THE #DOWNNOW PROJECT is a journalism / storytelling and music idea, that occurred to me during my recent role as a Chicago Music Ambassador. Trying to celebrate 2020 as the “Year of Chicago Music”  felt increasingly tone deaf and out-of-sync during a crucial election cycle, the arrival of Covid-19, intense social upheaval, and the convergence thereof.

The pandemic ultimately shut down most of The City’s planned celebratory activities, but THE #DOWNNOW PROJECT —as in, “It’s goin’ down now!” and “Are you down now?”— had occurred to me as a conscientious way to continue showcasing Chicago music, while addressing current times and issues.

The journalism part is being supported by NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, as part of its Coronavirus Dispatches —click “Chicago” on this NAT GEO Project Map. Support for the music part is still pending, but #DOWNNOW T-shirts and face masks are currently available in the #ASCbrand store.

My inspirations for this project are the legendary Studs Terkel; one of my primary influences as a broadcaster/interviewer 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.