LITTLE VILLAGE — A nonprofit organization for Chicago kids run by rapper Vic Mensa may be booted from its office space after a landlord saw Mensa’s music video that confronted racism in the criminal justice system.
The Save Money, Save Life Foundation was told to cancel its lease on its new Little Village office space or face a difficult road ahead after the landlord was “appalled” by Mensa’s music video, according to Laundi Keepseagle, the nonprofit’s executive director.
Keepseagle said she and other members of the group arrived to pick up keys to their new office and unload two trucks of items at 3022 W. Cermak Road in Little Village Tuesday. But instead of leaving with a pair of keys, Keepseagle said their landlord, who owns other properties around the neighborhood, told them he was “absolutely disgusted” by Mensa’s “Camp America” music video.
The landlord said the video, which depicted white children being held in cages and drinking from toilets — conditions faced by immigrants being held at border facilities — was “disgusting” and “discriminatory” toward white people, Keepseagle alleged.
During the argument in a parking lot next to the building, Keepseagle attempted to explain the point of the video: No children should be subjected to these conditions, no matter their race.
“The reason why white children are depicted in the video is because America is turning a blind eye that these are children of color,” Keepseagle said.
The landlord did not return multiple calls.
Keepseagle called the incident a “prime example of a system of gentrification, where landlords are able to hold power over minority tenants, and make threats.”
The Save Money, Save Life Foundation will now host a protest at 10 a.m. Thursday at the intersection of Cermak Road and Marshall Blvd.
Mensa’s “Camp America” music video released last month features white children in cages wearing orange jumpsuits. The video shows kids dancing, but also depict children being preyed upon and drinking water from toilets. It ends with a message stating: “There are over 13,000 immigrant children in U.S. custody today. What if it was your kid?”
President Donald Trump’s administration has received blowback across the country for holding migrant children in camps at the border. At least five children have died since last year.
Instead of engaging in a conversation about the message around the video, Keepseagle said the landlord told them repeatedly that he was “disgusted” and that he couldn’t see how the organization could do “any good work if this is the type of thing Vic Mensa is doing.”
Not long after, the landlord handed Keepseagle a pen asking her to sign a piece of paper voiding the contract.
The landlord allegedly told Keepseagle “everything will be difficult for you here on out” if she did not void the lease.
Ahead of Tuesday’s encounter, Keepseagle said the landlord had been helpful and planned to rehab the floors in the office.
Keepseagle said she broke down in tears after the encounter. Mensa’s legal team is now looking for legal recourse, Keepseagle said.
Ultimately though, she said she would rather not give rent money to “someone who is not able to understand what it is that we do.”
Save Money, Save Life operates four different programs including Street Medixs, which teaches civilians on the South and West Sides how to treat gun and stab wounds; Save Money Studio, a story telling programing teaching minorities and people of color to tell their own stories; and Party with a Purpose, which hosts events that benefit social justice organizations.
Most recently, Mensa hosted an event to bring attention to the immigration camps at the border and donated funds to bring legal aide to the border.
“As an artist it is crucial to use my voice to showcase another side of this border crisis,” Mensa said in a press statement. “I want people to think about it, sometimes the only way to spark thought is to show what it looks like. I do not want any child to be kept in those conditions.”
This is a developing story.