Chicago’s own Jennifer Hudson was joined by her sister, Julia Hudson Wednesday for “Hatch Day” at the Salvation Army’s Kroc Center on West 119th Street — and event both poignant and uplifting. The Oscar and Grammy winner and her sister were there for their annual event, held on the what would have been the 12th birthday of Jennifer’s nephew and Julia’s son Julian King — murdered in 2008, along with the sister’s mother, Darnell Donerson, and their brother, Jason Hudson, by William Balfour, Julia Hudson’s estranged husband.
Out of that horrific event the surviving Hudson sisters created the Julian D. King Gift Foundation — committed to being a positive catalyst for change in children’s health, education and welfare. On this third annual “Hatch Day,” the sisters were on hand to give backpacks and school supplies to several thousand Chicago children. It was all about “hatching” the new school year.
Before the event, Jennifer Hudson, with her sister standing by, shared her thoughts with me.
Q: Obviously, I assume you look at this as a great way to turn a horrible tragedy into a positive thing?
A: Yes, it’s important, because we feel it is a way to give back to the community, to give back to home and most importantly, the kids. We want them to know that we are there for them and no kid should have to wonder where their school supplies — or their school’s needs — are going to come from, when it’s time to go back to school.
Q: Is it like one way for you to “pay it forward”?
A: Yes it is. This means a lot to me, because this was a terrible tragedy and we wanted to turn that around to do something where we can help others — to help kids get to where they need to be in life, so that they can in turn help others, and do what they need to do.
Q: You have a big fall season ahead of you, don’t you?
A: Yes, I’ll be releasing a new album and I have three films coming out too. I also am getting a Hollywood [Walk of Fame] Star coming up soon. “Winnie Mandela” will be the first film [in which Hudson plays the title role] coming Sept. 6. Then “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister Mister and Pete” Oct. 11, then “Black Nativity” will be out Oct. 27. That’s a lot of dates to remember!
Q: Of course, I have to ask about those rumors of you possibly judging on “American Idol”?
A: Rumors! Rumors! They are only rumors!
Q: Do you still watch “Idol”?
A: Of course I do. You know, that’s where I came from, so it’s always exciting to watch it and see it. The show just grips you and takes you in.
At that point, Julia Hudson spoke up. “I actually wish I could be a judge,” leading her sister to laugh and say, “She could have replaced Simon [Cowell] … You know, she’s brutally honest. She kind of braced me for the whole Simon Cowell experience when I was on the show. I told him, “Simon, you have nothing on my sister. You have a long way to go to catch up to her! She trained me well!”