Mary J. Blige found her strength and now wants to help other women find their own

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Mary J. Blige just might be the most famous native of Yonkers, New York, and yet she’s not forgotten her roots there.

The newly announced Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee is giving back to the community that helped launch her start.

Blige’s “Strength of a Woman Festival and Summit” is partnering with Pepsi to launch a fund with $100,000 available as grants to local organizations whose work elevates and educates underserved women in Yonkers.

The singer couldn’t be happier about the partnership and how it’s helping her to further the work she does uplifting women.

“It’s so fulfilling,” Blige told CNN. “It’s everything that my movement is about. I always wanted to give back, especially to the women in Yonkers.”

Known as the “queen of hip-hop soul,” Blige’s early career was marked by passionate, yet often sad songs that reflected her own struggles in her personal life.

Her 2021 documentary “My Life” explores Blige’s past struggles with depression, substance abuse and an abusive relationship.

She persevered through it all, and in the process learned that her healing could help others.

Blige said she didn’t realize she had a “ministry” in terms of her music until the release of her 1997 album “Share My World,” which strongly resonated with her fans.

Mary J. Blige performing during the Super Bowl half time show in 2022. - Lynne Sladky/AP
Mary J. Blige performing during the Super Bowl half time show in 2022. - Lynne Sladky/AP

“My testimony was just to help. Helping so many people,” she said. “Helping people who were saying ‘Mary, me too. Me too.’ And if you could come through, what I could come through so can you.”

In 2022 she launched the “Strength of a Woman Festival and Summit,” a muilti-day event filled with panels, concerts and fellowship.

The new fund is part of the outreach Blige feels called to do.

Created in partnership with United Way of Westchester and Putnam, which helps residents become self-sufficient and thrive in a stronger community, the funds will be distributed via grants between $5,000 to $20,000 to qualifying organizations that support programs in education, financial stability and food security.

Blige returned home Thursday to announce the fund during a surprise appearance at Westchester Community College. This year the festival and summit are moving from Atlanta to New York City.

“I love it. This is my home. This is where I was born and raised and this is where I wanted it originally,” Blige said of the change in the venue. “I’m excited about it being here. And New York is excited, and the world is excited. Everybody’s coming to the thing.”

The event will run May 10-12 and more information can be found at the “Strength of a Woman” site.

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