Queen Latifah's active in community outreach and involvement. At the start of The Queen Latifah Show's second season, the host is opening up on how to be a better member of society.
Queen Latifah ruled the charts and now rules the small screen with her daily talk show. But what most people may miss is her strong background in community outreach.
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Earlier this week, The Queen Latifah Show donated $10,000 to a Camden, New Jersey, female drill team shut down due to location closing for renovations. Camden Sophisticated Sisters, run by founder Tawanda Jones, has a mission to create a social group of support and to help push children forward in life that otherwise may not have a break.
"I want them to be educated, powerful and to come back and uplift their city."
Jones's mission is admirable.
She's looking to do good for others, to teach community service through connection. And her husband, Robert Jones, takes care of the male counterpart, the Distinguished Brothers and Almighty Percussion Sound Drumline. Twanda Jones has been honored by CNN for her work, lauded as a hero, and Latifah has New Jersey connections—the famous entertainer's a Newark native.
Queen told the audience on Wednesday about the charity and why it's important. "'The Queen Latifah Show' wanted to make sure she can keep helping the kids of Camden, so we honored her and the Camden Sophisticated Sister drill team with a donation of $10,000."
Jones's program has helped over 4,000 members since the inception 15 years ago. Funding for the program is typically done through private donations, so the $10,000 and exposure may help get the word to local organizations willing to help shape the Camden into a more positive place.
And Jones is a good start. "The majority of students in Camden don't graduate high school and I'm proud to say that every single one of my babies graduates."
With 80 percent attending four-year colleges and the remaining attending trade school or community college, there's a lot of education and experience to combine in creating a better city, community and future.
But Camden Sophisticated Sisters isn't the only topic of community involvement for the rap star.
Queen Latifah spoke to her studio audience about the topic of domestic violence that’s been all over the news. "We all been watching it. You can't escape it. It’s sad to me that this problem is headline news because some football players are involved, because this is something that’s always around."
Always an advocate for victims, willing to be a voice, she wrote the 1993 hit "U.N.I.T.Y" after watching her cousin's abusive relationship. And she points out that even with the NFL's latest cases on abuse, they're not the first nor the last.
"It doesn’t matter if you’re rich, or whether you’re poor. It doesn’t matter what your race is. Where you come from, what language you speak. This is a problem for all of us. And it is not a new problem.”
Domestic violence is more than a hot topic—it’s the truth for many people who experience the cycle, who don't know how to get out.
"That entire second verse of that song was written about my cousin who was in an abusive relationship with her husband. And my brothers and my cousins pretty much had to rescue her from that relationship."
Composed and confident, Latifah continued, giving hope to those in terrible situations. "But she did get out of that relationship." And so did Latifah.
In 2009, she told Essence Magazine about the abuse. “I never told anybody; I just buried it as deeply as I could and kept people at an arm’s distance. I never really let a person get too close to me. I could have been married years ago, but I had a commitment issue.”
It was the passing of her brother, the same one that rescued their cousin, that pushed her to open up to a therapist. "“I was a kid, and I had no power or control over the situation. I really wish I’d had the strength and the knowledge to say something sooner." Worried that her victimizer had moved on.
While the incidents of violence aren't the same between the players victims and rapper, the core element is: violation. And recovery.
Like Queen, many people—including me—wish that "U.N.I.T.Y" wasn't needed because domestic violence was no longer acceptable. "I wish the message in that song wasn't even relevant today. But it is. More than ever. But 'U.N.I.T.Y.' was about unity.
"So for everyone out there that is in that situation, anyone in this building right now that may be in that situation—women and men: I want you to know you're not alone. There are people out there who want to help you."
She also notes that "the good thing about this being in the news is that calls into the hotlines has gone up something like 80 percent." That means more people are looking for help and finding it. Finding resources and ways out. Or the beginnings.
Queen Latifah's not just offering words of encouragement to her community, but providing answers.
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If you or anyone you know is suffering abuse, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Someone will be out there to help you, even if it's just to listen.