Violent crime in the United States has become inextricably tied to headlines about Chicago, especially after the city’s deadly weekend that left at least 11 people dead and 70 others wounded.
Franklin Vanderbilt wants to change people’s connection with Chicago to violence.
Vanderbilt told Fox News about his journey through Chicago, from his humble beginnings on the west side of Chicago to working with a music legend -- Lenny Kravitz.
He said he wanted to tell his story to highlight that his Chicago home is not the stereotypical gangland we are used to seeing splashed across television screens.
“Not everyone on the west side of Chicago is carrying a gun," Vanderbilt said. "Not everyone is mean and evil. I am one of them. I come from that.”
Visually, you can't miss Vanderbilt. He’s over six-foot tall and has a smile that lights up any room.
You also don't want to miss hearing him. As the drummer for Kravitz, he delivers performances you hear -- and feel -- down to your core.
What was so crucial in his upbringing, Franklin said, was not only his parents, but also the activities and mentors that kept him busy and focused on his music.
The problem now, however, he said, are budgetary cuts to the very programs that cultivated his talent.
“There’s been a subtraction of different programs and opportunities to advance and empower children…you need a way to exercise your mind, and when you take away economics and art, you leave people no choice but to fight,” he said.
Rick Garcia was Franklin’s high school drum and bugle corps coach and is the current Assistant Principal of the Chicago Math and Science Academy. Garcia fights daily to keep programs like the drum and bugle corps alive.
“The drum and bugle corps was something that helped Franklin drum and focus…he helped others when he was on the team and has since come back to Chicago to mentor young drummers,” Garcia said.
Franklin said he's also taking matters into his own hands to help Chicago.
“I want to open a performing arts and economics center to bring more opportunity to my neighborhood," he said. "Put down the guns, let’s pick-up some knowledge. That’s what I want to do for the west side of Chicago.”