‘Tis the season to give, and Jill Scott knows a thing or two about lending a helping hand. The Grammy-winning songbird is opening her heart to the children of North Philadelphia by offering an “opportunity to see beyond the corners of their block.” The profound singer, poet and actress is hosting her second annual Blues Babe Foundation this weekend. Jilly from Philly spoke with ESSENCE.com about why she is urging everyone to improve their neighborhood, and how you can give back with Blues Babe… ESSENCE.com: How and why did you come up with Blues Babe? JILL SCOTT: I’m from north Philadelphia. My grandmother’s name is Blue and I’m her babe! I was always told to be mindful of where you come from and to give. There is no receiving without giving and there is no giving without receiving. You hear bad things about north Philadelphia. People would always be interested in me or think I was cool until they found out where I came from. Once they found out, their energy and attitude changed. And I never liked that. So I decided that I would create a foundation that would direct its energy in north Philly, where community centers were closing. What’s a community without a community center? There were elementary schools without libraries and libraries without computers. And I thought I can do something about this. ESSENCE.com: You could have focused on HIV or women’s issues. Why this particular mission? SCOTT: It’s an opportunity to see outside the corners of your block. We can push education but without the desire to want to do more, see more and experience more it’s not going to happen. Not everybody is dedicated to school. But when you give people a chance to go outside of their neighborhood for a week or summer, it gives them a chance to be around peace. There’s no gunshots for nine hours, there’s no drug dealers, there’s no arguments or crazy behavior. You get to meet educators, financiers and dancers. People with all kinds of jobs get to show the kids something different. ESSENCE.com: What was the spark that jumpstarted the organization? SCOTT: I wish it was something in particular. It’s that I travel around the world and come back and go to north Philly to see how everybody is doing. To see what’s different, what’s open, what’s closed, you know, talk to my neighbors. I would watch the news and see so many people getting shot on daily basis like it was nothing. It was frustrating to me. I thought, ‘if my mother hadn’t taken me to libraries, art museums and dance recitals, I could end up in a lot of trouble and I wouldn’t be where I am today. I just want to offer my kids something. I’m going to take care of my hood and you take care of yours! ESSENCE.com: There will be a lot of people that will want to participate in Blue Babes after reading this. How can we get involved? SCOTT: You can contact Blues Babe Foundation and you can donate time and you can donate money. The money is to buy books and to send our kids to camp. The camp is free, you just have to sign up. You just have to be from the hood, from the north side of Philly. I’d love to get into some sort of competition where doctors, lawyers, artists from Philly compete to have the best camp, have the best library, the best community center…I’d love to be a part of that. We all need to do something in our own neighborhood. ESSENCE.com: What goal are you looking to obtain with this weekend’s fundraiser? SCOTT: I’d like to raise some money! I’d love to increase our camp size, I’d like it to be longer than a week and have it become overnight. So the kids can really have a vacation, as well as the parents. That would be incredible. I’ll like to see Pierce elementary school’s library open on a consistent basis. I’d like to continue to help the young people dedicated to education and help them get their books, and maybe pay some dorm fees. We can’t do everything but we can do what we can. I wish I could give someone a free ride but I want them to work for it. So it’s earned and deserved and appreciated. ESSENCE.com: What does giving back mean to you and what ways has this foundation resonated with you on a personal level? SCOTT: This is what happened for me. I grew up on 23rd and Ely Avenue. In a summer, most of the guys I knew, the ones I considered to be friends were all dead from a stray bullet or some bullet that was meant for them. If you allow children the opportunity to see different things it puts a desire in their heart. Maybe not all of them but some of them. It helps them create their own ethic. Nobody gave me a free education but I did have a person or two that would buy a book for me, or help me get through the semester or to buy a bus pass. The rest was up to me. I feel that way about their children. They need to have their own work ethic and hustle in their heart. I hope we can do some fun things for these kids. Their faces so say much! Their wonder little energies and little spirits just waiting for a chance to be seen. It’s a great sound to hear all of these kids laughing, screaming, and jumping. It’s the best part of my year. I feel blessed to be able to do something and be able to affect them. Click here to learn more about Jill Scott’s Blues Babe Foundation.
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