Change-Maker in Black History: Alicia Keys

As Black History month starts to wrap up, we bring you another change-maker from the music world, nine-time Grammy winner, Alicia Keys. Born Alicia Augello Cook in 1981 in New York, NY. She was raised by her mother, a part-time actress and paralegal and started taking piano lessons when she was 7. Her hard work led her to attend Manhattan’s prestigious Professional Performance Arts Schools, where Alicia chose to major in choir.

While she excelled at her major, she also excelled academically and graduated early, at the age of 16! By this time, record companies had already caught wind of the young talent and after a bidding war for the songstress, she signed with Arista Records in 1998.

She decided to follow the former heard of Arista Records, the famed Clive Davis, when he left Arista to start J Records, where she was given the freedom to complete her debut album. Keys worked on her album for years and unlike most in her industry, Keys doesn’t just sing –- she writes and produces all of her own music.

Although she was accepted into Columbia University, she decided to stay focused on her music career and her diligence paid off. Keys burst onto the music scene when her debut album, Songs in A Minor, dropped in 2001.

The album went platinum five times over and critics raved about the singer/pianist for her “musical polish” and the maturity of her lyrics.

At the 2002 Grammys, Keys took home five Grammys – Song of the Year, Best R&B Song, Best R&B Album, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, and Best New Artists.

Her second album, Diary won her four Grammys in 2005.

Despite her immense musical success at such a young age, this 28-year-old has also put her efforts into providing life-saving anti-retroviral treatment to children and their families with HIV/AIDS in Africa. In 2002 she co-founded and became the first Global Ambassador of Keep A Child Alive, a non-profit dedicated to providing this treatment and engaging the global public in the fight against AIDS.

She has traveled the world and made several trips to Africa to speak out and give her energy and time to the cause.

You’ve heard this music maven belt out her Grammy-worthy tunes, and below catch her passionate plea to Keep A Child Alive.