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Opinion/Editorial

Whitney Houston: A Final Look

By Published: March 11, 2012
She would re-release "The Star Spangled Banner" charity single to benefit the New York Firefighters Disaster Relief Fund and the New York Fraternal Order of Police Fund following terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. She waived her royalty rights to the single, which went on to top the U.S. sales charts in October 2001 and earned more than $1 million dollars.

She donated enough money to the charity based Hale House in Harlem that they were able to build a Learning Center.

She provided considerable monetary assistance to the Rainbow House, which is a shelter for adolescent mothers and children with HIV and AIDS.

She donated her performance proceeds in Russia to the Russian Aid Fund, which supported victims of a bomb attack in a Moscow subway.

She would support many foundations that fought cancer and AIDS, which would include Howard University, the Emmanuel Cancer Foundation and the T.J. Martell Foundation.

She donated her concert appearances in 1999 to the Harlem Boys Choir, the New Jersey State PBA and the Youth of Atlantic City.

She was a supporter of the Special Olympics and performed at the opening ceremonies in 1997 and also recorded and released the song "Do You Hear What I Hear" and gave all the proceeds to the Special Olympics.

In 1991, Houston performed at the "Simple Truth" concert at London's Wembley Stadium and allowed MTV to simulcast her performance of "Miracle" at her Oakland, Calif., concert during a telethon held for the Kurdish Refugee Relief.

She regularly attended the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's "Carousel of Hope" charity gala and was honored for her giving in 1996 with the Brass Ring Award.

She received an award from the National Urban Coalition for her dedication in helping others. Among her many humanitarian acts are a public service announcement, "Say Yes to a Youngsters Future," urging black and other minority youth to study sciences and math.

She was a lifelong fighter against AIDS and performed many benefits including the Arista 15th Anniversary Benefit in 1990 and the "Commitment for Life" AIDS benefit in 1994.

The National Center for Birth Defects in Boston named a wing after her in recognition of the fund raising efforts she has done for them over the years.

The Newark, N.J.-based UMDNJ hospital named its Pediatric Special Care Unit after Whitney Houston, due to her giving.

Her proceeds from the premier of "The Bodyguard" and "The Preachers Wife" went to the Whitney Houston Foundation for Children as well to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

Under the years of South Africa's apartheid, she would refuse to allow her work as a model to be made available in that country and refused to work with any agency that did business with South Africa.

Importantly, she would attend the 70th birthday celebration for Nelson Mandela and Ms. Mandela would write her the following words:
"For a long time, both I and my children have admired you and have always known that you do care. Your participation at the concert will mean so very much to the oppressed in South Africa and I know that as long as we have your support and help we cannot remain oppressed much longer."


In October of 1994, Houston was invited and performed at a state dinner in the White House honoring newly elected South African president Nelson Mandela. She would also perform three concerts in South Africa to honor President Mandela, playing to over 200,000 people. She would be the first international artist to perform at the now apartheid-free South Africa. Her concerts were filmed by HBO with all funds going to various children's charities including two children's museums, the President's Trust Fund (for the freed Nelson Mandela), the Kagiso Foundation along with several orphanages.

She once said, "We are all helpers where we can be. God has truly been good to us. So if you believe in God, you've got to believe that charity begins at home and spreads abroad."

Whitney Houston broke down the walls that would allow future generations of black women artists a chance to be heard. She wanted longevity but it also meant she would be criticized, criticized that she was selling out, that her records did not reflect the soulfulness of her performances. But her criticizers completely missed her brilliance in planning every step and every nuance of her career and of those she pioneered. She understood that if her records were too soulful or too black, the industry would confine her music to a category, but Houston wanted more and would accept nothing less. And for an artist to accomplish this, especially an artist who was Black and who was also a woman, it would take someone much stronger and much wiser than the Record Industry Executives. When others thought she was compromising, she had a vision and a plan that would completely turn the industry upside down and open the doors for other women and Black artists in a way that had never been observed before. It was part of her genius.


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