Donda West, The Woman Behind Kanye

Donda West, The Woman Behind Kanye


It’s obvious that Kanye West is a superstar, if not a supernova. Kanye is an explosion of creativity, both artistic and eclectic. He is an international iconic brand who has become music mogul, painter, rapper, shoe creator with Nike, and filmmaker. His 15 minutes of fame have been extended over a decade.

So when following the roots of Kanye West, it is clear that the music producer, performer, and winner of 21 Grammy Awards comes from good stock. His father is Ray West, the owner of The Good Water Store, counselor, photojournalist, and former Black Panther. His mother was former Chicago State University English and Education professor, Dr. Donda Clairann Williams West, Ed.D. Coming from parents like the Wests, Kanye had very little choice in becoming a genius.

In Kanye West’s discography, there is wit, satire, irony, double entendre, numerous artistic and literary references, and the courage to experiment. Freedom of expression reigns supreme in West’s songs, and this may be a product of his mother’s decision to expose him to many types of art and genres within artistic forms. Dr. West introduced her son to painting and drawing. She gave him the freedom to be free, within an academic context, introducing him to Picasso, Monet, van Gogh, and Warhol, while taking him to China during a sabbatical. Kanye’s worldwide fame was born from the incubation of two parents who loved him and two parents who encouraged experimentation.

Kanye West expressed an interest in the research of his mother’s discipline as a scholar. His wish was to have her academic legacy catalogued and recognized. Chicago State University collected and investigated the professional documents and records of Dr. West.

Over the course of one semester, researchers collected published books, scholarly works, paper and electronic documents, as well as electronic audio and video files, records, reports, photographs, photocopies, recordings, contracts, syllabi, written works and memos, mined from the archives of Chicago State University, Atlanta University, and Auburn University. From the documents, it’s evident that Dr. West was a master teacher, experienced professor, researcher, and curriculum designer. Her philosophy of education and high expectations trickled to her students and to her son.

Dr. Donda West was a tremendous scholar. Her works include the following:

• A doctoral dissertation called “General Systems Theory and Rhetoric: Toward a New World View for Teachers of Written Composition in Secondary Schools and Colleges” written at Auburn University in Alabama. 1981.

• Master’s thesis on “Black Vernacular English” at Atlanta University. 1973.

• A Curriculum for High School Freshmen in Chicago Public Schools.

• A Curriculum Integration for Today’s Schools: A Workshop for Teachers and Administrators presented at the Chicago Teachers’ Center. (Educational Consultant and Workshop Facilitator).

• “Russian Culture and Literature Implementation Plan” 1999. 3 pages.

• “Chicago State University Resolution on Ebonics.” 1997.

• “Raising Kanye: Life Lessons from the mother of a HipHop Superstar

West believed that education is a system that has components that are interdependent. West viewed the written composition as a system. She believed that imaginative and expressive language is the core of a student’s individuality.

Students found that West was similar to W.E.B. DuBois in terms of how travel and exposure can affect your education. This is evident in her own travel practices and in her son’s love of globetrotting.

Dr. Donda West will be remembered as the mother of Kanye Omari West, but she stands on her own merit as doctor of education, professor of English, curriculum designer, manager of entertainment, and world traveler who inspired her students to fulfill their potential and inspired her son to be a fearless star.