By Sharon Fountain, Chicago Crusader
It’s that time of year when giving is at an all time high. Whether the giving is institutional or individual there’s a story to explain the motivation behind the giving. Bruce Kelly has a story, too. This year he will bring his story, a meal, and music to the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center in hopes of changing the direction of the Black and brown youth being held there behind bars.
On Saturday, December 23 at 12 noon he will prepare an Italian style meal of spaghetti and Italian sausage that he will serve to 100 juveniles at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, 1100 S. Hamilton, in Chicago. It is a return visit for Kelly who, along with his cousin, George Ivey, kicked off a private musical showcase at the facility the day before, Friday, December 22. The theme of the show was “Stop the Violence.”
Kelly is volunteering his services to the juvenile detention center because he wants the youth to put down the guns and stop the violence. Ten years ago on the Southside of Chicago his nephew was shot three times while holding up a barbershop.
Kelly and Ivey hope that by giving the youth the opportunity to showcase their talents they will see an alternative to violence and make better future life choices than the ones that led to their current situations. Like Bruce Kelly and his brother, Grammy-award winning R&B artist R. Kelly, many have humble beginnings and have experienced violence, which led to negative street careers and the reason they are at the juvenile detention center.
Bruce Kelly and his brother, Robert Kelly, grew up in the Altgeld Gardens Homes in the late 1960s. His grandmother moved them to Chicago Heights in the 1970s. Bruce eventually became R. Kelly’s road manager and studio background singer. Later, he was a chef on the Mystic Blue Midnight Cruise ship at Navy Pier. His training there prepared him to create the delicious meal the incarcerated youth will enjoy.
In 2016, Bruce Kelly became the host of The Ninja Show, an R&B Hip Hop TV show produced by his cousin, George Ivey, with local Chicago artists J-lyn, Trend &Topic, Jarius J Groove Groves, K’Lah K-Jenay, and Latasha Johnson. The show is taped live at the Daley Plaza and CAN-TV station; and broadcast on Channel 19, Channel 25, Comcast, AT&T, RCN and wow.
When asked why our youth are attracted to the violence Ivey said in an interview, “In Chicago there is a thug mentality and it’s territorial. I wouldn’t necessarily blame it on rap but everybody wants to be a thug or a gangster.” Ivey shared that all the artists included on the roster share the same commitment to inspiring youth to have hope and making better decisions in life.
The goal was to pay tribute to those who have been victims of violent crimes, as well as those who have lost someone to senseless gunfire. The artists included R&B singers from the West Side of Chicago, singers K’lah-Jenay, Elishama Tekoa, J-lyn, Trend & Topic, Jarius J Groove Groves, Latasha Johnson, and Diamond Finnesse.
George Ivey, the brain behind the event responded to the question, “What alternatives does his organization have for the young people caught up in the cycle of violence, that they may want to get out of?”
Ivey said, “A lot of these teenagers have talent. They sing, rap, draw and they have talent. We are going to help them put together demos and bring their dreams to life.”