Cause Celeb highlights a celebrity’s work on behalf of a specific cause. This week, we interview DJ and television personality , founder of the RocStar Foundation, a nonprofit that focuses on rebuilding schools in post-Katrina New Orleans.
Diaz, a New Orleans native, rose from humble beginnings to become a popular host of the BET hit "106 & Park." Diaz guest-stars on Fox’s comedy series “” on Sunday, Dec. 13.
Q: Tell me about the work of RocStar Foundation.
Diaz: RocStar Foundation is dedicated to helping rebuild schools that were basically devastated from any type of natural disaster. It all started with Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans, because I’m from New Orleans, and I saw what happened. I saw what the storm did to the public school system and I’m a product of the public school system. It’s really, really sad how a lot of the schools weren’t able to reopen because they just basically didn’t get the funding from the state to be able to come back. So what we did is we just got together and we just started helping to refurbish the schools that needed help.
Q: What is going to happen with the students if those schools aren’t opened?
Diaz: What the problem is right now in New Orleans is an overcrowded situation in the schools that are open. Don’t get me wrong, there are private schools and charter schools that have been built — but for those that can’t afford it, or don’t get into the program, they rely on the public school system. You just have an overcrowded situation: not enough books, not enough seats, basically, not enough amenities for even a proper education.
Q: What is your role with the organization?
Diaz: In all honesty, just to help as many schools we can as possible. If we could, and if I could, we would love to open up a rec center or something, in the lower Ninth Ward; because, as of right now, where there used to be over four or five different schools, there’s only one high school. It’s pretty sad.
Q: What’s your title?
Diaz: I guess I’m the president right now. It’s something that is always still in the works and still in the making. As of right now, I’m the founder and president of the nonprofit organization.
Q: Why start your own foundation, rather than support one that’s already established?
Diaz: It was something that I kind of went in and I hacked on, and did without looking and was fully just trying to get my heart into it. I wanted to make sure it was done right. I didn’t want to go somewhere else where I didn’t know where the money was going to go. Every single cent that we earn in the RocStar organization, RocStar Rebuilds, we give right back to the schools.
When Hurricane Katrina hit and everybody was giving donations, nobody knew exactly where their money was going. I started my own nonprofit, and I was like “well, you guys know exactly where the money is going to go if I’m handling it.” That’s basically the mentality I took with a lot of my friends that I knew that were donating a lot of money over there.
Q: How long has this organization been around?
Diaz: We’ve been up and running for about three years now.
Q: What kinds of things have you seen come about because of the foundation?
Diaz: A lot of the communities just like the fact that there are people in the entertainment business that keep coming back, and keep on giving, and they’re not overseen, they’re not forgotten. There’s a sense of community togetherness, I guess you could say. When we do come down and do our events, and they are events for the public, and of course we do help raise money.
We were able to refurbish our high school two years ago, West Jefferson High School, in Harvey, which was my alma mater. It’s just a good feeling to be able to see that you’re just doing something right and doing something good for the community. I always believe that when you rebuild a school, you’re helping out a whole community. When you rebuild a house, you help out one family. But when you rebuild a school, you’re helping out a whole entire community.
Q: How many schools have you rebuilt so far?
Diaz: As of right now, we’ve fully refurbished one high school that held over 6,000 or 5,000 students.
Q: What is the most memorable or moving moment you’ve had while working with the foundation?
Diaz: For me it was definitely when we went back to West Jefferson High School and we were giving away the scholarships. We had students that came back that were living on their own, or living with friends, just to come back to New Orleans. As we were giving away $3,000 or $4,000 scholarships to the kids, they were just in amazement that they can get help to keep on continuing their education just for coming back to New Orleans.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add in closing?
Diaz: Just that the city’s not forgotten and the city’s still alive and well, beaten, but there’s still helping. Of course, with any information that I can give I always broadcast it on "106 and Park," whatever I’ll be doing with the nonprofit. Keep a look out. It’ll be getting bigger and better!