Hollywood, California, is touted as a place where dreams can come true. For decades, talented men and women have flocked to Southern California in hopes of becoming the next great actor or musician. The entertainment industry has churned out hundreds of millionaires over the years, and few are as remarkable as Jada Pinkett Smith. Like so many others, she came to Hollywood with dreams in her head and ambition in her heart.
Unlike so many of the cold, distant stars that Hollywood has turned out, Pinkett Smith is not afraid to give back to the world. Rather than keep her fortune for herself, she uses her stature and financial strength to help others across the United States and around the globe. Her charitable works are a story worth telling, better than any script Hollywood could write.
Jada Pinkett Smith was born to young parents in Baltimore, Maryland on September 18, 1971. Her parents, Adrienne Banfield and Robsol Pinkett Jr., were both in their late teens when she was born. She was raised by mother and grandmother until graduating from the Baltimore School for the Arts in 1989, eventually moving to Los Angeles to pursue her car eer in acting.
Pinkett Smith’s parents came from a very diverse background that includes West Indian, Creole, and Portuguese-Jewish heritage. According to an Ancestry.com investigation of historical U.S. census data, Pinkett Smith’s great-great grandfather Daniel Pinkett was recorded in the 1860 U.S. census as a “free black man” living in the United States. Her rich cultural heritage is reflected in a woman that today is strong and ambitious, yet laid back and relaxed at the same time.
It would be easy to zoom in on her bright career in Hollywood and allow it to take over this piece, but there is more to Jada Pinkett Smith than her career in Hollywood. She got her start in Hollywood on the small screen in 1990, appearing in a number of popular television shows such as True Colors, Doogie Howser M.D., and A Different World. Her big break in film came in the 1994 film A Low Down Dirty Shame.
From there Pinkett Smith would go on to eventually star in more than 20 films covering a variety of genres in the entertainment industry. In 1997 she married actor and rapper Will Smith. The two have been married since then and have two children of their own, as well as a step son from Smith’s first marriage. Together the couple has put their financial resources towards numerous charitable organizations aimed at supporting children and families.
Smith and Pinkett Smith first formed the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation in her hometown of Baltimore, Maryland. Headed by her aunt, Karen Banfield Evans, the charitable organization works to help youths in inner.
Over the years, the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation has been recognized for its efforts to help young people as well as their families. Other charitable works from the foundation and Pinkett Smith include:
- Personal donations to Capital K-9s
- $1 million donation to her alma-mater, the Baltimore School for the Arts
- Foundation co-hosted first annual “ButterfliesOver Hollywood” in 2007 to raise funds for the LupusFoundation of America.
As time wears on, Pinkett Smith’s desire to give back has not waned. More recently, she has taken up the fight against human trafficking in the United States and around the globe. In 2012 she helped launch a support organization for surviv ors of human trafficking entitled Don’t Sell Bodies. The group not only works to provide help and support for survivors, but does all it can to call attention to the problem.
Pinkett Smith works primarily as an advocate for the group. Don’t Sell Bodies is trying to garner attention for the cause of human trafficking that affects some 20 million people around the globe. The or ganization states that human trafficking is seen as “abducting, forcing, deceiving or recruiting someone into working against their will, most commonly for the purposes of sexual exploitation.”
As the champion of Don’t Sell Bodies, Pinkett Smith has appeared in online videos and testified in front of the United States Congress to raise awareness for the cause. Women and children feel the greatest impact of human trafficking. According to the group, anywhere between 700,000 and four million women and children will be sold into slavery this year.
When speaking bef ore the U.S. Congress in July 2012, Pinkett Smith emphasized that this fight needs more than just a celebrity champion; it needs effective legislation that will be forced at home and abroad. She was not shy in pointing out that everyone needs to take notice and fight to put an end to slavery of all kinds. This is an extract from her testimony in front of Congress:
“This old monster is still with us. This is an ugly, and too often invisible, problem. Fighting slavery doesn’t cost a lot of money. The costs of allowing it to exist in our nation and abroad are much higher. It robs us of the thing we value most — our freedom. We know what that freedom is worth.”
Pinkett Smith credits her daughter Willow with bringing the fight against human trafficking to her attention. It was her daughter who first showed her the YouTube video “Kony 2012” which documented the abuses of Joseph Kony. Kony, a Ugandan warlord, is infamous for abducting African children to sell into sexual slavery or to augment his forces as child soldiers.
Regardless of the cause, Jada Pinkett Smith appears to have a soft spot in her heart for giving back. The world could use more people with the combination of emotional depth and financial strength that Pinkett Smith (and her husband) possess. For well over a decade she has fought for youth and families, and now she appears poised to carry that fight through another decade to help bring an end to the atrocities of human trafficking that go unrecognized by much of the world.