By Chelsea Lenora White
Special to the NNPA News Wire from the Houston Forward Times
R. Kelly took a trip back to his hometown in Chicago to not only perform at the city’s benefit concert, but to also repay a special music teacher and mentor whom he says he owes everything. The “King of R&B” paid it backward, by helping his high school mentor save her Chicago home, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
Lena McLin was Kelly’s music teacher and mentor at Kenwood Academy. It may seem like a large gesture, but to R. Kelly, it is only a small favor in comparison to all that McLin did for him. According to the Grammy-winning singer, he owes a lot of his success to her.
“On the first day I met her, Ms. McLin told me, ‘You’re going to be one of the greatest singers, songwriters and performers of all time,’” he told The Sun-Times. “She taught me opera, classical music, jazz, gospel. She said, ‘You are music. You’re not in any one category. Anything you attempt, you’ll be able to tap into the spirit of it, and that’s the gift you have.’
Kelly added: “She made me.”
Although Kelly was a little hesitant at first, he recalls putting his dreams of having a career on the basketball court aside and agreeing to enter the music talent show McLin had encouraged him to perform in. After hitting the stage for the high school show, he says his experience was similar to Peter Parker being “bit by the spider, and I’ve been spraying webs ever since…from that day, life as I knew it was never the same.”
The 87-year-old has been struggling for the past 36 years to keep her apartment. Her pension doesn’t cover the current condo conversion that her apartment building is undergoing. After hearing the news, Kelly came to her rescue, setting up a GoFundMe campaign in her honor, which enabled the teacher to buy her condo.