In the wake of the Eaton Centre and Danzig Street fatal shootings, Toronto Police Sergeant Rod Chung used social media to challenge the city’s artists to produce a song that would stimulate positive change.
Rapper and poet Promise answered the call, writing and producing an inspirational song – “Make a Change” – that was launched last weekend.
“Music is very powerful and it influences many things our young people do and say,” said Chung who joined the service 12 years ago. “Depending on what song has dropped that summer will dictate how the kids dress, what the new slang is and how they act. That was the genesis for this production.”
Promise, who has lost a few acquaintances to gun violence, was the only artist to respond to Chung’s Twitter challenge.
“I have a heart for young people and the community,” he said. “I make inspirational music and my mission is to change lives. It’s important for us as artists to support initiatives like this because we are role models.
“We are entertainers who kids look up to and once we are behind a microphone, we have to understand that we wield a certain amount of power and influence and with that come responsibility. This is my job but I don’t do everything for money. It’s about people and changing and saving lives.”
Chung, who grew up in Scarborough and aspired to be a professional athlete and businessman before joining the service, has been assiduously using technology to fight crime in the last year.
“Through Twitter and Facebook, I was reaching out to different artists,” said Chung, who is affectionately known as “Officer Rod” to the many young people he has mentored in the community. “I didn’t tell them what I wanted. It was like, hey, how are you doing? There is something coming up and do you want to work with me? Of course I am a police officer and I didn’t expect the response to be overwhelming. Just after Danzig, I sent out a tweet and I got a response from Promise saying I am going to take up your challenge.
“It was amazing to actually work with him and be part of the production. I made it very clear from the beginning that I didn’t want him to blame anyone or to point fingers. All I wanted him to do was talk about the reality of life and what we need to do in order to move forward. He came up with the lyrics and put in some of our police terminology, like hot spots. I was really impressed and I fell in love with the song.”
Chung was not the only one to embrace Make a Change.
Chief Bill Blair, Deputy Chief Peter Sloly, Chung’s unit commander – Staff Inspector Tony Riviere – and 33 Division Community Response Unit Staff Sergeant, Shawna Coxon, also did.
“The recent increase in gun violence in the city and the overwhelming response from politicians, media, police and citizens present an opportunity for everyone to look for creative ways to engage, take ownership of the problem and develop solutions,” said Coxon. “This project is a positive example of how citizens are inspired to take action and work with police to reduce violence and reclaim a sense of ownership in our city.”
Riviere said the song is timely and the lyrics are powerful.
“Following the Danzig St. shooting, there were many discussions about the safety of the city and many or our residents were understandably questioning how safe Toronto is,” he said. “It dawned on me that it doesn’t matter how statistically safe we are, if our residents perceive our city to be unsafe, then that in itself is problematic…The song challenges our youth to stop the violence and us collectively to make a difference. It has the potential to change our perception of Toronto.”
The song was officially launched at a town hall meeting last Sunday.
Promise’s wife, R & B singer Liya Shepherd and fellow artists Benjamin Tombe and T. Kaid also collaborated on the project.
BY RON FANFAIR