I like Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, but their personal foundation has always bewildered me. It’s hard to say what the purpose of it is, especially since they started a school in Calabasas, California that teaches, among other things, Scientology curriculum. Their personal foundation gives nothing to the school.
But every year they give a lot of money to Yesha Ministries of Philadelphia, an evangelical Christian church with strong ties to the black community.
Altogether, they gave away $411,020 in 2011. The Smiths’ biggest donee was Yesha, for $100,000. But then, strategically, they still manage to spread around a few dollars to Hollywood leaders’ favorite charities and funds. For example, Will and Jada gave $25,000 to the Simon Wiesenthal Center and $10,000 to Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation. They even gave a nod to The Friends of Yitzak Rabin ($250).
The Smiths gave $1,000 to a Scientology fund, thus taking care of Tom Cruise. It’s a steep drop from their initial checks to the cult back in the mid 2000s.
I give a lot of credit to the Smiths for how they spread the money around. The total is a lot of money. And even thought we think of movie stars as having zillions of dollars, Will hasn’t released a blockbuster in several years. Not that the Smiths are hurting for funds. But that they thought this out so carefully speaks volumes about them- -even if you don’t agree with all their choices.
They are loyal to charities in the Baltimore-Philadelphia area. They support black causes, and those in the arts–like $25,000 to Debbie Allen’s vital dance academy and $10,000 to the Tyler Perry Foundation. And they are really into education: money to Harvard Foundation and a bunch of smaller groups.
There’s also no bloat. The Smiths pay Jada’s aunt, Karen Evans, $68,000 as administrator–and the sole employee. Evans suffers from Lupus, so donations are made to fight that disease. But otherwise expenses are small– they only paid $400 in legal fees in 2011.