They met last year on the set of the Oprah Winfrey show, the dapper Morgan State University educator and the angry rap artist whose lyrics echo with the sound of the street.
That meeting, between rapper Ice Cube and Morgan's Dr. Spencer Holland, helped fund a project that has touched the lives of dozens of young black boys in Baltimore's inner city. In the past year, the controversial singer-actor has funneled nearly $60,000 into Project 2000, an offshoot of Dr. Holland's Center for Educating African-American Males.
This past summer, that money funded a camp for some 50 boys from Robert W. Coleman Elementary School in West Baltimore, the second year in a row that Ice Cube has helped direct money to the camp.
The money itself comes from McKenzie River Corp., brewer of St. Ides malt liquor, a product pitched by Ice Cube in radio and television ads. Under an arrangement with McKenzie River, the singer helps decide who will receive corporate contributions.
In an interview with rap magazine The Source, the 23-year-old Ice Cube, whose real name is O'Shea Jackson, said that his relationship with the malt liquor manufacturer has paved the way for donations to the black community. "I'm . . . making them give money to where they wouldn't give it any other way," he said. "I think the St. Ides commercial is contributing more to things that we need to be focusing on."
young Since July 1991, Ice Cube and McKenzie River Corp. have directed a total of $59,251 to Project 2000.
Boys participating in that camp received math, reading and African-American cultural instruction each morning and activities NTC each afternoon. "He said he wanted to help," said Kevin Mercer, a coordinator with the Center for Educating African-American Males. "He funded the entire summer camp." Those contributions were welcomed with open arms, though Ice Cube himself has often sparked controversy for his inflammatory lyrics, and despite the fact that liquor advertising is itself a heated topic of debate in the black community.
As for whether Ice Cube himself is an appropriate role model for young boys, Mr. Mercer has mixed feelings. He noted that some of the singer's lyrics are disrespectful toward women, "something I wouldn't want any kid to look up to." On the other hand, he said, "what he has been doing for our organization is definitely commendable and we thank him."