Queen Latifah Receives W.E.B. Dubois Black Culture Medal

Queen Latifah received Harvard University’s black culture award for her contributions to black history and culture throughout her career

Legendary rapper, actress, songwriter, producer, and philanthropist Queen Latifah was honored yesterday, Tuesday October 22nd 2019, at Harvard University with the W.E.B. Dubois Medal for her contribution to black history and black culture. Born Dana Owens, Queen Latifah has been in the spotlight since 1989 when she released her first album All Hail The Queen, under Tommy Boy Records. Being one of the first mainstream female rappers Latifah had a monumental amount of pressure on her shoulders but she persevered and from the start of her career has had the same empowering message, spreading equality and love. Latifah decided to step it up after her first album and in 1991 dropped her second and final album under Tommy Boy Records titled Nature Of A Sista’, she also helped produce that entire album. 

1993 was the year that Queen Latifah really shined. She signed on to star in the hit FOX sitcom Living Single, which was on from 1993 to 1998. During that same year that she signed up for the show, she released her third album titled Black Reign, which is to this date her most successful album, partially due to the success of a particular single “U.N.I.T.Y.” The song was featured in Living Single and ended up winning a Grammy Award. It became one of the original feminist rap anthems and has had an ever lasting impact in the hip hop industry for blatently speaking out against disrespect to woman, harrassment, domestic abuse, and sexism in the industy. This jump started a whole career of success and speaking out against injustice for Latifah. She was now a well known sitcom actress, and her definitely strong themed music made her a powerhouse in the industry.

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“No one has had the opinions that I’ve had and made the music that I’ve made. I think there are a lot of thirty-somethings out there who just want good quality hip-hop.”

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In 1998 she released her fourth studio album Order In The Court, but it was her 2002 role in Chicago that helped Latifah gain major mainstream success. She received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for the film, and ever since the success kept coming. Since then Queen Latifah has dropped three more albums, the most recent in 2009, and starred in countless movies and television shows, including her own talk show which was on for four years. Her media success has gained her a Grammy, Emmy, Golden Globe, Academy Award, and sales of over 2 million records, and now she’ll be adding the W.E.B. Duboios medal to her collection. 

Her music already branded Latifah as a pioneer for feminism in the hip hop industry and music industry in general. Her last two albums featured more notes of jazz and soul, giving her discography a wide diversity of sound. She first got media attention for her philanthropic work during the 2008 election season. When she was touring for her Trav’lin Light album, she teamed up with Lifetime television to give women of all kinds the opportunity to speak up about issues in our country that they wanted resolved. Latifah had many video booths set up during her tour in which women would have to go in and complete the sentence “If I were president I would…” 

“Giving, to me, starts in your heart and then it extends to your purse and your wallet. To me, when I give, I feel so good. I feel so good. I know I made a difference in someone’s life, even if they haven’t met me. It’s an opportunity to bless someone else.”.”

She has worked with over a dozen charities throughout the years, all of which worked to help different minorities find their voice and achieve their dreams. Some of the organizations included The Trevor Project, Girl Up, Save The Music Foundation, Meals on Wheels, The Boys and Girls Club of America, and many more. Latifah has always been passionate about using her platform to give onto others what she has received. She also helps run her family’s Lancelot H. Owens Scholarship Foundation, according to Philanthropy.com, which was started in memory of her older brother, who died in a motorcycle accident in 1992. The foundation, which is Jersey based, gives college scholarships to students from minority high schools.

Latifah has worked tirelessly to help with AIDS relief, fund cancer research and resources for multiple children’s hospitals, and was one of the first public figures to speak up and ask the world for help with Haiti relief efforts, after they were devastated by the 2010 earthquake. Now, her work has shifted the way we all see Latifah. She may have begun her career as a rapper/songwriter/actress, but now she’s viewed as a philanthropist first, which is why she was honored at Harvard this week. According to the Associative Press, Medal is “named after Du Bois, a scholar, writer, editor, and civil rights pioneer who became the first black student to earn a doctorate from Harvard in 1895.” The medal is given every year to a select few prominent black figures in our culture that are consistently and selflessly contributing to society, and specifically black culture and history. Latifah has been awarded many times in her career, but this one is definitely the most deserved, we all could learn something from the selfless acts that Latifah used her platform to accomplish.

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