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While there are many facets of being a Chicago artist in the modern age that set them apart from the rest of the country, it’s been a consistent penchant for caring, empathy and the need for conscious thought that has always been a centerpiece of any musical movement from the middle of the map. That’s why it was no surprise when Chance The Rapper used his fame to help CPS and the local homeless, why Vic Mensa pushes for rights of the average citizen and Jamila Woods is breaking down barriers for black women across the world; it’s in the DNA. That’s also why I wasn’t surprised to come across a story of yet another Chicago musician and current teacher fighting for what they believe in, regardless of the scale of the battle. 21-year-old rapper Roosevelt The Titan isn’t too far removed from high school to forget what shaped his experience, and he’s set out to make sure that the creative writing classes that offered him his first opportunity to express himself aren’t eliminated from his alma mater, Lincoln Park High School because of budget cuts.

“I took the same class with the same teacher and have extremely benefited from it. I now teach at wells higschool after school and with their lack of creative writing in the school I’ve personally seen the confidence and emotional intelligence of the students grow ten fold,” said Roosevelt. “For me it gave me an outlet. and yes; I could do it all on my own but creative writing makes it a requirement, it makes it acceptable and accessible.”

For Roosevelt, who graduated from LPHS in 2015, creative writing classes offered an opportunity to learn to express himself, a rarity in the test-driven world of CPS. Because of that experience, one that he credits as being the catalyst to his current ambitions, the exclusion of the class to future students was one that immediately struck a nerve.

“There is no class in any curriculum that allows students to express themselves in a school environment,” explained Roosevelt just before the weekend. “And coming from certain backgrounds they don’t have that outlet in  their home life. Probably the biggest thing about creative writing is that most kids don’t even realize the therapeutic process it holds, which allows them to have no walls up while they are simply being creative.”

 

According to sources, the school simply sees Creative Writing as dispensable amidst a smaller budget due to less kids in the upcoming junior class. The argument here often is that Creative Writing doesn’t necessarily contribute to the skills necessary to get a job in the real world, or go to college. While that may be true for accountants and those looking to get into more nuanced fields of research, or the other direction, the ability to write creatively is one that will continue to have value for the foreseeable future. We live in a time now that sees many high school juniors and seniors vastly unable to write their ACT essays or college applications and tell a story about themselves in 500 words. It’s the emoji generation, the short-attention span generation, but teaching them to express themselves creatively while using the full suite of the English language doesn’t hold water apparently.
“Honestly the community probably wouldn’t even bat an eye, the long term effects would be huge in my opinion. with less and less efforts being made to maintain the psyche of students in high school, this generation can sadly grow up without being properly cared for,” Roosevelt said. “Not that it hasn’t been done in the past, but now that we are aware of the opportunity, its kind of silly to just avoid something we know can be extremely beneficial in the long run. This is going on while [school officials] continue being fake supportive of the social emotional aspects of a students life that is agreed to be a necessity in the high school development years.”
Requests for comment from LPHS officials were not returned before publication. Regardless of the situation’s origins, it is a microcosm of what’s going on across the country. Lincoln Park is not exactly the hardest part of the city and far from the most forgotten. However, it brings things into perspective a bit to see that even at a high school known for its performing arts programs would be considering cutting a program that acts like such a building block to understanding one’s creative processes and understandings. It also seems extra short-sighted at a time when reading and writing comprehension are nosediving in elementary and high schools across the country. For his part at least, Roosevelt is attending meetings and holding protests to hopefully prod those in positions of power to make the right decision.
 “Cancelling a creative writing class during this time is very crucial. kids now have more control that ever and it will only increase as the internet grows stronger. they need something to hold them to the ground, said Roosevelt. “Who cares what your agenda is if your over 40 if it docent align with protecting and preserving the youth. you need not express and act on it. Art is flourishing, play with the influence and you will be forced to see its power. We need to stay strong as a whole, every creative, every creator, in all aspects.”
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