After the pandemic eliminated gig and touring income, Chicago’s independent musicians sometimes had to ask for help—but at least as often, they proved willing to step up and support others. Sometimes that took the form of benefit compilations, including December’s Warm Violet: A Compilation for Chicago Community Jail Support.
Chicago Community Jail Support is a mutual-aid project launched in response to mass arrests during protests against police brutality following the killing of George Floyd. The weekend of May 29 alone, 2,172 people were arrested in Chicago. CCJS maintains a presence outside Cook County Jail in order to help people released from custody, who often have nothing but the clothes on their backs—volunteers provide food, drink, transportation, or even temporary housing.
The members of CCJS describe their group as part of a broader Black- and Brown-led Chicago abolitionist movement—ultimately they want the city to defund the police and invest in resources that actually keep communities safe. Many CCJS volunteers are involved in the local music scene, so when the organization needed money to winterize its operations, a compilation album was a natural fundraising choice.
The 46 tracks on Warm Violet cover a lot of genres, among them techno, ambient music, indie rock, acoustic pop, jazz, and whatever Fire-Toolz is. The compilation’s eclectic lineup also includes Ariel Zetina, Nnamdï & Post Animal, Ohmme, and Ken Vandermark. So far the release has raised more than $10,000, and most of that has come from Chicagoans—which CCJS organizers say is “the cherry on top,” because it demonstrates grassroots support for their cause and for local music. You can learn more about how the organization is using this money at opencollective.com.