Bourbon 'n BrownTown

Ep. 25 - *LIVE AT DEPAUL* Chi DNA: Exile, Refuge, & Displacement ft. Jessica Puri & Heavy Crownz

Episode Summary

BrownTown travels to the DePaul University Honors Program as guests of their ongoing Speaker Series in the first-ever live recording event. With the help of Nigerian-born Public Health professional Jessica Puri and rapper/educator Heavy Crownz, the gang explores the notions of exile, refuge, and displacement locally and globally. They discuss the connections between international crises, intracommunal violence, and disenfranchisement in Chicago as well as the cultural representations they manifest. This is the first event in the Chi DNA Speaker Series. Originally recorded October 5, 2018.

Episode Notes

This is the sixth Chicago Drill and Activism (AKA "Chi DNA") installment of Bourbon ’n BrownTown. Chi DNA is an ongoing documentary and multimedia project, which also features interviews, micro-documentaries, and editorial pieces on drill rap and the activist resurgence in Chicago.

The DePaul University Honors Program hosted Bourbon ’n BrownTown in this live podcast event as part of their ongoing Speaker Series. In conjunction with the Chi DNA Speaker Series, this event tackled the Honors Program’s themes of the year, exile and refuge, as well as local/global displacement as a whole. After introducing SoapBox, the Chi DNA project, and the Bourbon ’n BrownTown format, BrownTown, their guests, and the university audience watched the Chi DNA Micro-Doc Episode 3 as a springboard for their discussion and following Q&A. Watch before you listen!

Jessica Puri is a Nigerian-born Public Health professional with 5+ years of experience in scientific writing, health research and public health communication on the Bachelor and Masters level. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in Integrated Health Sciences at the Feinberg School of Medicine in Northwestern University. She sits on the alumni advisory board for the Center for Community Health Equity and the Board of Directors for SoapBox.

Heavy Crownz is an MC and high school educator hailing from Chicago's Englewood community. With a degree in History from Tuskegee University, Crownz aims to create personal music from the soul in a style of flow he calls AfroTrap. His strongest motivations to go on have been the need for people to have good music with substance and purpose.

The group starts by defining displacement: a forced movement of people from their homes, neighborhoods, and/or occupational activities from natural or man-made causes. From there, they discuss the connections between international crises, intracommunal violence, and disenfranchisement in Chicago as well as the cultural representations they manifest. Recorded four days before Columbus Day, the discussion touches on intentional segregation and destabilization of Black and Brown geo-specific areas both in Chicago and the Middle East. BrownTown and company draw parallels between highly criticized and complex international crises, gang violence in Chicago, and the broader implications of white supremacy that help create and exacerbate them on a policy and narrative level. Jessica brings in her first-hand international experiences while breaking down the rhetoric around refugees in America. She subverts the often problematic language to explain the importance of refugees and providing a safe haven and resources for those experiencing trauma—home and abroad. As the team weaves drill rap and activism in and out of the conversation, Jessica analyzes Caullen and Heavy’s anecdotes using an ecological model to helps us better grasp the decision-making processes of folks’ suffering from intergenerational and contemporary trauma (mentioned: Rico Reckless interview). Heavy explains what his moniker, the “63rd Representer,” tells us about growing up in a hypersegregated Chicago and the current state of gentrification (enter: Obama Community-Benefits Agreement). The group later draws out the importance of art as a coping mechanism, in its many forms. Near the end of the conversation, the group touches on notions of Black masculinity in and outside of drill, code-switching (see episode 29), and what being “appropriate” really means. How do displaced people deal with trauma, particularly when resources to do so are scarce? How can we un-do known oppressive policy of yesteryear to better shape an equitable future? Where does drill rap and activism play into all of this and why is it important? Here’s BrownTown's take.

The Chicago Drill and Activism project explores the creation, meaning, perspectives, and connections between drill rap and the resurgence of grassroots activism since the early 2010s through the eyes of the people involved. It focuses on contemporary Chicago as an intentional place for the resurgence of these two formations of cultural and political resistance during relatively the same time period. It examines how authenticity, community, and other important values to the subjects are impacted and promoted via technology, social media, and a rejection of traditional means of movement politics and corporate structures. As told by activists and drill rappers alike, the project situates the the subjects’ experiences and actions into a broader theoretical and empirical history of systemic inequality and resistance in Chicago. Follow the ongoing project at for more.

Read more about the event from DePaul student Deyana Atanasova on SoapBox Editorial.


Find Heavy’s music on Spotify, Soundcloud and YouTube. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Follow Jessica on LinkedIn and Instagram.


CREDITS: Intro music by Fiendsh. Outro song Absolutely by Heavy Crownz. Audio engineered by Genta Tamashiro. Episode photo by Andrew Merz.


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