Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts has produced plenty of accomplished alums since it became Dallas ISD’s arts magnet in 1976: singers Norah Jones and Edie Brickell, actress Elizabeth Mitchell (Lost, Revolution), jazz trumpeter Roy Hargrove. But only one continues to call Dallas home, the girl known as Erica Wright when she graduated in 1989: Erykah Badu.
“I never wanted to be a celebrity,” she told writer Michael Hall in 2007. “My first job is not music. I love it; I especially love to perform, especially here. I’m an artist by religion. I paint, draw, sew, design clothes, sculpt, build, and raise children. Music is a great way to make money. But I don’t want to be a celebrity. I want to be able to go to the store and buy some milk. And my heart feels whole in Dallas.”
Because music is still a great way for her to make money, Badu spends time in Los Angeles and New York, the twin centers of the business. But just as often you can find her back in Dallas, giving all the hopeful artists coming out of Dallas a roadmap to follow. She’s active with Booker T. and has taught at Africa Care Academy, near where she grew up in South Dallas. For a few years in the 2000s, she resurrected the old Forest Theater on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard (rechristening it the Black Forest Theater) and brought in Prince, the Roots, Snoop Dogg, and others for after-hours gigs. In 2010, she made headlines with her controversial video for “Window Seat,” wherein she gradually stripped off all of her clothes as she strode through Dealey Plaza.
More than that, though, you can find Badu around town—especially near her White Rock Lake home—just being a woman going to the store and buying milk. Or whatever she was going to buy the last time we saw her, pulling to the curb in a pearlescent green Smart car outside of a skate/head shop on Garland Road. Whether she likes it or not, Badu is a celebrity. But she’s still ours.