Celebrities Create Change

Olivia Berler, Staff Writer

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Wait, Selena Gomez and The Weeknd broke up? Did you just say that she and Justin Bieber are back together?

Apparently this is what our media-driven world has come to: What can we expose and spread news about that will get people talking?

Celebrities are often in the limelight for things they do that are “gossip-worthy,” such as a divorce, a pregnancy or a new romance. Unfortunately, the more dramatic the topic is, the more attention it gets. Due to this, people can neglect the fact that not all celebrities are in their field just for the fame and fortune; some are using their celebrity status to make positive changes in the world. With their power and popularity in the media, public figures such as Matt Damon, Jennifer Hudson, and Chance the Rapper use their social and economic advantages to help people, places, or societal issues in need of attention.

Matt Damon, a world-renowned actor who has starred in several blockbusters, including Good Will Hunting and We Bought a Zoo, is an example of one of these selfless celebrities. Since 2006, he has been working to bring clean water to Africa. Damon is the co-founder of the H2O Africa Foundation, which later transformed into a much larger project in 2009 when he partnered with Gary White (affiliated with WaterPartners) to create Water.org. According to CNN, “The nonprofit provides affordable access to safe water and proper lavatory facilities through microfinance loans. The loan program gives people the financial means to access their local municipalities or fund their own projects.”

Damon is also affiliated with the ONE Campaign, which seeks to aid foreign countries where poverty and disease are far too common. He is also an ambassador for the ONE X ONE Foundation: an organization with the aim of helping various issues in need of attention throughout underdeveloped nations, along with contributing efforts to Not on Our Watch: an organization which provides assistance to people who have been victimized or severely impacted by tragedies. In an interview with Forbes, Damon said, “I have my career, I have my family, and I have this,” proving just how important giving back is to him.

Along with Damon, singer Jennifer Hudson is a positive role model who gives back to the community. She found a way to turn a tragedy that occurred in her personal life into providing significant services to people in need. Hudson’s mother, brother, and nephew, Julian, were murdered in October of 2008 by Julian’s father. This life-shattering event could have caused her to completely shut down, but Hudson persevered and chose to find a bittersweet joy through helping children in her community as a tribute to her nephew. Therefore, Hudson and her sister (Julian’s mother) created the Julian D. King Gift Foundation. Primarily taking place in Chicago, the foundation gives things such as school supplies or holiday gifts to children in need.

Every Aug. 14, The foundation throws a celebration called “Hatch Day.” As this is the date of Hudson’s nephew’s birthday, Julian is honored through the giving of school materials to underprivileged children in Chicago. During his childhood, Julian distributed cards to people close to him on his birthday and named it “Hatch Day.” This is now an annual tradition of Hudson and her sister’s foundation to not only continue Julian’s tradition, but to celebrate his love for school by giving back.

Chance the Rapper has also been working in his hometown of Chicago. In 2016, he teamed up with The Empowerment Plan non-profit organization. Together, they made EMPWR Coats: warm, water-resistant jackets for the homeless that could be transformed into sleeping bags and storage bags. The homeless are also provided working opportunities through being given the job of making the coats. Parents living in homeless shelters in Chicago are offered full-time jobs as seamstresses of the EMPWR coats, so they are able to get back on their feet, and create a more stable life for themselves.

In a media-driven world, Chance also began the trending hashtag #SaveChicago. He tweeted, “When I was in LA my pops asked me to help with a project. He was tryin to get Community Org’s in CHI to prevent every murder on Memorial Day,” Chance then proceeded to tweet about his father who “had talked to Churches, Schools, Outreach Programs and Business’s, trying to get them to commit to saving every life possible…The plan was to get these mass numbers of people out on street corners Friday night with posters and banners with the plea #SAVECHICAGO.” Chance’s father also reached out to Chicago radio stations and suggested they exclaim, “PUT YOUR GUNS DOWN CHICAGO,” every hour. He urged Chance to use his power in social media to spread awareness as well. All of these efforts remarkably led to 42 hours of no reports of gun homicides in Chicago.

Chance is very passionate about helping the kids from his hometown. He has teamed up with his brother to donate $100,000 for elementary schools in Chicago, which enabled them to buy many new and advanced supplies for the teachers and kids. This past September, he also announced that $2.2 million had been raised through his SocialWorks fund for the music and arts programs of public schools in Chicago. In an interview with the Rolling Stone, Chance said, “Quality education for public schools is the most important investment a community can make.”

Aside from working with the school system, Chance is constantly organizing free events for these kids as well, the most popular being the “Teens in the Park Festival,” and “Open Mike Nights.” Through these events, the children of Chicago are not only exposed to music and successful artists, but with the “Open Mike Nights,” they get to explore their own musical talents as well. Music can give these kids a chance at staying out of trouble and securing a good future for themselves.

It is safe to say that there are a select few celebrities who enjoy the “gossip-worthy” publicity they receive. However, in the world we live in today with so many unsolved problems, celebrities who use their fortune as a way to help others should never be ignored.