Kanye West rose to fame as a rapper and producer. But in the years since then, the Grammy-winning artist has expanded his footprint into other areas of life and culture. And in several of his business ventures, West has made sure to include a key element: his late mother, Donda West.

Kanye West had a close relationship with his mother, Donda West

Donda West was an esteemed college professor and the chairwoman of Chicago State University’s Department of English, Communications, Media, and Theater. She died in 2007 after complications from cosmetic surgery.

The effect of his mother’s death has continued to affect West to this day. In summer 2020, in the midst of his public breakdown, his mother’s onetime boyfriend and Kanye’s caretaker, Ulysses Blakely, told Page Six that his erratic behavior was in part due to grief that he was still working through.

“My personal feeling — just from the person I know — is that this is unresolved grief,” Blakely said. “He has not recovered from the loss of his mother. They had such a close bond.” West himself admitted “My mother was my everything” in a 2015 interview.

Throughout the years, West has put the Donda name on things from his production company to his highly-anticipated tenth album to a new line of electronics.

Kanye West is opening a school in Donda’s honor

West’s latest effort pays tribute to his mother and her history as an educator. He’s launching Donda Academy in southern California, a one-of-a-kind school complete with its own basketball team.

“Using an ethic of integrity and care, Donda Academy prepares students to become the next generation of leaders, thinkers, and innovators by providing them with a world-class education that includes a rigorous core curriculum, and an emphasis on sustainability, creativity, critical thinking, and problem solving,” a statement on its website reads.

Donda Academy “is focused on equipping students with an education that will last in the ever-changing world” and is set on “finding the intersection between faith and innovation of the future.”

Donda Academy will have a basketball team

In addition to its academic program, the school in Simi Valley, California is slated to have a basketball team consisting of some of the best talent in the country. The prep school has the backing of athletics giant Adidas.

One promising player, Jakhi Howard, confirmed his move to the school on Instagram, saying, “I will be moving to California and I will be transferring to Donda Academy.”

Jalen Hooks, a 6-foot-7 high school junior from Indiana, told the Indianapolis Star that moving to join the team was a no-brainer. “It’s just one of those things you can’t pass up,” he said. “It was more of a family decision too. All of us just felt like it was a chance to reach my full potential and grow and get ready for the college level.”

West has also reportedly reached out to players personally on Instagram, with one telling Yahoo! Sports “It’s crazy that he reached out. But he’s building a good team with players that I want to play with and it’s out in LA in a good market so it’s something me and my family have to think about.”

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