Alderman Willie Cochran during his prepared remarks. But when pushed during the question and answer period Mr. Smith did assert that there has been an “absence of transparency and absence of leadership … and a lack of development” in the 20th Ward.

Chicago’s 20th Ward includes some very historic and important neighborhoods for the Black community, including portions of Park Manor, Englewood, Washington Park, New City and Back of the Yards.

Alderman Cochran was unavailable for comment at Final Call press time.

Along with a standard news release, Mr. Smith announced his news conference with a 50 second video released on YouTube on Oct. 17–three days later he had more than 3,100 views. He also has a website.

Go to http://www.friendsofrhymefest.com/ for more information.