One decade after losing her mother, brother and nephew to senseless gun violence in her hometown of Chicago, Jennifer Hudson continues to honor their lives by giving back through the Julian D. King Gift Foundation.
Named after her late nephew, the foundation was created by Jennifer and her sister, Julian's mother, Julia, back in 2008 after their murders, and it has since served thousands of youth in the Chicago area through Hatch Day, an event held on Julian's birthday, August 14, providing school supplies for the upcoming school year.
AOL caught up with Hudson on this year's eighth annual Hatch Day, held on what would've been Julian's 17th birthday, where she explained that the day of giving grew out of a choice that she made 10 years ago when she lost her family members.
"Obviously, these are things you can't predict. You don't choose tragedy. It just happens. But, how you decide to come back and heal from tragedy is a choice," Hudson explained. "What better way to kill negativity than through positivity? That's the way that we've chosen to go about it. It's about healing."
And the Julian D. King Gift Foundation is the best possible way for the Hudson sisters to honor all three of their late family members, as the organization's causes are a direct reflection of what her family stands for as a whole.
"When you lose family, you want to honor them in the way that they lived, and Julian was really into education and he was always reading a book," she said with a smile. "He even called himself Doctor King. That was what inspired this. At the same time, I wanted to have something that was in honor of our entire family. We come from an extremely giving background, so the best way to do that is just take care of your home. Chicago is our home, it’s our city and we do it for them."
What makes Hatch Day all the more special and impactful for Hudson is the way in which it has turned Julian's birthday into an annual celebration of his life, as opposed to a dark reminder of how his family lost him. It's a distinction that is most important for Jennifer's sister, Julia, who the singer told us is the true driving force behind Hatch Day each and every year.
"The project is her baby. The foundation is her baby and it’s dedicated to her baby, her son. That’s what inspired me to start it, because I always wanted her to be able to look forward to his birthdays," Jennifer explained to AOL. "When you lose family, you dread the birthdays and the holidays without them. What my mother always used to say to me was, ‘Jenny, what I love about you is that, even when things are negative, you always try to find a positive.’ And in this case, I didn’t know how to find a positive, but my goal was for my sister to be able to look forward to her son’s birthday again."
"I knew when it got to the point where she was counting down to his birthday then I know I’ll have succeeded," she added. "And now she counts down. And I was like, 'Yes! it worked!' It can’t completely fill the void, but it helps. And for her to see how many children are being blessed, because of her one child is healing for her and it’s healing for all of us."
Find out more about the Julian D. King Gift Foundation here.