The Chicago-based youth arts mentorship program co-founded by rap mogul Kanye West and Che “Rhymefest” Smith is changing its name after a heated public rift. Donda’s House, which was created in 2011 and named after West’s mother, will now be known as Art of Culture, Inc., said Donnie Smith, the organization’s executive director.
Smith, a former Chicago Public Schools teacher who is married to Che Smith, said Tuesday that the new name was finalized after a meeting with staff members, volunteers, and students last week. Donnie Smith said the group’s legal team is in the process of changing the name officially with the state.
Smith said there have been private talks for a couple of years to change the organization’s name. But, the decision to officially change the organization’s name comes after controversial remarks made last month by West, such as suggesting that slavery was “a choice” for African-Americans. Following those comments and West donning a red “Make America Great Again” hat and vocally supporting President Donald Trump, Donda’s House wanted more distance from West’s views.
“As we seek support to convert Kanye’s childhood home into a recording studio, museum and learning space – we have been unable to secure the financial support of Kanye despite multiple attempts, and despite those early conversations about his plan of support and advocacy for the youth in our programs,” a statement from the nonprofit said.
Hours after the release of that statement, a heated argument erupted over Twitter between Donda’s House co-founder Che Smith and West’s wife, Kim Kardashian West, who accused Smith of mismanaging Donda’s House, among other things.
U haven’t been right since u got kicked out of the studio in Hawaii wearing fake Yeezy’s @RHYMEFEST 😂 You’re over levergenging Kanye’s name & asked Kanye to donate money to u so stop w your fake community politics & lies. Truth is you haven’t been able to sustain the foundation— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) May 26, 2018
Following that public spat, organizers decided to no longer call the group Donda’s House.
“This has been an incredibly difficult decision but the social media quotes from Kim Kardashian West, as well as the expressed interest of her family running the organization, has brought us to this decision,” the organization said in a statement.
Federal tax filings show that the nonprofit raised $206,023 in 2015 but ended the year with $20,903. Donda’s House issued $1,000 in grants that year, spent $35,843 in unspecified meetings and events, and $16,466 on travel expenses. About a third of the money raised was spent on the $68,400 salary for Donnie Smith, the executive director of Donda’s House and Che Smith’s wife.
The organization did not file its 2016 tax filings on time and Illinois Attorney General’s office has reached out to Donda’s House for the returns.
“They aren’t up-to-date, but we are reaching out,” said Eileen Boyce, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
Donnie Smith said the group is working with their accountant to file their 2016 and 2017 tax filings, and their accountant said that could happen “by the end of the week.”