Vic Mensa Responds To ‘Bait Truck’ Controversy With Chicago Shoe Giveaway
On a swelling hot and humid Sunday afternoon (Aug. 26) Vic Mensa and the SaveMoneySaveLife foundation held the Anti-Bait Truck Shoe Giveaway at Chicago’s West Englewood Community Center. The hectic, yet heartwarming event was held in response to Operation Trailer Trap, a police sting that involved a truck full of shoes being sent to the impoverished, mostly-black southside community to lure and arrest civilians. Hundreds of people across Englewood and the greater south side were lined up since 6:00AM to get new, fresh kicks just in time for back-to-school season.
The shoe giveaway managed to bring together a diverse group of organizations and residents from all sides of the city to volunteer, including GoodKidsMadCity, The Order of the Eastern Stars and Prince Hall Freemasons (Sheerah Grand Chpt & M.W. Solomon Grand Lodge, respectively), Chairman Fred Hampton Jr. and the New Black Panther Party of Chicago, the Nation of Islam, and local residents who volunteered directly with the SMSL Foundation.
“It’s extremely important to show that we can be organized and resourceful for each other. A lot of times with charity work, people look outside the city or to organizations that might not be familiar to the people who we are serving and it’s incredibly important and very impactful to see people who look like us helping each other. That means a lot and it helps restore faith in the community,” explained south side native Kelsey Riley, who volunteered for the SMSL Foundation.
The event also provided free haircuts to the local kids and teenagers.
Spearheaded by Vic Mensa (real name Victor Kwesi Mensah), Anwar Hadid, and Englewood activist Charles McKinzie, the giveaway was conceived after the Chicago rapper saw the infamous video on social media. Filmed by McKinzie himself, the video–which showed cop cars and arrests by the planted truck of shoes–sparked a massive outrage to the point where the Norfolk Southern Railway apologized, and charges against the arrested youth were dropped.
“And as I rode down [59th & Princeton Ave.] I saw a couple guys out there, they were like ‘bait truck, bait truck!’ And I’m like, ‘as much stuff I do for the community, they would put a bait truck in our neighborhood?’” McKinzie told VIBE. “I hopped out, I started filming, and as I was getting closer I saw them take one young man out of one spot and another guy out of another spot, so the guys who were out there in the community went crazy. They said, ‘man, they’re setting us up!’ Why would y’all put a bait truck in the ghetto where people have no economic resources, no Boys & Girls Club, no nothing.”
Mensah said that when he first heard about the video from a friend, that he didn’t even believe it was real.
“I thought it was so crazy, like it was a conspiracy theory or some shit. I saw the video and I saw that it was authentic, so I immediately put it through my channels and brainstormed on it. A good friend named Anwar Hadid…had the idea to give away shoes on the same street. So I was like, okay let’s do an anti-bait truck.”
From there, the “16 Shots” rapper was able to get many activists across the country, including Shaun King, to help support the initiative. Thanks to King, the plan soon went viral and the SMSL foundation received an estimated 10-15,000 pairs of shoes, including donations from celebrities such as former Chicago Bulls star and Englewood native Derrick Rose and fellow hometown hero Chance the Rapper. SAVEMONEY members Towkio and Nico were among the volunteers handing out shoes to the children along with west side activist/poet/rapper Malcolm London.
“Our intention is to give to the community because everything has been taken from it. The community has been stripped of access to good education, healthy food, stripped of our young men being shipped off to the (proverbial) concentration camps and being handed out felonies like hotcakes. What Charles and I and everyone else is here to do show the community that they are valued, respected, and worthy,” Mensah explained. “I remember going back to school, first day you didn’t have on new shoes, you felt bogus! And that’s such a status symbol in our communities and to the youth so you want these kids to have confidence when they go to school so that they can take it seriously.”
To both McKinzie and the Hyde Park-bred Mensah, the “bait trucks” in Chicago were being used to entrap people from poor and predominantly black neighborhoods with felonies. While it has been documented that CPD have concocted many ways to ensnare black and latinx residents into the criminal justice system for decades, what make this even more sinister, according to McKinzie, is that these moves are taking place during an election season (gubernatorial and mayoral) in order to suppress the black vote.
“In a broader sense, I think the intention, as always, is to oppress and repress the black community,” Mensah said. “That’s the existence of the black man in America, but that pressure has made us diamonds though.”
Because so many residents arrived much earlier, doors opened around 2 p.m. rather than the previously advertised 4 p.m., allowing only 100 people at a time. With three U-Haul trucks in the community center’s parking lot, volunteers had the adults and children line up behind each of the trucks that were organized by shoe size and gender. Kids, teens, and a few adults received high quality kicks from brands like Adidas, Jordan, Reebok, Under Armour, Nike, and Vans, among many other brands.
The sweltering heat proved to be one of their biggest obstacles as the water was quickly running out and the mass of attendees were starting to become a bit restless.
While the event ended earlier than intended, more kids managed to some brand new kicks inside the community center. Many of the residents of Englewood and South Chicago were thankful.
“It was real nice, the only thing was the heat. Other than that, everything turned out nice. It was a big help to our neighborhood,” said Englewood resident Profile Lyons.