Kanye West and Che Smith grew up together in Chicago during the 80s and early 90s. Smith, who would become the rapper known as Rhymefest, was very close with West’s mother, Dr. Donda West. After she passed away in 2007, the two songwriters teamed up to begin a charity in her honor, known as Donda’s House. In 2013, the program launched with Smith and his wife, Donnie Smith at the head, connecting with schools to offer education in sound design to students.
After the program’s launch, West had very little involvement outside of fundraising, which many attribute to a dislike between West’s wife, TV celebrity Kim Kardashian, and Che Smith, who is the program’s creative director.
On May 25th, Donda’s House released a news statement condemning West’s current political platform, calling for a boycott of the artist himself, and dissolving their ties to him. West himself did not respond but Kardashian did, in a passionate series of tweets threatening to take the charity away from Smith. He responded by asserting that this was the first interest she had ever shown in the organization.
“I wouldn’t characterize our relationship right now. I’d be lying if I said things weren’t sensitive and tender,” said Smith of West and his wife.
A few hours after the exchange on Twitter, the charity released a statement removing Dr. Donda West’s name from the organization. Donda’s House became Art of Culture, Inc (although their website, at least as of this writing, remains www.dondashouseinc.org).
“Our community actually selected the new name. And we did a review of programs and decided we’re going to continue our old programs, and also add some new ones contributed by the community,” said Donnie Smith, executive director, in reference to the 500+ artists that Art of Culture has helped mentor since its inception.