This is the first Chicago Drill and Activism (AKA "Chi DNA") installment of Bourbon ’n BrownTown. Chi DNA is an ongoing documentary and multimedia project, which also features interviews, micro-documentaries, and editorial pieces on drill rap and the activist resurgence in Chicago.
Charles Preston is a Southside Chicago activist, journalist, and creator of Church on the 9, a glorified corner cypher series for Chicago artists and the Chatham community. Charles played a pivotal role as an organizer during the #SaveCSU campaign, and has worked with BYP100, BLM Chicago, and is a member of TEMBO.
Charles and BrownTown discuss the role art has always had in social movements and continues to have today. Now in the digital age, Chicago activists use various artistic mediums to push the resurgence forward. From traditional studio art to informative and beautiful zines to community corner spoken word, creative narratives are employed to educate, express, and cope. Art has been a tool of movements' past and continues to serve as a versatile component of contemporary movements. With authenticity and expression at the center, this episode also unpacks drill as a type of misunderstood art in-and-of-itself. What would not conventionally be considered movement art, the subgenre unpacks the ills of disenfranchised Black communities in a totally different way, often times coping with larger structural problems with interpersonal and intercommunal affects.
The Chicago Drill and Activism project explores the creation, meaning, perspectives, and connections between drill rap and the resurgence of grassroots activism since the early 2010s through the eyes of the people involved. It focuses on contemporary Chicago as an intentional place for the resurgence of these two formations of cultural and political resistance during relatively the same time period. It examines how authenticity, community, and other important values to the subjects are impacted and promoted via technology, social media, and a rejection of traditional means of movement politics and corporate structures. As told by activists and drill rappers alike, the project situates the the subjects’ experiences and actions into a broader theoretical and empirical history of systemic inequality and resistance in Chicago. Follow the ongoing project at Chi-DNA.com for more.