Two anti-violence and criminal justice reform groups in Chicago will be the beneficiaries of Drake and Kanye West’s blockbuster “Free Larry Hoover” concert that streamed Dec. 9 on Amazon.
The “Free Larry Hoover” benefit took place Thursday in Los Angeles and raised funds and awareness for the need for criminal justice reform and advocated for the release of Hoover, 71, the Chicagoan and former leader of the Gangster Disciples who is serving six life sentences in a federal prison in Colorado, mostly in solitary confinement, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The concert will benefit three nonprofits, two of which are based in Chicago: the Uptown People’s Law Center and Ex-Cons For Community and Social Change.
Ex-Cons For Community and Social Change is an anti-violence and social justice organization. The group responds to instances of gun violence, as it did after five people were shot in Evanston last week, to stem retaliatory violence and help youth find productive paths in life.
Ex-Cons has reached out to West’s camp in the past to partner on anti-violence initiatives in Chicago. It learned this week that the group will be the beneficiary of the “Free Larry Hover” concert, said Ralph Edwards, Ex-Cons For Community Service’s north branch director.
“They know who’s making a difference on the ground,” Edwards said of West and Drake. “It’s a big alley oop. It can really get the ball rolling for kids in our community.”
Edwards said he isn’t sure how funding could come in from the concert. If it’s sizeable enough, it could help Ex-Cons open youth “hubs” in neighborhoods like Rogers Park that give kids a safe place to seek resources and mentorship.
“We don’t have enough safe spaces for our Black and Brown youth,” Edwards said. “We want to bring something fresh, try a different approach.”
The second local beneficiary of the “Free Larry Hoover” concert is the Uptown People’s Law Center, which fights to end solitary confinement.
The use of solitary confinement is one of the social causes being taken up by the concert, as the 71-year-old Hoover has remained mostly in solitary while in a federal prison.
Alan Mills, executive director of the law center, said he learned they would benefit from the concert on Dec. 8. That’s when Todd Belcore, founder of Chicago-based Social Change, called Mills to say he recommended the law center to the rappers’ camps as a group working to end solitary and other prison reforms.
“It came totally out of the blue,” Mills said. “I appreciate anyone willing to signal boost the issue of solitary confinement … and how inhumane solitary confinement is.”
The cause of freeing Hoover helped West and Drake end a years’ long feud between the superstar rappers, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Hoover helped found the Gangster Disciples in the ’60s, led the gang for years and even sought to turn the group into a political operation.
In 1973, Hoover was sentenced to more than 150 years after being convicted of ordering a rival’s murder, according to the LA Times. He was sent to Stateville Correctional Center to serve out his term.
While in prison for murder, Hoover was charged and later convicted of drug conspiracy, extortion, and continuing to engage in a criminal enterprise in 1995 after a 17-year federal investigation. He was moved to a federal super-maximum security prison in Florence, Colorado.
Hoover has said his decades behind bars have left him a changed man and not the puppet master prosecutors paint him out to be, according to the Chicago Tribune.
But prosecutors said Hoover has been caught secretly communicating with a GD member as recently as six years ago, the Tribune reported earlier this year.
The third social justice group to be a beneficiary of the concert is the California-based Hustle 2.0.