Che Rhymefest Smith, humanitarian hip-hop artist, writer, activist, political organizer, and teacher.

Che "Rhymefest" Smith, humanitarian hip-hop artist, writer, activist, political organizer, and teacher.


I believe you LOOK GOOD, FOR GOOD by heading out to change the world in whatever way your gift dictates. I believe we can all be heroes, if we push beyond our potential.

What people and/or events inspired you to do the work you do today?

Knowing that history doesn’t have to repeat itself inspires me. The bad can be corrected, the good can be better, and everything is a pivot into greatness. Revolutionaries like Paul Robeson, Harry Belafonte, and Muhammad Ali pushed art, athleticism, and activism to the limits. I hope to inherit the spirit of these courageous souls.

What’s your proudest accomplishment?

Co-founding Donda’s House is my proudest accomplishment to date. It’s a non-profit premium arts program in Chicago that gives youth between 14–24 access to advanced training in music production, writing, fashion design, and improv acting at no cost. As the creative director, I even teach a creative writing class. It’s essential to provide young people with safe spaces to be creative for healthy, thriving communities.

What is some advice you have for people trying courageously to change the world?

I would advise them to be curious about everything and never stop being a student of life. Don’t be afraid to fail. The depth of our struggles can often be the height of our successes. Champions aren't people who never lose. A true champion knows how to win, lose, and rise again.

How has adversity shaped who you are today?

I’ll never forget when I was seventeen, one of my friend’s parents who was concerned about me said, “Che, your past doesn’t dictate your future, but your present decisions do.” That statement freed me. I stopped lamenting everything I didn’t have growing up. I felt liberated knowing my future would be told by the good I did each day, not by the misfortunes of yesterday.

How does your past experience as a surfer play into your success as a humanitarian?

My experience as a musician serves as a platform for others to pivot from. My mistakes and successes can be learned from to help my community in art and to find creative solutions to old problems. My experience doesn’t belong to just me. We all have the choice to be self-serving or to serve. I choose to do the latter.

What is a defining moment that helped you realize your passion for the work of Donda’s House?

Dr. Donda West was a key figure in my development during my teenage years. She always encouraged young people to share our truths and created a safe space in her home for her son, Kanye West, and his friends to create. Her love, guidance, and work live on in how we provide safe spaces for young creatives and train future generations to share their truths through art.

What are ways that other members of The Courageous Class can get involved with Donda’s House?

Other members of The Courageous Class can get involved with Donda’s House by making a donation, volunteering through our marketing, programming and fundraising committee, or hiring our young artists to perform at galas, birthday parties, and other corporate events. You can also follow us @dondashouse on Instagram and Twitter for live updates.