Solange Knowles wants to make sure students in the Houston area have a seat at the table.
The singer has partnered with Project Row Houses (PRH), a nonprofit in the Third Ward, one of Houston’s oldest African American neighborhoods, and is planning to send local students to the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington D.C.
PRH’s mission is to “empower people and enrich communities through engagement, art and direct action,” and is celebrating its 25th anniversary by allowing 12 high school students to experience the wonders on display at Smithsonian’s African American museum.
“Seeing their community represented at this level will provide the students with a more profound understanding of themselves, their history, and their culture,” said Eureka Gilkey, the organization’s executive director.
According to a press release issued by PRH, the NMAAHC hosts a permanent display on the history of Project Row Houses, along with work by Floyd Newsum, its founding artist. The kids will get to see it as well as other breathtaking art and exhibits, including the official portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama in the National Portrait Gallery.
This will all be possible in large part due to a generous donation from Knowles who was recently crowned Harvard’s 2018 Artist of the Year.
“I feel so incredibly humbled and beyond grateful that you have allowed me to do this work,” said Knowles, whose mother Tina Knowles Lawson sat proudly in the audience cheering on her on. “And to now be rewarded for that, it just blows my mind.”
During her acceptance speech, the 31-year-old didn’t shy away from opening up about her past and her often difficult journey from teen mother to Grammy-winning artist.
“I was 17 when I became pregnant with my son Julez. At 18, he was a newborn and we were living in Moscow, Idaho, supporting his father’s [Daniel Smith Jr.] dreams of playing football and getting an education,” she explained. “My dreams were to write music and create work that could express the inner workings of my soul.”
Given her own trajectory, it makes sense that Solange would be co-sponsoring this trip that allows African American youth to be exposed to such an important cultural experience. In fact, PRH holds a special place in the Houston native’s heart as she spent her childhood performing at the organization’s block parties.
This is the true definition of paying it forward.