Usher Terry Raymond IV, better known as simply Usher, is a world-famous singer and songwriter from the United States. Although born and raised in the American South, he has roots that trace to the Creole Culture of Haiti. This piece explores the life of one of the Creole world’s most famous sons, including his charitable acts in various Creole communities.
The entertainment scene in the United States is full of celebrities with extremely high profiles in the public eye, but few of them can claim the level of attention and superstardom of Usher Raymond IV. Known more commonly by his first name alone, Usher’s career has spanned more than two decades and taken him from his local choir onto the global stage.
As a singer, songwriter, producer, actor, and philanthropist, Usher has used the bright spotlight that shines on him to not only build an incredible fortune, but also give back to the world in a number of ways. When it comes to philanthropy, Usher’s focus never seems to narrow down to one region or location, but rather is always in search of a group, neighborhood, or region in need of help regardless of geography.
He was born Usher Terry Raymond IV on 14 October 1978 in Dallas, Texas to Jonetta Patton (O’Neal) and Usher Terry Raymond III. His mother is of African-American heritage while his father claims both African-American and Haitian heritage. Although his father left the family when Usher was very young, he identifies with both his mother’s African-American heritage and his father’s Haitian-creole heritage.
The Raymond family did not call Dallas home for very long as his mother moved the family to Chattanooga, Tennessee when Usher was very young. It was here in Tennessee that he would begin to express his interest in music and put his vocal talents on display as a member of the local church youth choir.
With both his mother and grandmother recognizing his talent and believing he had what it takes to become a professional, Usher’s family moved to Atlanta, Georgia before his teen years. As a young child and teenager, Usher remained remarkably grounded while pursuing a musical career in Atlanta, Usher attended and eventually graduated from North Springs High School.
Usher’s professional music career began at the age of 11 when he joined a local R&B group in Atlanta called NuBeginnings. With the group he would record 10 songs for an album that was released in 1991. By the age of 13 Usher found himself on the talent show Star Search, a competition that landed him a contr act with LaFace records. By the time he reached his late teen years, Usher was rubbing elbows with the likes of Sean “P Diddy” Combs, Jermaine Dupri, and saw his music appearing on the Billboard charts for R&B and Hip-Hop albums.
Beginning in 1997 his car eer skyrocketed. In addition to a musical career that continued to blossom with gold and platinum-certified records in the U.S., and chart topping singles, Usher was beginning to break into the field of acting. He had a recurring role on the former UPN television series Moesha, and fr om there went on to play a role or star in feature films such as The Faculty, She’s All That, and Light it Up.
As grounded and mature as Usher appeared in completing his high school studies while also
pursing his musical career, he would prove during his 20s and 30s that he knew how to tr ansform his talent, wealth, and star power into forces for change and good in the w orld. In 1999 he would begin what proved to be just one of many philanthropic and charitable endeavours with the formation of his New Look Foundation.
Using Fame to Give Back
Usher has given back both inside and outside the music community that helped make him famous.
He founded US Records in 2002 as a subsidiary of Cliv e Davis’s J Records and distributes records under the Sony BMG label. Usher’s r ecord label has worked with artists such as Rico Love, Rayan, the group One Chance, and Justin Bieber.
Other business ventures for Usher include a number of restaurants and even a partial ownership stake in the Cleveland Cavalier franchise in the NBA. However, Usher’s most important endeavours outside of music are undoubtedly his charitable ventures.
His New Look Foundation is a non-profit charity that seeks to assist young children by “providing them with a new look on life courtesy of education and real-world experience”. It was through this charitable work that he would eventually reach out to the creole world that his father’s family comes from.
The first charitable act of the New Look Foundation to impact the creole world came in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. A devastated city of New Orleans was in need of help and Usher’s foundation was there. Through a special initiative known as Our Block, New Look helped residents of New Orleans rebuild and revitalize their neighbourhoods one block at a time. After the devastating January 2010 earthquake that struck Haiti, Usher was vocal in his support of Haiti and mobilized his New Look Foundation to assist the United Nations in its relief efforts. The 7.0-magintude earthquake was the most severe to strike the island nation in 200 years and left upward of 85,000 people dead and millions homeless.
Usher teamed up with the UN in asking for everyone around the globe, youth included, to chip in and help raise awareness of the support needed for relief efforts in Haiti. Not only did Usher serve as a prominent advocate of his father’s Creole homeland, he also used it as an opportunity to teach youth about giving back. In a statement made through the UN at the time, Usher said “disaster relief is an effort that can be ‘Powered By Service’ and young people can be key players in the effort. I’m challenging youth around the world to prove they have the power to have an impact on a humanitarian crisis. I know that young people have the talent, creativity and energy to assist in
supporting Haiti’s needs”.
Although he has never been to Haiti, Usher does not shy away from his creole heritage. He is one of many, famous and not-so-famous, creole artists making an impact on the world through entertainment and charity. W ith 23 million record copies sold in the United States alone and a
place among the best-selling artists of all-time,
Usher proves that wealth and philanthropy are not exclusive, but rather can go hand-in-hand.