St. Louis rapper Nelly has been putting his celebrity to great use behind the scenes in Ferguson.

Nelly spoke last year about moving forward with plans to establish a scholarship program in honor of 18-year-old Mike Brown, who was unlawfully gunned down by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson while unarmed in August of 2014, and now his plans are being put into action. Hello Beautiful recently caught up with Nelly just after the 1-year anniversary of Mike Brown’s death early last month to talk about how the scholarship program came to life, the backlash he’s received for “not doing enough,” and the impact he hopes it will have on the community.

“I try to do it through education because that’s the only way we’re going to get it. The only way we’re going to get this is to elevate.  We have to get the kids to go out of these communities. Graduate. Get the knowledge. Come back to the community, and then they can run it because they understand the people and understand the severity of the situation.”

“It’s not about the hoo-ha.  It’s about the silent assassins. It’s the ones that move behind the scenes that get things done. The guy that’s screaming on television, he’s the diversion. I’m not a diversion. I’m going to get it done.”

Mike Brown’s parents are also involved in the selection process of each scholarship recipient and in addition to Nelly’s financial backing, other celebrities including T.I. and Kevin Hart have also donated.

Black celebrities (musicians in particular) have long been criticized for their lack of public support for the Black Lives Matter movement and other social issues affecting the Black community, so while Nelly is absolutely correct that the focus should be more on the cause than the person pushing the cause, it’s great to see him publicly speaking out to let people known what he’s doing to use his platform as a vehicle for good.

Photo Credit: Getty

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  • Me

    Would be nice if he went back to school & led by example, but money’s cool too.

  • [email protected]

    Any movement for change needs diverse people. So, people need to shout, some people can work behind the scenes, and other people can work in other ways in order to effect social change. Social change is done in a comprehensive way. Historically, rebellion against oppression (not just work from people behind the scenes) have gotten things done. Laws must change, structural injustices must end, and a radical redistribution of economic and political power is in order. Education is very important. Education is part of our culture as black people. Scholarships sent to people to help human beings to have a strong education is fine. Also, we must reiterate that our communities need more engineers, lawyers, doctors, etc. so we can develop our power and infrastructure into the next level. We are black people and it is in our historical legacy to advance engineering, science, agriculture, and other forms of technology. Not to mention that we need policies to address poverty and income inequality (which is one of the most important issues of the 21st century). Mike Brown’s parents having their blessings and input on this program is so inspiring.

  • Natasha Peacock

    It would be nice if he could take some of those donations and invest it so that it builds up to a substantial amount over time and can fund more than one student.