By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers
First it was R&B's Usher meeting with first lady Michelle Obama's team to push youth volunteerism. Now hip-hop king Russell Simmons and Hollywood philanthropist, punk producer, and film exec Daphna Ziman see Washington as their base to help kids. After shunning the city for years, the celebrity do-good industry is storming Washington, inspired by a domestic focus from the Obama White House. "We are fortunate, I think, that President Obama does see the need even more so than I think the previous administration," says Simmons.
Next week, it's Ziman's and Simmons's turn at bat as they pitch Tuesday's star-studded—Vivica Fox, David Archuleta, Eric Benet, Gabrielle Union—"Keeping the Promise to Our Children" conference, sponsored by her Children Uniting Nations and his Hip-Hop Summit Action Network. Actually, it's their fourth summit and builds on their success in getting Congress to pass mentoring legislation. This time, they want to address mental and family issues related to ADD and ADHD and push for schools and teachers to consider those needs in their education plans. And they're eager to explore ways to help kids hurt by the economic crash.
What's notable about this and other celeb-run events is the bipartisanship involved. Simmons, for example, is a friend of GOP boss Michael Steele—"my man"—who may attend Tuesday's conference. Says Ziman, "We've created a political Switzerland" on kids' issues. Adds Simmons, the media giant who also founded clothier Baby Phat, coined for the approving hip-hop term for hot: "People all feel inspired to join in. Sometimes you just need to get the ball rolling, and it snowballs."
Illustration by Ed Wexler for USN&WR
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