You often hear about popular music artists making donations or doing charity work, but some take it above and beyond. There are Black music artists who are not only leaving their mark on the industry but their communities, as well. Some are on the grounds of their hometown supporting programs and initiatives, while others are giving a voice to those leading the charge. No matter what they’re doing, they’re using their platform to make a better world for their Black brothers and sisters.
Here are some Black music artists who are flexing their influence to give back to their community.
Hip-hop icon Kendrick Lamar is known for capturing the Black community through his music and giving back. The “Alright” rapper has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Compton Unified School District’s various music, sports, and after-school programs to keep kids off the streets. He also pledged $50,000 to his high school, as well, and is a regular face in his hometown. His impact on Compton is so significant, that he was awarded a key to the city and named the California State Senate’s 35th Generational Icon in 2016.
Janelle Monáe has been a force in the modern-day racial justice movement. A longtime activist in the Black Lives Matter movement, she blends her desire for change with her work. She has portrayed changemakers in movies and TV shows like The Glorias and Hidden Figures, and she’s echoed her causes through her music.
The ‘I Like That’ singer also put together a powerful protest anthem called “Say Her Name,” which is a 17-minute long tribute to the Black woman lost to police brutality and racial injustice. It was also a collaboration with the African American Policy Forum. Fifteen music artists and activists were also featured in the song, including Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Zoë Kravitz, and Mj Rodriguez.
H.E.R. has given a resounding voice to BLM protestors through her infamous song, “I Can’t Breathe,” which was released shortly after George Floyd‘s murder. The “FIght For You” singer told NME her purpose as an artist changed after releasing the anthem.
“At first I didn’t realize activism was part of that purpose but I guess my voice matters,” she says. “I definitely feel a responsibility because I have this platform, but I think we should all speak out against things that we don’t like and things that should change, regardless of where we come from. Hate is hate.”
Now, the Grammy-winning artist wants to focus on expanding proper music education in American schools. H.E.R. is also helping budding female musicians through her “Girls with Guitars” Instagram Live series. The “Best Part” singer recently took home the American Express Impact Award at the 2022 Billboard Women in Music event for using her platform to advocate for women.
If it’s one thing Noname knows, it’s making an impact. The “Montego Bay” rapper’s Noname Book Club has been gaining a lot of traction, promoting reading and encouraging support of bookstores owned by people of color. The book club has partnerships with libraries in Oakland, Chicago, and New York City to promote chosen books to readers. Noname is working on getting a physical headquarters for the club with plans to host book drives, meet-ups, free movie screenings, political education classes, food drives, and much more.