Donda C. West (née Williams; July 12, 1949 – November 10, 2007) was an American educator and chair of Chicago State University's Department of English, Communications, Media, and Theater. She was best known for being the mother of the American rapper Kanye West.

Donda West
West in August 2007
Born
Donda C. Williams

(1949-07-12)July 12, 1949
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, U.S.
DiedNovember 10, 2007(2007-11-10) (aged 58)
Playa del Rey, California, U.S.
Alma mater
Occupations
  • Educator
  • author
Spouse
Ray West
(m. 1973; div. 1980)
ChildrenKanye West

Early life and career edit

West was raised in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the daughter of Lucille (née Eckles)[1] and Portwood Williams Sr., a civil rights activist.[2][3][4] She attended Douglass High School, graduating in 1967.[5][6] She earned her bachelor's degree in English from Virginia Union University in 1971 and her doctoral degree from Auburn University in 1980.[7] On August 19, 1958, she and her father took part in the Katz Drug Store sit-in in Oklahoma City.[8]

She began her teaching career in the early 1970s at Morris Brown College in Atlanta and began working at Chicago State University in 1980. West taught English at Nanjing University for a year as a scholar through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program. In all, West spent 27 years at Chicago State, in head of the department of English, communications, media and theater. A statement from the university recalled West's role in establishing the university's Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing "as an academic focus to teach writings of African-American authors and poets while fostering new literary talent."[9]

West raised Kanye in the Chicago area along with her husband, Ray, from whom she separated when Kanye was 3.[10] She retired in 2004 and moved to California to work full-time for her son. She was often seen at his side at parties and award shows. She was also a firm defender of her son's controversial comments. West stated that she "trained her son for greatness." "There is no room for shyness. I raised him that way, to think critically and analytically and not be afraid to voice what you feel. I helped shape that. I think leaders are people who must do that."[11] She was also chief executive of West Brands, the parent company of her son's businesses.[12]

West, tasked with a mission to battle dropout and illiteracy rates, while partnering with community organizations to provide underprivileged youth access to music education.[13] The Foundation's first initiative, Loop Dreams, challenged at-risk students to learn how to write and produce music while simultaneously improving their academic skills. In 2007, the foundation partnered with Strong American Schools as part of their "Ed in '08" campaign.[14][15] In 2008, the foundation was renamed to the Dr. Donda West Foundation following her death.[16] The Dr. Donda West Foundation was committed to providing high-quality programs in partnership with community organizations such as Challengers Boys & Girls Club in South Central Los Angeles, California. The foundation ceased operations in 2011.[17]

Personal life edit

In 1973, Donda married photographer Ray West. They welcomed their son Kanye in 1977. The pair divorced in 1980.[18]

Death edit

On November 10, 2007, Donda West died at age 58.[19] In January 2008, the Los Angeles County coroner's office said that she had died of coronary artery disease and multiple post-operative factors from cosmetic surgery.[20] Authorities in Los Angeles launched an investigation into her death after learning the doctor who operated on her, Jan Adams, had convictions for alcohol-related offenses and at least two major malpractice settlements.[21]

Kanye played his first concert following her funeral at the O2 Arena in London on November 22. He dedicated a performance of "Hey Mama," as well as a cover of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'," to his mother, and did so on all other dates of his Glow in the Dark Tour.[22]

Legacy edit

California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger subsequently signed the "Donda West Law" in 2009. This legislation makes it mandatory for patients to receive medical clearance through a physical examination before undergoing elective cosmetic surgery.[23]

West's memoir, Raising Kanye: Life Lessons from the Mother of a Hip-Hop Star, was published in 2009.[24] West wrote in her book that she always wanted her son to go to college, but after witnessing his passion for hip hop and his talent producing beats, she later supported his decision to pursue music.[25]

Kanye's writing partner and friend, Rhymefest, lamented West's death in an appearance on Chicago radio station WCGI. "She was everyone's mom," Rhymefest said. "A spirit never dies, a spirit lasts forever."[26] Kanye and Rhymefest founded the non-profit Donda's House in 2013, a free music writing program with the goal of helping at-risk Chicago youth. It is aimed at students between 15 and 24, and includes lessons on how to write and record music. Their curriculum is based on the teaching philosophy and pedagogy of West with a focus on collaborative and experiential learning.[27] Born Che Smith, Rhymefest grew up in Chicago, with Donda mentoring him as an educator.[28] Donda's House was renamed Art of Culture, Incorporated after a contentious split between Rhymefest and Kanye.[29]

In 2019, Garrard McClendon published Donda's Rules: The Scholarly Works of Dr. Donda West – Mother of Kanye West.[30] McClendon is an associate professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Chicago State University. In 2013, McClendon enlisted the students in his Philosophy of Education classes to help him mine various archives for Donda West's full body of work: "The students did a wonderful job helping me find all of this archival material. We're talking her scholarly works, her dissertation, her master's thesis. We found personal notes of hers, poems of hers, hundreds of hours of her audio speeches. So in those six years, we're compiling, we're editing, and having conference calls with Kanye," McClendon recounted.[31]

Mahalia Ann Hines, Common's mother, said, "Donda was beautiful. She was intelligent, patient, and generous. Her words were written with power and this book proves it."[32] Brenda M. Greene, professor and mother of recording artist Talib Kweli, said, "Donda and I were kindred spirits as sisters in the network of hip-hop mothers. She was an unsung leader who infused culture and 'knowledge of self' into the curriculum. Donda loved her students."[33]

In popular culture edit

She is the subject of Kanye's song "Hey Mama", which appeared on his 2005 album Late Registration. On "Touch the Sky" from the same album, Kanye thanks his mom for always supporting him during the lean times, especially when she drove him to New York from Chicago in a rented U-Haul van.

On January 5, 2012, Kanye announced his establishment of the creative content company DONDA, named after his mother.[34]

Kanye also named his tenth studio album, released in 2021, Donda, after his mother.[35] Kanye donated student tickets to Chicago State University for the listening session of the album.[36]

On February 23, 2022, Kanye released Donda 2, his first sequel album to Donda.[37] Later that year, Ye launched a marketing agency and clothing line named DONDA Sports.[38] He also opened Donda Academy, a pre-kindergarten to Grade 12 Christian private school, in Simi Valley, California.[39] The school's basketball team, the Donda Doves, includes top prospects from across the United States.[40]

References edit

  1. ^ "North West Only Knew One of Her Great-Grandparents - They All Followed Different Life Paths". Amomama. September 29, 2022.
  2. ^ "Rapper, mom shared strong ties". The Oklahoman. Retrieved November 8, 2014.
  3. ^ "Jeen-Yuhs Gets to the Root of Donda West's Influence on Kanye's Life". Time. February 9, 2022. Retrieved May 2, 2022.
  4. ^ "DONDA WEST OBITUARY". Legacy.
  5. ^ staff, Gazette. "Rapper's Oklahoma City native mother laid to rest". Oklahoma Gazette. Retrieved January 9, 2023.
  6. ^ Griffin, David. "Private Services Set For Rap Star's Mom". www.newson6.com. Retrieved January 9, 2023.
  7. ^ "Donda C. West". The Oklahoman. November 18, 2007. Archived from the original on August 23, 2021. Retrieved September 29, 2021.
  8. ^ "Rap Star's Mom Left a Legacy". The Oklahoman. November 20, 2007. Archived from the original on December 10, 2021. Retrieved October 1, 2021.
  9. ^ Tribune, Chicago (November 17, 2007). "West remembered as passionate teacher". chicagotribune.com. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  10. ^ "Kanye's mother dies after surgery". BBC News.
  11. ^ "Dr. Donda West tells how she shaped son to be a leader in 'Raising Kanye' Jet – Find Articles". November 13, 2007. Archived from the original on November 13, 2007. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  12. ^ Reid, Shaheem. "Donda West, Noted Scholar And Kanye's Mother, Dies At 58". MTV News. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  13. ^ "Dr. Donda West Foundation". August 6, 2008. Archived from the original on August 6, 2008. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  14. ^ Herszenhorn, David M. (April 25, 2007). "Billionaires Start $60 Million Schools Effort". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  15. ^ Strom, Stephanie (April 19, 2011). "Kanye West's Charity Closes". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  16. ^ "Dr. Donda West Foundation: Celebrity Supporters". Look to the Stars. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  17. ^ Strom, Stephanie (April 19, 2011). "Kanye West's Charity Closes". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  18. ^ "Jeen-Yuhs Gets to the Root of Donda West's Influence on Kanye's Life". Time. February 9, 2022. Retrieved May 2, 2022.
  19. ^ "Donda West Died of Heart Disease after Surgery". PEOPLE.com. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  20. ^ Archive-Kurt-Orzeck. "Donda West, Kanye's Mother, Died Of Heart Attack: Coroner's Report". MTV News. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  21. ^ "Chicago State U. honors Donda West". UPI. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  22. ^ "Usmagazine.com | VIDEO: Kanye West Dedicates Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" to His Mom". April 27, 2008. Archived from the original on April 27, 2008. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  23. ^ Kaufman, Gil. "Arnold Schwarzenegger Signs Donda West Plastic Surgery Law". MTV News. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  24. ^ "Raising Kanye: Life Lessons from the Mother of a Hip-Hop Superstar | IndieBound.org". www.indiebound.org. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  25. ^ CHIEF, NANCY DILLONDAILY NEWS COAST BUREAU (November 14, 2007). "Donda West gave her all to enrich son Kanye West's life". nydailynews.com. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  26. ^ "Donda West, 58; mom of hip-hop star Kanye". Los Angeles Times.
  27. ^ "Kanye West's Donda's House Launches Free Music Writing Program for Chicago Youth". Pitchfork. July 28, 2013. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  28. ^ Garcia, John (June 5, 2018). "Donda's House, charity named for Kanye West's mother, renamed after social media spat". ABC7 Chicago. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  29. ^ WLS (May 27, 2018). "Kim Kardashian West clashes with Donda's House co-founder Rhymefest; charity named for Kanye West's mother announces name change". ABC7 Chicago. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  30. ^ "Donda's Rules: The Scholarly Documents of Dr. Donda West (Mother of Kanye West) | IndieBound.org". www.indiebound.org. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  31. ^ Ihejirika, Maudlyne (July 28, 2021). "'Donda' album release: Kanye West taps late mother's Chicago State University ties to honor her". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  32. ^ "Kanye's mother, Donda West, is celebrated in new book". July 23, 2021.
  33. ^ "Mother of Kanye West Celebrated in New Book, Donda's Rules: The Scholarly Works of Dr. Donda West". AP NEWS. July 16, 2020. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  34. ^ "Kanye West Announces Creative Company DONDA". Complex. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  35. ^ Kreps, Daniel (August 29, 2021). "Kanye West Finally Releases 'Donda' to Streaming Services". Rolling Stone. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  36. ^ "Kanye West donates tickets for Donda listening session to CHICAGO STATE UNIVERSITY". WHATS THE WORD. Archived from the original on September 25, 2021. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  37. ^ Murphy, J. Kim (January 3, 2022). "Kanye West Begins Work on 'Donda 2,' His First Sequel Album". Variety. Retrieved January 3, 2022.
  38. ^ allisondegrushe (June 3, 2022). "Kanye "Ye" West Expands His $2 Billion Empire With Donda Sports". Distractify. Retrieved June 6, 2022.
  39. ^ "Donda Academy - Donda Academy". donda.org. January 25, 2022. Retrieved October 21, 2022.
  40. ^ Villa, Adan. "Donda Academy creates headlines in Chicago". Wildcat Chronicle. Retrieved October 21, 2022.