Monday, October 27, 2014 || By Michael Romain
CHICAGO | Maurice J. Robinson, 28, is so confident about becoming the next 29th Ward alderman that he uses the future tense to talk about one of his major campaign platforms.
“When I win, the first thing I would address is the community piece — being a village again,” he said. “Yes, we want to bring economic development and stability to the community, but until we can come together as a community, as a village, we can’t talk about housing, education, any of that.”
The Proviso West alum’s latest act as a politician may seem surprising to those who remember Robinson from his days in high school, which he recalls as a blur of football games and freestyle sessions in the hallways. A self-proclaimed autodidact — he said he taught himself computer code and was on Calculus by the time he was in the fifth grade — Robinson was less interested in school than he was in education itself.
“I went to 11 different schools before eighth grade and two high schools — Lane Tech and Proviso West,” he said during an interview conducted one recent Tuesday afternoon in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood.
After graduating, he kept performing, eventually also veering into producing, acting and promoting hip-hop shows. He noted that his experience as a promoter taught him consistency.
“If I put on two shows in a row that flopped, I was out of there,” he said.
But running almost parallel to his love of music was his passion for politics and social issues, Robinson noted.
Growing up on Chicago’s West Side, he came of age in the shadows of figures such as Isaac “Ike” Carothers, Lance Tyson and William “Dock” Walls, the former two on whose campaigns he volunteered.
“I’ve always been involved in politics in one way or another,” Robinson said. “I lived around the block from [29th Ward Alderman] Sam Burrell’s office. I watched how that went down when I was a young guy.”
Even as he was touring and promoting, Robinson mentioned that he would often pepper his work with social commentary and would also throw educational events.
For six seasons, he toured with the R.ED.I Arts and Education Foundation, an organization that integrates live entertainment shows with public awareness campaigns about a range of social issues, such bullying, addiction and teen pregnancy.
On his campaign website, Robinson said that the program changed his life. After volunteering on local and state campaigns, he became vice president of A & R for Kumar Management. Several years ago, he founded Underground360 — Musicians Chamber of Commerce, “which focuses on the socioeconomic impact of art to various communities.”
Right now, he believes that his twin passions for the arts and politics are coming full circle. He’s currently putting the connections and resources he’s gained from both arenas into his campaign to unseat the incumbent, Ald. Deborah Graham.
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His core campaign team comprises what he calls his ‘Fantastic Four’ — Tyler White, Justin Woods, Sonya Patton and Delshana Mims — along with Tamaira Bell, his campaign manager. All are in their twenties. A network of volunteers plucked from his population of supporters rounds out his campaign apparatus.
“There are a lot of people who want to see me win,” he said. “I’m a community guy first.”
Robinson noted that he’s financing his campaign, in part, with personal funds he accumulated while working in the entertainment industry, a sector from which he says he’s still adjusting.
“I come from the art industry, I am not the most tactful person,” he admitted “In that business, because its so faced pace, everything is straight and to the point,” he said.
He also believes that there’s a distinct generation gap that separates his young, politically attuned cohorts and their most immediate predecessors.
“My generation is definitely more impatient,” he said. “We don’t really like the talking. For us, it’s what’s the game plan.”
If all goes according to his wishes, the self-avowed student of economic development strategies may get the chance to implement his own. He threw out a litany of proposals, such as stabilizing the housing market in his ward and increasing youth participation in the governing process.
“That’s why I’m running,” he said. “I want to be the change I want to see.” VFP
To find out more about Robinson’s campaign, click here.
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