Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Lessons on My Hero: Whitney's Endless Charitable Deeds overshadowed By Her Golden Voice & Inner Struggles

The voice in arguably it's best form- Superbowl National Anthem

In the wake of Whitney's death the media coverage has been a systematic roller coaster ride. Either they've loved her for her voice, or hated her for her struggles. This isn't too distant from their relationship with her while she walked this Earth. That same relationship caused me much frustration growing up- as Whitney is for many reasons- one of my heroes.

 I loved Whitney from an early age. She quickly became one of my biggest inspirations in life. As a child you try to identify with the people you admire in some way. I looked nothing like her, but I could sing & so could she & I always remember thinking she had pretty hands.. and thats what people would always tell me. As I got older her inspiration grew..and for reasons, the media really has yet to acknowledge.

The Whitney I grew up admiring was vivacious, beautiful, brown skinned, and extremely gifted. Even now listening to her vocals on any given record is mesmerizing, they are in fact perfect. So, I truly understand and am one with the rest of the media who focus so heavily on that incredible instrument she shared with us.

The Whitney I grew up admiring also was burdened. Burdened by a beast that many people carry. The burden of insufficiency. Not having enough of something. Most people call that addiction. I refer to it as insufficiency because usually that first try of any drug is in order to achieve something..then youre hooked. I watched Whitney struggle through the years too, so I understand people wanting to discuss her war with addiction.

The Whitney I grew up admiring also was a mother. When Bobbi Kristina was first announced I remember how I felt. I was like, "Woah! Whitney is pregnant!?" Then I saw her in the video for I'm every woman, gleaming with light and love. She was so beautiful and happy. While the media seeks to mention she has one child with ex husband Bobby Brown, they seem to be rather careless with their reports considering, that one child is still here to read what they say about her dear mother.

Whitney LOVES her Bobbi Kristina. I leave that present tense because I'm not sure how a mother's love ever ends. It's been evident since the moment she was born. This photo is of the two just last year on the red carpet attending Clive's annual Grammy's Party. This is the very party she was preparing for this year when she passed away. Though it is a sad thought to have, this is one of my favorite recent shots of her. She looks so happy and with Bobbi Kristina in arm.

The Whitney I grew up admiring wore many hats, but one that I think has yet to be mentioned in the media is her charitable work, and her heart for children. I recall always seeing her name somewhere for something during the height of her success. So this morning I went on a mad hunt to try to find some more positivity to shed on this whole experience, and of course, thanks to Whitney there is much of it.

It only took one search to find numerous sources mentioning Whitney's charity work. The list goes on and on. Not only did Whitney start a foundation for children that built playgrounds in inner city neighborhoods and invested in academic programs, but when she got married she asked guests to bring a donation for that charity instead of gifts. Below is the most extensive list I've found of all she has contributed to/done.

UNCF celebration

If you know Whitney to be more than just a great singer with a struggling habit, this post should resonate with you. I'm glad I am a fan of such an amazing person! May she rest in love and may her legacy live on.. not just through her voice, or her struggle, but her works:

The Whitney Houston Foundation For Children: Formed in 1989, the WHFC aids sick and homeless children, and works toward the prevention of child abuse, teaches children to read, and has built inner city parks and playgrounds. In past years, the foundation also has hosted a Christmas party for homeless children.

The United Negro College Fund is a favorite Whitney Houston charity. She raised a quarter of a million dollars for the UNCF at a 1988 Madison Square Garden concert, appeared on at least two "Lou Rawls Parade of Stars" telethons to benefit the UNCF, and has been honored by the organization for her consistent giving with the Frederick D. Patterson Award. One of Whitney Houston's first gigs was a benefit concert for the UNCF in which she sang "Tomorrow" from the musical "Annie."

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation: Whitney Houston regularly attends their "Carousel of Hope" charity gala and was honored for her giving in 1996 with the Brass Ring Award.

St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital: Founded by the late actor Danny Thomas, this hospital helps critically-ill children without asking for money from their parents or guardians. It is subsidized completely by charitable giving. Whitney Houston has given so much to the hospital over the years that the founder's daughter, Marlo Thomas, honored her at a charity banquet in 1994.

South Africa: The announcement that Whitney Houston would participate in the 1988 Freedom Fest concert event (for a then-imprisoned Nelson Mandela) drew other artists and much media attention.

In 1994, Whitney also toured in South Africa, giving concert proceeds to numerous children's charities including two children's museums, the President's Trust Fund (for the freed Nelson Mandela), the Kagiso Foundation and several orphanages. In the 1980s, when Whitney was an up-and-coming fashion model, she also refused to work for any company that did business in then-Apartheid South Africa.

American Red Cross: Whitney Houston donated all of her proceeds from the single and home video sales of her Superbowl XXV rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" to benefit Gulf War troops and their families. Whitney's record company followed suit. Whitney was elected a member of the American Red Cross Board of Directors in 1991.

New York Firefighters and Police: Whitney Houston re-released "The Star Spangled Banner" charity single to benefit the New York Firefighters Disaster Relief Fund and the New York Fraternal Order of Police Fund following terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. She waived her royalty rights to the single, which went on to top the U.S. sales charts in October 2001 and raised more than $1 million.

The Children's Defense Fund: All of Whitney Houston's proceeds from her two "Classic Whitney" concerts in Washington, D.C., totaling a quarter of a million dollars, were donated to this charity.
The National Birth Defects Center: The Boston area center named its Hearing & Language Disorder Clinic after Whitney due to her giving.

UMDNJ University Hospital: The Newark, N.J.-based hospital named its Pediatric Special Care Unit after Whitney Houston due to her giving.

Hale House: Whitney Houston donated enough to this Harlem-based charity that they were able to build a Learning & Recreation Center.

Rainbow House: Whitney Houston has provided financial assistance to this shelter for adolescent mothers and for children with HIV and AIDS.

Russian Aid Fund: In February 2004, Whitney donated 1 million rubles to the Aid Fund for victims of a bomb attack in the Moscow subway. The funds were raised by her performances in Moscow.

T.J. Martell Foundation: Whitney Houston has supported this foundation, which funds research for leukemia, cancer and AIDS.

Harlem Boys Choir, New Jersey State PBA, and The Youth of Atlantic City: Whitney donated proceeds from her only 1990 U.S. concert appearances to these three charities.

Debt Relief: Whitney supported a cyber petition by international debt relief campaign Jubilee 2000 to persuade world leaders to erase debt owed by 40 of the world's poorest nations.

Wyclef Jean Foundation: Whitney Houston participated in a Carnegie Hall benefit that earned about $250,000 for this foundation in January 1991.

Welcome Home Heroes: Whitney's Easter Sunday 1991 concert in Norfolk, Va., was free for returning Gulf War veterans and their families. HBO, which televised the event live, encouraged cable systems to descramble their signal so everyone could enjoy the show for free.

1994 Rainforest Benefit: Whitney Houston made a surprise guest performance at this event, notable for Whitney's singing a bit of "La Donna e Mobile" from Giuseppe Verdi's opera "Rigoletto." She also performed "If It's Magic" and "I Will Always Love You."

For the 1992 movie premiere of "The Bodyguard," proceeds went to The Whitney Houston Foundation For Children and to the Magic Johnson Foundation for pediatric AIDS research .

For the 1996 movie premiere of "The Preacher's Wife," proceeds went to The Whitney Houston Foundation For Children, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America (Denzel Washington's choice) and a third charity chosen by director Penny Marshall.

Kurdish Refugee Relief 1991: Whitney performed at the "Simple Truth" concert at London's Wembley Stadium and allowed MTV to simulcast her performance of "Miracle" at her Oakland, Calif., concert during a telethon held for this cause.

Fighting AIDS: One of Whitney Houston's favorite causes, highlights include her performance at the Arista 15th Anniversary AIDS Benefit in 1990. She also flew to Los Angeles for the "Commitment for Life" AIDS Benefit in 1994 from her South American tour, and then immediately flew back to resume her concert tour.

Fighting Cancer: Another of Whitney Houston's favorite causes, Whitney performed at a Cancer Research Benefit at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Michael Bolton Foundation: This charity honored Whitney for her giving in 1995 with a fund-raising gala. In 1997, Bolton's foundation joined forces with Whitney's foundation to honor other charitable artists at a fund-raising gala.

Emmanuel Cancer Foundation: Whitney was unable to attend a 1990 benefit held in her honor, so she turned it into a food drive to benefit this New Jersey chidren's organization.

Special Olympics: Whitney performed at the Opening Ceremonies in 1987 and recorded "Do You Hear What I Hear" for free for their first "A Very Special Christmas" benefit album in 1989.

1988 Olympic Games: Whitney Houston recorded the song "One Moment In Time" for an album of the same name to benefit Olympic athletes.

Ronald McDonald Children's Charities: The South Florida arm of this organization honored Whitney for her giving.

The Bronx Zoo: Whitney Houston donated two lion cubs to the Bronx Zoo in New York City in 1989.

For her 1992 wedding, Whitney asked attendees and fans to contribute to the Whitney Houston Foundation For Children in lieu of gifts.

Whitney Houston has been honored for her charity work by the VH1 Honors in 1995, The First Annual Triumphant SPIRIT Awards by Essence Magazine in 1997, and 1998 Trumpet Awards (organized by Ted Turner).


1 comment:

  1. Kayki this is such a beautiful write up. You are right when you say the media hasn't mentioned any of this. Thank you for sharing. We all love Whitney and will miss her dearly. Thank you for your positive and factual coverage.