The #DOWNNOW Project is my original journalism/storytelling and music series, conceived in Summer 2020 through my Chicago Music Ambassador role. Promoting the “Year of Chicago Music” began to feel increasingly tone deaf and out-of-sync during a crucial election cycle, the disruptive arrival of COVID-19, intense social upheaval for racial justice, and the convergence thereof.
The pandemic ultimately forced The City to suspend its celebrations, but The #DOWNNOW Project —as in, “It’s goin’ down now!” and “Are you down now?”— had already occurred to me as a way to continue showcasing Chicago music, while conscientiously addressing current times and issues.
The project is an ambitious intersection of urban music, arts & culture, with high ideals of social justice, human rights and press freedom. It will present dialogues for healing and action, and create original movement anthems. My inspirations are the legendary Studs Terkel (a primary influence as an interviewer/broadcaster and social/cultural critic), and Chicago’s rich history of Black music activism (exemplified by iconic artists like Curtis Mayfield, Oscar Brown Jr., and The Staple Singers). I’m also heavily influenced by the brilliance of Don Cornelius and Soul Train.
The project has been awarded by National Geographic —click “Chicago” on this Nat Geo Project Map— Chicago DCASE (through the “Arts 77” plan), and the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ). Shoots and recordings are currently being planned; I’m following The City’s lead as it cautiously resumes activities. Logo tee shirts and face masks are available in the #ASCbrand store at Threadless.com.