Erykah Badu recently spent considerable time with high-school students in New Jersey as part of the Future Project, a multi-tiered and all-encompassing education-focused program deeply rooted in the notion that young minds need to be cultivated and encouraged both inside and outside of the classroom. Through the use of Dream Directors – individuals who provide coaching and training – the Future Project is utilizing the influence and perspective of successful folks within schools, where so much of our future is determined. The Newark, New Jersey chapter of the Project invited Badu to visit the schools as an Honorary Dream Director, and the eva-cleva Ms. Badu took full advantage of the opportunity by not only staging a surprise lunchroom performance, but also by sharing some inspiring and personal thoughts with young minds. And it shouldn’t be a surprise to her fans. Back in 1997 she let us know “I have some food for thought and since knowledge is infinite, it has infinitely fell on me” (“Appletree“).
As part of her appearances, Future Project leaders including SupaNova Slom and Zaki Smith asked Ms. Badu to envision the school of her dreams, a place where the aspirations of boys and girls could become the realities for men and women. Badu’s insight into education is valuable not only because she’s raising children and students of her own, but also because she began her career as an educator in Dallas, where she taught everything from dance to science. She may have left academia to pursue music in a professional sense, but that knowledge and desire to keep young minds engaged has never strayed, evidenced by her description of her dream school. “I really want to teach about relationships because that’s what pushes us in our world,” she says. Never the one to conform to societal norms, her progressive views on what schooling should entail include nutrition, a subject she says should be mandatory. When it comes to the tried-and-true subject of gym, she manages to put her own twist on it, saying that students should do push-ups “to African drumming.” The goal, ultimately, is to do “whatever it is to get you going to make you a better person and not steal money out of my purse,” she says. The best part? School would only be four days a week.
Studying at the Erykah Badu School for the Spirit & Soul may seem like a far-off notion, but reevaluating the current educational system is not a new concept, even within Hip-Hop. Just last month, Puff Daddy launched a charter school in his native Harlem, where sixth and seventh graders who otherwise may not have access to a quality education in what is undoubtedly an underserved community in New York City will now be afforded opportunities to thrive. And while Ms. Badu’s school is just a dream for now, so was her music career. And we all know what she’s been able to accomplish with that dream.