Singer’s concert at Agape will benefit Carl Anderson Scholarship Fund and her foundation
Back in 2004, a young Jewish boy named Andrew who loved Chaka Khan got on the stage at a Cure Autism Now (CAN) Foundation event at Dodger Stadium and sang with his idol.
As Chaka Khan recalls, ‘ … and honey, he sang, too!’
What makes this unusual is that Andrew is autistic.
So is Chaka’s 6’ 3”, reddish-blond haired, 13-year-old nephew. He, along with all other autistic children and youth, is the reason she established The Chaka Khan Foundation, dedicated to helping women and children at risk.
On Sat., March 17, at 8 p.m., the Agape International Spiritual Center in Culver City presents “An Intimate Evening with Chaka Khan,” a concert to benefit her foundation as well as the center’s Carl Anderson Scholarship Fund. The exclusive benefit performance features Khan and her band singing hits from her extensive songbook of recordings — from her earliest days with Rufus to songs that established her solo career.
A 10-time Grammy Award winner, Khan’s incredible career spans three decades and includes 23 recorded albums, 20 Top Ten singles and 10 #1 singles. Last May, she received the 2440th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her stellar career.
In a recent phone interview, Khan, her two grandchildren and her nephew had just returned from a massage at her home. So the Queen of Funk was as you’d imagined she’d be: down-to-earth, funny — and, of course, relaxed.
LAS: Your nephew’s condition — I’m sure it’s touched you personally but has it in any way affected your music?
CK: Yes, profoundly, in that I have become more introspective … because he lives in his own place, ya dig? … We were highly communicative the first three years of his life … He used big words … He was my favorite nephew — he still is. We were on the road to a beautiful deep relationship … And we still have that. But not in the way that I thought it would come …
But I’ve written lyrics like—there’s one song I started writing—I haven’t finished it yet—I just really wanna get the essence of him … ‘Will you see me? … and will you understand?’ .. . Those are two of the lyrics in it … ‘Will you talk to me? … and will I know what you’re saying? … ‘cause you see I live in this other place, and yes, I see your face …’
JC: Does he realize who you are? Does he call you Auntie Chaka?
CK: Yes, he calls me Auntie Chaka — when he’s talking … And sometimes he doesn’t need to be prompted. He’ll just come and say (she imitates his voice): ‘I love you!’ And he’s not very physical — unless you wanna wrestle with him — then he gets physical! … And he’s going through puberty right now … and he’s like, 6’3” – a beautiful boy, a beauty … So now we’re working on his social skills … We just have to think of clever ways to deal with him and have him interact with the world.
JC: So he’s your focus for this fundraiser?
CK: Well, he is the reason but all of these children [are.] Whenever we do a 5K walk or something like that and there’s nothing but autistic children looking back at me? They look like otherworldly beings … in an angelic way … Their eyes have a look that’s just awe-inspiring and beautiful …
The singer’s foundation educates, inspires and empowers children who are at risk to reach their fullest potential. It supports the Autism Initiative, which provides resources for low-income families facing autism. The foundation has raised more than $1 million for autism.
The other beneficiary of the singer’s talents is Agape’s Carl Anderson Scholarship Fund. Anderson is probably best known for his portrayal of Judas Iscariot in “Jesus Christ Superstar,” both on Broadway and in the movie. His role as the preacher in “The Color Purple,” his Emmy for “Onstage LA” and performances with a host of outstanding artists, including Nancy Wilson at Carnegie Hall, are also highlights in the life of this creative genius, who died in 2004.
Founded in that year, the Scholarship Fund was established originally to support students pursuing their dreams in the arts including acting, singing, dancing, composing, visual arts and writing. The Fund now assists students seeking higher education in every field of study. In 2012, the fund’s goal is to award 50 scholarships.
Khan, who knew Anderson, “loved him very, very, very much.” She met him, she said, “over at the Celebrity Center. I think I met him before that but we got tight over at the Celebrity Center.
LAS: ‘Celebrity center,’ as in the Scientology Center?
JC: Did you ever sing with him?
CK: I think Carl and I did sing together — live — we never did any recording.
JC: If you could sing with him now, what would you sing?
CK: I’m sure we’d be into some healing songs, healing mother Earth, healing people … It’s about healing people — spiritual healing. That’s what’s very much needed right now.
Dr. Rickie Byars Beckwith, director of the Agape International Spiritual Center Music and Arts Ministry, said, “Carl was always encouraging toward higher heights in the arts. The scholarship established in his name gives us a way to celebrate a beautiful and magnificent life and help keep the name of Carl Anderson alive in the hearts of those who loved him. Since 2004, The Carl Anderson Scholarship Fund has awarded more than $96,000 to 56 deserving students.”
The event, billed as an “intimate evening” with Khan, will feature performance with her band: “We’re raising funds for the two foundations. We’re now doing an educational initiative for children. We’re getting tutoring for children three times a week at [U]SC. And the students there tutor my children. There are about 35 of them. And then, of course, the Agape Youth Ministry. And we try to raise money to give at least 25 students scholarships.
Of Khan, who attends Agape, the Rev. Dr. Michael Bernard Beckwith, its founder and spiritual director, said: “Chaka Khan is such a remarkably gifted and talented individual musically. But more importantly, she is committed to using her extraordinary gifts to help improve the lives of others. We are honored to collaborate with her to raise funds for these great causes.”
“We look forward to a wonderful musical experience,” Rev. Beckwith added.
Agape’s artist-in-residence, Cedric Leonardi, will lead a youth drumming collaboration, spotlighting students from Washington Preparatory (under the auspices of the Chaka Khan Foundation) and Agape. The former Gipsy Kings drummer and his corps will open the show for Chaka Khan, with rhythms from Africa and Brazil. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the students to showcase their skills gained in the six-week program.
VIP tickets are $250 and include an up close and personal meet-and-greet with Chaka Khan and Rev. Beckwith. Priority seating is available for $100. General admission tickets are $50 in advance and $60 on Mar. 17.
For more information, visit www.agapelive.com or www.chakakhanfoundation.org or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Agape International Spiritual Center is located at 5700 Buckingham Parkway at Slauson Avenue in Culver City, CA 90230.