Music

Chaka Khan: ‘I Want to Build Schools’

Thu., May. 19, 2011 10:16 AM EDT
by Zondra Hughes

Chaka Khan

Chaka Khan emerged from the south side of Chicago in the 1970’s and joined the band, Rufus, which led to enormous success. In 1978, the charismatic singer and songwriter told the world that she was “Every Woman” and launched a spectacular solo career. The spicy, soulful performer hasn’t looked back since.

Instead, she’s looking ahead, with the Chaka Khan Foundation. The artist’s goal is to keep disadvantaged youths in school and within reach of a quality education.

The Chaka Khan Foundation’s Scholars Building Scholars program partners with the University of Southern California, tutoring more than 60 children from South Central Los Angeles several times a week.

Chaka's scholars

“We have an educational initiative going on right now, and it’s been going on for years,” Chaka Khan tells rolling out. “We take fifth graders, and we tutor them at USC three nights a week. We take them on field trips, and they learn. Their grades have come up, too, above where they should be in public school. After that, they go to high school, so we pass them off to a sister foundation who tutors them through high school, but, then, we assist them with grants to get into college.”

Chaka Khan dropped out of high school, sacrificing her own education to pursue her musical career. Ten Grammys later, Khan says she still recognizes how important education is to today’s youth.

“This is important because that’s our future. These children are our future, but I do this for their future, number one,” she states. “But secondarily, these are the people that we’re passing the torch to. We want doctors. We want good doctors, good teachers. We want good people who can read and write and who have ethics. This is my way of ensuring that.

Some of these children are just so in need right now. The world is rather nuts now, and they don’t know where they stand, and a lot of kids don’t know what to do. The school system is nothing but a glorified babysitting service, and we’re trying to fix something. This initiative is a prototype program that we can, hopefully, do around the country.”

Ultimately, Chaka Khan wants to “build schools for the kids in my foundation.”

Outside of her philanthropic initiative, the artist continues to make headlines, most recently with a memorable onstage collaboration with Whitney Houston for Prince. And the accolades continue to pour in. In June, Chaka Khan will collect the prestigious Howie Richmond Hitmaker Award at the 2011 Songwriters Hall of Fame (SHOF) Induction and Awards Dinner in New York.

“I just boiled over. It’s fabulous. It’s a beautiful accolade,” the artist gushes. “It’s a nice thing to be in the company of so many great people.”

Chaka Khan is heading back into the studio to record a duet with “American Idol” judge and Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler that’s sure to be a funkafied, crossover success.
She explains that she has remained a force in the ever-transitioning music industry by keeping it real.

Chaka Khan explains: “I’ve remained real and relevant by just living …  staying alive. It helps. I have two very interesting lives. I have my home life, which is just as important, and I have my career. I balance the two somehow. With the grace of God, I balance the two. Sometimes, there are a lot of glitches, but, somehow, God is with me. I’ve been blessed.”

zondra hughes

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