Whitney Houston, one of the greatest female singers of all time, died Saturday at the age of 48. The cause of death is still unknown. In a life marked by the highest highs (six Grammys, 22 American Music awards) and the lowest lows (drug abuse, a rocky marriage) one aspect of her life never wavered: her dedication to charity work.
While we all mourn her loss, we’d like to take a moment to reflect on the ways she made an impact on the world around her.
Her dedication to social justice first came to light before her powerful voice made her a star. During her early days as a model, she refused to participate with agencies that worked in South Africa, because she was opposed to the apartheid. Years later, she furthered her anti-apartheid agenda when she performed at Nelson Mandela’s 70th Birthday Concert in London, an event that eventually led to his release, and consequently, the end of South Africa’s segregation.
As her music career soared, so did her efforts to aid the less fortunate. She was dedicated to helping children, and in 1989 created the Whitney Houston Foundation for Children, a non-profit that helped kids with cancer and AIDS, and also taught self-empowerment. According to a profile of the singer by Oprah Winfrey, the Foundation was very successful throughout the 90s: “In June 1995, the foundation was awarded a VH1 Honor for its charitable work. Funds have been raised for numerous causes involving children around the world, from South Africa to Newark.”
Houston didn’t limit her charity to her own foundation; she was very active with other non-profits as well. She worked with the United Negro College Fund, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, the Children’s Diabetes Foundation, and more. Her performance of the “Star-Spangled Banner” became a bona fide chart-topper in 1991, and she donated her royalties to the Red Cross. And according to Look To The Stars, in 1997, “the HBO Concert ‘Classic Whitney live from Washington DC’ raised over $300,000 for the Children’s Defense Fund.”
Although Houston’s personal struggles eventually overshadowed her career, her amazing talent and dedication to helping others will never be forgotten. It will live on through her voice, and through all the people whose lives she touched.