Charlamagne Tha God, aka Lenard McKelvey, is a household name in the entertainment industry. Notorious for his distinct style on radio, Charlamagne’s show, “The Breakfast Club,” has risen to unassailable heights, earning a position in the Radio Hall of Fame in 2020. In September 2021, his new TV show, “Tha God’s Honest Truth,” premiered on Comedy Central, adding a new style and voice to late-night television.
However, the South Carolina native has not always been surrounded by the warm glow of success. His early years were spent amid drugs and poverty while facing multiple rejections. Adopting his on-screen moniker – Charlamagne Tha God – from his street name Charles, he entered a career in radio by landing an internship at radio station z93 Jamz, which served as a jumping-off point that eventually landed him on his legendary radio show.
A vital reason for Charlamagne’s success on radio and television is his ability to speak openly and honestly with some of the biggest names in America. It was his ability to interview Hillary Clinton right before the run-up to the elections, question Vice-President Kamala Harris about Senator Joe Manchin’s powerful role in Congress, and score the first interview with Travis Scott post-AstroWorld, that makes him one of the most influential voices in media today.
Highly influential, uniquely honest, and unapologetically Black, Charlamagne has worked diligently to create his empire of words. Over the years, however, we have witnessed an ever-so-subtle change in how we see Charlamagne. Since opening up about his life-long struggles with mental health, particularly in his New York Times bestseller Shook One: Anxiety Playing Tricks on Me, Charlamagne has doubled his focus on philanthropic efforts, focusing on the field of education and mental health awareness.
In the past, “The Breakfast Club” platform has been used regularly for various charitable efforts, but Charlamagne now intends to cast a wider net on spreading awareness and affecting change.
“The Breakfast Club” hosts a yearly #Change4Change fundraiser during its holiday season live broadcast. Some of the projects the fundraiser has helped support include a $200,000 benefit to Project 375, an organization spearheaded by NFL player, Brandon Marshall. The aim is to raise awareness regarding mental health issues while ending the stigma around seeking help and treatment.
Charlamagne recently launched the Mental Wealth Alliance (MWA). The MWA is a “forward-thinking foundation created to destigmatize, accelerate, and center state-of-the-art mental health outreach and care across the U.S. while building an unprecedented long-term system of generational support for Black communities.” The platform aims to have far-reaching consequences while raising $100 Million over the next five years. This will allow it to partner with other Black organizations and industry experts to help work on MWA’s three pillars:
- Train: prepare thousands of Black people to become research and clinical services providers in psychology, social work, and related fields through training and by establishing scholarship funds to provide training to increase the number of mental health care professionals from 4% to 14% to mirror the underserved population in need of culturally aligned mental health support.
- Teach: advocate for the implementation of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and Mental Health Literacy (MHL) in public K-12 education nationwide at federal, state, and local levels.
- Treat: support culturally competent organizations in providing free therapy to more than 10 million Black Americans within five years through the support of existing organizations and funding of the establishment of new organizations.
“A strange thing happens when you start to tell your story. It encourages other people to tell theirs, and slowly but surely the stigma around mental health in the Black community starts to dissipate because folks learn that it’s ok to not be ok and more importantly seek help for not being ok. It was never in my plans to become a mental health advocate, but after I started discussing my journey, writing about it in my second book, Shook One, talking about therapy, and sharing life experiences with listeners, a lot of people reached out to me. I want to be a part of providing that help. That’s why I created MWA,” Charlamagne told Bloomberg in a recent interview.
While Charlamagne has embraced the title of a mental health advocate, he has also regularly used his platform to promote Black empowerment and progress. He believes that one of the best ways to ensure progress for African-Americans is to encourage and help subsidize educational opportunities. It seems that Charlamagne gathers much inspiration from his youth when, at a crossroads in his life, he finally decided to attend night school and finish his high school diploma.
To this end, he also visited the South Carolina State University in 2021 and presented the historically Black college a check for $250,000. The money will be used to set up a scholarship fund, named after his mother, who is an alumnus of South Carolina State.
The scholarship is directed towards providing opportunities to African American women majoring in English or Communications, or anything related to mental health. “Always remember, investing in [historically Black colleges and universities] is investing in the future of our people,” Charlamagne wrote about his donation on Instagram.
“With this effort, Charlamagne Tha God is linking his passion with his philanthropy and empowering our students with scholarship support,” said SC State University National Alumni Association President John J. Funny. The university also displayed its appreciation by conferring an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters upon Charlamagne at their Spring Commencement ceremony in May 2021.
It is yet to be seen how Charlamagne continues in his pursuit towards philanthropy and Black empowerment. What we do know is that he has earned his place in the pantheon of the world’s most influential tv personalities, and rightfully so.