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Artist, actor and philanthropist Common was joined by Andrea L. Zopp, CEO of the Chicago Urban League and Rhymefest, the creative director of Kanye West’s Donda’s House, Inc., to announce the launch of  the AAHH! Fest and the creation of the Chicago Youth Jobs Collaborative.

Both projects will serve to support Chicago youth and organize resources to secure year-round jobs for young people ages 16 to 24, and is one of the first collaborative efforts of its kind in Chicago.

“I am very proud to be where we are,” Common said during the press conference at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art. “I know what a job can do for a human being. It takes up your time for something productive. If we get these kids jobs, I guarantee: we’ll see less crime in the streets. But we have to be the change.”

The key groups involved include: Common’s Common Ground Foundation, Donda’s House, Inc., the Chicago Urban League, Alternative Schools Network (ASN), Centers for New Horizons, and the Chicago Jobs Council, with the enthusiastic support of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the City of Chicago.

The Problem

According to a University of Chicago study, over half of the victims of gunfire in Chicago are between the ages of 10 and 25. The report also states that young minority males are vastly over-represented as both victims and offenders of gun violence, and that just some of the contributing factors include poverty and mental health problems.

Also, per a CDC report:

In 2010, 4,828 young people ages 10 to 24 were victims of homicide—an average of 13 each day:

• Homicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24 years old.

• Among homicide victims 10 to 24 years old in 2010, 86% (4,171) were male and 14% (657) were female.

• Among homicide victims ages 10 to 24 years old in 2010, 82.8% were killed with a firearm.

• Each year, youth homicides and assault-related injuries result in an estimated $16 billion in combined medical and work loss costs.

A Joint Solution


The AAHH! FEST, which will be held September 20-21, 2014, will feature an all-star line-up of talent from across the country. The proceeds from the festival will support the Common Ground Foundation, Donda’s House, Inc., arts education programs in Chicago Public Schools, and the Chicago Youth Jobs Collaborative. Additionally, the fest will also feature a job-shadowing program, which will allow youth to learn about the many operations associated with producing high-level outdoor events.

“Our goal is to give youth the platform they need to express themselves, said Donnie Smith, Executive Director of Donda’s House. “This festival allows us to shine a light on the talent that exists and to push back against the negative narrative about our city’s youth.”

And work…

The Chicago Youth Jobs Collaborative will launch in the fall of 2014, and will see to provide a minimum of 1,000 young people with jobs, with the intent to increase this number by a thousand each year, over the next four years. The goal: 15,000 young people positively impacted over the next five years.

“In addition to providing financial resources and a strong work ethic, jobs keep youth out of harm’s way,” said Andrea Zopp. “We issue a call to action to the public, private and non-profit sectors. Summer jobs provide tremendous opportunities, but we often hear strong pleas from young people for year-round jobs.”

For more information about the AAHH! FEST, click here.

For more information about the Chicago Youth Jobs Collaborativeclick here.