In the wake of the Mike Brown shooting and Ferguson protests last year, many in the Black community called for Black celebrities to speak out against the injustices shown to their own people. Some Black celebs rose to the occasion, using social media and TV news outlets like CNN to say their piece.
Others, like Nelly, preferred to move in relative silence and let their actions do the talking. Following the events in Ferguson, the St. Louis rapper came under fire for not visiting the city right away. He eventually visited Ferguson to speak with protesters and created a scholarship fund in Michael Brown’s name.
The scholarship was not merely a sentimental act to honor the slain college student but a part of a strategic plan to help bring change to the Ferguson community in the only effective way he believes he can.
“I try to do it through education because that’s the only way we’re going to get it. The only way we’re going to get this is to elevate,” Nelly explained in an interview with Hello Beautiful just after the Ferguson anniversary on August 9, 2015. “We have to get the kids to go out of these communities. Graduate. Get the knowledge. Come back to the community, and then they can run it because they understand the people and understand the severity of the situation.”
The Mike Brown scholarship isn’t the only act of altruism Nelly has taken in the area of education. He has sent two students to college on scholarships every year for the past 10 years. To critics who have rebuked him for his lack of vocal support for the events at Ferguson, the “Hot in Herre” rapper asserts that sometimes it’s better to do things quietly.
“It’s not about the hoo-ha,” he says. “It’s about the silent assassins. It’s the ones that move behind the scenes that get things done. The guy that’s screaming on television, he’s the diversion. I’m not a diversion. I’m going to get it done.”
And he isn’t the only one.
Back in June, J.Cole halted his tour for a young female fan’s graduation, after promising to attend if she got into a four year university. He also agreed to pay her tuition. More recently, on August 12, a young Compton athlete shared news on his Instagram account that R&B star Tyrese Gibson had invested $50,000 into his future, sending him to Morehouse College. Three days later, LeBron James announced a new mentoring program that could send 1,000 kids in the Akron, Ohio school system to college for free if they complete his six-year program.
The trend of influential Black celebrities financial supporting America’s Black youth to attain a college education goes beyond arousing the masses to shout “Black Lives Matter” in protest. It puts the power into the hands of the young, who, armed with knowledge will shape communities, laws, and policies to ensure that Black lives matter.