Queen Latifah is the recipient of the 20th annual Marian Anderson Award. The rapper/actress/producer is the newest member of an esteemed group of philanthropic artists with ties to Philadelphia.
Founded in 1998, the Marian Anderson Award honors “critically acclaimed artists who have impacted society in a positive way,” whether it be through their own work or a charitable cause. Past recipients of the award include Dame Elizabeth Taylor, Oprah Winfrey, Bon Jovi, and Maya Angelou.
“We are pleased to honor Queen Latifah with the 2018 Marian Anderson Award,” Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement. “She has been a pioneer for women in the music, film and broader entertainment industry, and exemplifies Marian Anderson’s spirit and message of empowerment.”
Latifah is heavily involved with organizations championing women’s and LGBTQ rights, as well asincreased arts funding in public schools, recently partnering with the VH1 Save the Music Program. Every year, she serves as the cochair of the Lancelot H. Owens Scholarship Foundation, Inc., a foundation founded by Latifah’s mother, Rita Owens, in honor of Latifah’s brother. It gives scholarships to low income students.
The Marian Anderson Award is named in honor of celebrated contralto Marian Anderson. She grew up in South Philadelphia, the daughter of a coal seller and a schoolteacher, and began singing in the Union Baptist Church’s Junior Choir and later at South Philadelphia High School. She was denied entry at the then all-white Philadelphia Music Academy (now University of the Arts) on the basis of race, but was able to study under singer Mary Saunder Patterson, and later classical instructor Giuseppe Boghetti. Throughout her training, she was supported by her church, until Boghetti eventually waived his fees.
After Anderson was prevented from performing in a concert at Constitution Hall by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), Eleanor Roosevelt helped to organize an open-air concert for her at the Lincoln Memorial that drastically increased her audience. Anderson went on to become the first African-American woman to join the Met Opera Company, the nation’s foremost opera company. She later served as a delegate to the General Assembly of the United Nations and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.