For the most part, El Paso’s young adults and teenagers embrace Black music and African American style of dress, but they really do not understand the culture or its history.
Linda Wolfe is on a mission to change that.
“I don’t think most teenagers here know and understand what the African American has gone through,” said Wolfe, a philanthropist and mother of El Paso R&B star Khalid. “There is more than the songs and the clothes. There is a history there, a culture, a way of doing things.”
Wolfe is using Black History Month this February as inspiration to plan a historic Juneteenth celebration in El Paso that will showcase Black history and culture. Observed on June 19, Juneteenth is the state and federal holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in Texas and the United States.
The summer celebration, which is still in the planning stages, will be put together by The Great Khalid Foundation, the A&A All the Way Foundation, the YWCA El Paso del Norte Region and other El Paso nonprofits. A&A All the Way was founded by Aaron and Alvin Jones, the two former Burges High School football stars who went on to the NFL.
As CEO of The Great Khalid Foundation, Wolfe says the Juneteenth celebration falls in line with the organization’s mission of impacting the lives of children – and what she and her son want to give back to El Paso.
“I come from a family that values service,” she said. “If you can serve, then you do that by helping your community, helping others or enlisting in the (military). That’s what I am about, that’s what my children and family are about.”
They want to give back to El Paso because although they were not born here, this is their home. As a military brat, Wolfe said she and her family never really felt at home until they moved to El Paso and settled here.
“I didn’t make a lot of lifelong friends,” she said, explaining that she was born in Germany and moved every three years because her father was in the military. She also enlisted and retired as a sergeant first class in 2017 after serving in the Army for 23 years, including stints singing with military bands.
“The friends here and the community, that’s the reason we stayed here and that’s the reason the foundation is here,” Wolfe said.
Wolfe said she and her family have developed lifelong friendships in the Sun City, whose population is 83% Hispanic and only 4.2% Black.
“El Paso is the family we have never had,” she said.
Former El Paso County Commissioner Carl Robinson, who was the first Black person elected to the Commissioners Court, said the establishment of The Great Khalid Foundation in El Paso is a plus for the community.
“They are bringing national recognition to this city, while helping others,” he said.
Robinson, a military veteran who made El Paso his home, said he is glad that Wolfe wants to set up a Juneteenth celebration for the community.
“This is a great place to raise your family,” he said. “My kids went to school here and never had a problem.”
Robinson, who is also a former city representative, agrees that some of El Paso’s younger generations do not know about Black culture.
“Some don’t even know what Martin Luther King Jr. was about,” said Robinson, who long championed an annual citywide canned food drive in honor of King’s legacy. “It’s more than just the speeches he made. He was also about helping others and changing things for the better.”
Along with fighting for civil rights, King was a pastor with a doctorate from Boston University. He established the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization dedicated to helping improve the lives of African Americans.
It is this calling to help that drives Khalid, Wolfe and the foundation.
The foundation was started by Khalid, 25, an Americas High School graduate and Grammy-nominated R&B and hip-hop singer, in 2017.
The organization has since provided close to $1 million in assistance to El Paso families, including $100,000 in performing arts scholarships.
“The foundation doesn’t get as much credit as it should,” Wolfe said. “We do so much to help this community, like backpacks for students, Christmas with Khalid and scholarships.”
“But this community doesn’t embrace the foundation and doesn’t help us,” she added. “It is tough to get donations from the community to keep the foundation going.”
Along with setting up the Juneteenth celebration and expanding the foundation’s reach, Wolfe said she wants to see her son on his new tour in 2023 with Ed Sheeran. The first stop in their North American tour is May 6 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
“My child is blessed,” Wolfe said. “And we have El Paso to thank for it.”