How a Chicago Artist is Working to Help Musicians in Need

A Chicago artist is working to make sure no musician is left behind with a community organization dedicated to Black musicians in Chicago.

“It was a godsend for me to be able to do something for musicians that can’t play, can’t sing, or tour right now,” HolleeThee Maxwell said. “I know how that feels because of me not being able to sing for two years. I was homeless. I ate out of garbage cans. But I just decided that because music has been my life, I know how these musicians are feeling and I had to do something.”

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It was on her birthday last October when Chicago artist HolleeThee Maxwell decided to create Black Musicians Matters.

With donations and help from community partners like Guardian Interest Security Company, the group delivers food on a weekly basis.

“They won’t reach out because they have so much pride. So I just call and ask if they need anything,” Maxwell said. “I need Chicago musicians to know to please get in touch with us. A closed mouth does not get fed. We will come to you. Melrose Park. Oak Park, the West Side. We go all over if you can’t get out.”

With donations from GoFundMe, the group is also able to provide monetary support for artists like bass guitar player Joe Pratt, who was the band director at the East Odyssey Lounge before the pandemic hit.

“I haven’t worked in about a year, and Hollee helped me when I truly needed it. I’m so grateful for her,” Pratt said.

Musicians Charles Crane and Jimmy Burns have received support.

“I had to pay my cellphone bill and it was right on time. I love apples and they gave me fresh apples,” Crane said. “They've been helping me tremendously. I just made beef stew the other night,” said Burns.

The organization primarily serves Black artists, but they help anyone in need. While Chicago musician Ronnie Baker Brooks has not received aid, he’s seen its impact firsthand.

“What Hollee is doing is very important because as artists, we can get stuck in what we feel and that is the inspiration for our creation. She’s changing their circumstances which is creating better, more positive artists,” he said.

But it doesn’t stop there.

“I didn't form this organization just for food and money. I formed it because I have a dream. I want to put up a building in Bronzeville that will house musicians if they get on bad luck,” Maxwell said. “I want to have a pantry to feed these musicians. I want rooms in this building for management bookings and to have a theatre for us to perform in. This is my dream now.”

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Food pick up is now available every Friday at the East Odyssey Lounge for anyone that needs it. Black Musicians Matters’ GoFundMe can be found here.

Follow Angel Idowu on Twitter: @angelidowu3

Angel Idowu is the JCS Fund of the DuPage Foundation Arts Correspondent.

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