“Even the man who has everything, would be so happy if you would bring him love on Christmas Day,” go the lyrics of the Christmas carol “Give Love on Christmas Day.” As the song suggests, the holiday season has a tendency to bring out the caring side of humanity. Strangers greet each other with genuine smiles, street lights sparkle with Christmas cheer and there is a sense of warmth in the air that has nothing to do with what car you pulled up in or how much money you spent on your clothes. Celebrities aren’t immune to catching the holiday spirit and finding creative ways to give back that often leave entire communities feeling blessed. Indeed, the holiday season brings out the best in some of our favorite celebrities.
We see rappers take time out from posting pictures of their exotic cars on social media and starlets pause on sharing images of overpriced handbags that complement their shoe game; both seeking to offer a bit more substance to the delight of their fans and followers. During the holidays, we respect the old adage, “To whom much is given much is expected,” especially in the African American community, and especially among those celebrities who hail from humble beginnings. Many of our celebs are the first in their families to attain affluence, and while that achievement comes with finding their own version of economic responsibility, it also means many of them understand in a real way the struggle of the working class.
After earning over $80K in one day from the Instagram craze on his “Dabbin Santa” sweaters, 2 Chainz decided to take the proceeds and give back in a personal way to families in need of more than just turkey for Thanksgiving. The Atlanta-based rapper surprised a disabled single mother and her children by furnishing their home with brand-new furniture, including bedroom sets for the children, and then topped it off by paying their rent for a year. “I was raised by a single mother and I wanted to give someone deserving a jump-start,” he explained.
Other celebrities, including 50 Cent and Chris Brown, gave to those in need, as well. “We think about ourselves all the time and take everything for granted,” 50 Cent said via Instagram as he posted pictures of himself and Chris Brown giving out turkeys in South Jamaica Houses in Queens, New York. “I honestly challenge the celebrities. We go around driving nice cars, jewelry, pretending to be something we aren’t. Let’s give back because it’s the right thing to do,” Brown added.
While many celebrities go back to the communities they were raised in, others give back in the new cities they now call home. New Orleans native Master P and his family have adopted Watts, California, as their soil for giving back. This Thanksgiving marked the 17th year for his No Limit Forever Foundation to prepare to give Thanksgiving meals complete with honey baked hams and turkeys to thousands of underprivileged families. “This is our 17th year celebrating Thanksgiving with the families in Watts. We’re connected to so many families; a lot of these kids have the potential to make it out just like I did,” Master P says.
While Master P and his children attended the Watts event, his No Limit nonprofit mirrored the Watts Thanksgiving in 10 additional cities. Master P says he wants to add more cities every year.
New Orleans was not left without holiday cheer, as Cash Money Records founders Ronald “Slim” Williams and Bryan “Baby” Williams passed out over 2,500 turkeys and provided free health screenings for residents. Further, Big Sean went home to Detroit and gave away Thanksgiving meals to over 2,000 families via his annual Thanksgiving Drive and newcomer Fetty Wap went home to Patterson, New Jersey, to hand out turkeys in the impoverished Fourth Ward.
Atlanta families have come to expect generous holiday contributions from “Family Hustle” stars T.I., Tiny and their children. Long before the entire family was made famous by VH1, the family was known for their heart for the communities from which T.I. and Tiny hail. Every year, the rap mogul and his Hustle Gang family give away coats, toys and school supplies during the Christmas holiday in the Adamsville community. This year, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed partnered with T.I. to give out turkeys, and T.I. plans to do his usual toy drive before Christmas.
Fellow ATL rapper Jeezy performed in front of a sold-out crowd the day after Thanksgiving and left the stage to join his Street Dreamz Foundation team at a local church to handout hundreds of boxes of food. In addition to the food, Jeezy gifted many of the mothers with a bouquet of flowers and two tickets to the Atlanta Hawks game.
Across the country, Snoop Dogg, aka Snoop Lion, delivered 1,500 turkeys in his beloved Inglewood, California, and the Game followed suit gifting families with food and gifts for Turkey Day.
Rapper YG expressed his gratitude in being home with his family this year and was happy to give back through his 4Hundred Ways nonprofit partnering with the mayor of Compton, California, to serve over 500 turkeys to families in the city. Although he acknowledges making some bad decisions over the last few years, he says it’s his hope that his efforts with 4Hundred Ways will empower young people to make better decisions than he has.
Turkeys for Thanksgiving and dinners for Christmas are what we’ve come to expect, but other celebrities go even further with personal deeds of goodwill. Platinum rapper J. Cole spent his Thanksgiving with a teen cancer patient spending his holiday in the hospital. The teen’s mother and aunt arranged the visit and J. Cole was more than happy to grant the family’s request.
Rappers aren’t the only ones filled with the holiday spirit. Greenwood, South Carolina, native and NFL Carolina Panther cornerback Josh Norman was excited to return home to host his first Thanksgiving holiday event. Norman and his Starz 24 Foundation selected 24 families in the Greenwood area to provide holiday meal food bags and toys. More than 150 children in the Greenwood community are scheduled to receive toys for Christmas from Norman’s foundation. “I went through college and the NFL and never forgot where home is. And knowing the struggles of what people don’t have,” Norman said. “We try to do the best we can to provide that through outreach community events and activities. I just wanted to give a little bit of what I never had to someone else.”
Retired NFL player Jonas Jennings impacts the Atlanta community every year with his nonprofit foundation that provides food and toys to the College Park Housing Authority and Godby Road Recreation Center families. Also, Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Mike Johnson partnered with Kroger to give meals to 94 families from MVK and the greater Cincinnati, and Newport, Kentucky, area. “I’m blessed with a huge opportunity to play the game that I love for a living. What better way to say thank you during the holiday season than through service to the less fortunate?” Johnson said. Johnson said he wouldn’t think of going anywhere besides Cincinnati because more than 20 percent of the community’s children are at-risk of missing their next meal.
Many celebrities strategize with their publicist, or with their foundation’s team to secure publicity for their charity endeavors, but many do acts of kindness without the hoopla of media trucks, tip sheets and press conferences. For years, Hosea Feed the Hungry has hosted Thanksgiving and Christmas meals for thousands of Atlanta’s needy and homeless residents, often without the fanfare of media coverage. Singer-songwriter Crystal Nicole partners with her church to hand out coats and blankets to the homeless sans the cameras and non-disclosure forms needed to post pictures for publicity write-ups. Add this to the reality that Black celebrities’ good deeds often go uncelebrated in comparison to their counterparts in mainstream media and it’s clear that there are some amazing things that happen during the holidays and year-round that go unnoticed in the press but make a huge impact on the communities and individuals they touch.
As we count down the days to Christmas, there will be additional celebrity acts of kindness caught on social media, some even spilling over into the new year. It’s a great time to figure out how you can join in on the festivities and make a difference during the holiday season because, after all, it really is better to give than to receive.