JOLIET – Christian rapper Milton Calvin, 25, of Joliet, has depended on God his entire life.
Calvin can’t wait to share those details – in speech and in song – on Oct. 27 to the kids attending The Center in New Lenox.
The youngest of five children, Calvin grew up on the streets of Chicago with his mother and siblings. They slept on benches when the shelters were full, Calvin said. Calvin was 6 when his father went to prison for burglary, but that wasn’t the cause of their situation.
“We were homeless before that,” Calvin said.
He recalled sitting in the lobby of a public assistance building, writing poems on scraps of paper and selling them for a quarter apiece to passersby. Calvin said he was 8 at the time.
“Ever since then I always wrote,” Calvin said. “And I always wrote from my heart.
At age 11, Calvin moved into his first home, an apartment in Aurora. He’s uncertain how circumstances changed.
“I guess my mom got a job or something,” Calvin said. “I just remember riding on a bus and she said, ‘Do you want to see our new place?’ It was just a blessing that God gave my mom to be able to provide for us.”
Three years later, Calvin was introduced to Christian rap through an Aurora church’s weekly youth group. Yet it wasn’t the church that introduced Calvin to Christ. It was Calvin’s mother.
“My mother taught us how to pray,” Calvin said. “She taught us that Jesus was there no matter what, she taught us to keep the faith. These things stayed with me throughout the hardest time of my life.”
During Calvin’s high school years, he practiced, recorded and performed original rap music about life and God’s goodness, all through the Aurora church, he said.
By 2009, Calvin was participating in a cement training program at Joliet Job Corps, with plans to study business at Joliet Junior College and rapping wherever doors opened for him, according to a 2009 Herald-News story.
Calvin even participated in “D Wade’s Chicago Has Talent” benefit event hosted by Dwyane Wade, the NBA basketball player. Calvin won a laptop, met the team and gained self-confidence, the Herald-News story said.
Calvin eventually settled into a $13 an hour job packing bacon for a warehouse in Montgomery, but his heart was in rapping. He recently let the job go.
“If I focus my energy on my dream, one day I won’t have to live check to check. I’ll be doing something I love and providing for my family,” he said.
Calvin said he has a 5-year-old son, who lives with the son’s mother. He is currently homeless again, although his demeanor doesn’t show it.
“A lot of people ask me, ‘How do you keep smiling through the hard times?’ ” Calvin said. “Well, I know if I could come through hard times before, I can come through hard times again.”
But Calvin’s passion for rapping goes beyond money. He said he raps in bars, subways and on the streets, anywhere he finds “listening ears.” Nor does he “water anything down.”
To Calvin, rapping is more than making Christian music.
“It’s my praise,” Calvin said. “It’s my thanks to God. I want to express in my music the things he brought me from, why I believe in him, why I love him. My music is life and there is life in my music. I don’t force God on anyone. I write about the ups and the downs in life so that when people ask me how I made it as far as I’ve made it, I’ll be able to tell them, ‘I kept my faith in God.’ ”
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Milton Calvin for The Center
WHEN: 6:30 to 9 p.m. Oct. 27
WHERE: The Hub, 1303 Schoolhouse Road, No. 3, New Lenox
ETC: Free food, games, hang time, music and inspirational talk for teens.
The Center is a nonprofit that was formed in 2013 to continue the ministry of the former Christian Youth Center in Joliet, said Rick Abbot, a CYC alumnus and president of The Center.
After the CYC building was sold in 2013, Abbott said, The Center temporarily met at Ridgewood Baptist Church in Joliet before finding a home at The Hub in New Lenox.
The Hub is closing at the end of 2016, which could leave The Center – and the 40-plus teens and college students it serves – without a gathering place unless a new location is quickly found, Abbott said.
Joliet’s West Side would be ideal because it would be a central spot for the youth, which come from Plainfield, Channahon, Minooka and Lockport, as well as Joliet, Abbott said.
“We need 6,000 to 15,000 square feet of commercial space with an open floor plan and high ceilings, as move-in ready as possible,” Abbott said.
The Center’s last meeting at The Hub is Dec. 31, Abbott said.
Features of Thursday night meetings include dinner (pizza, sub sandwiches, chili; healthy snacks; and free water bottles), socialization, live Christian music, a variety of active games and a spiritual message, Abbott said.
“For some of these kids, it’s the best meal they receive all week,” he said.
For information, contact Abbott at 708-906-3555 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For updates, visit www.thecenteryouth.org.