Honoree - Compton-Rock

Malaak Compton-Rock is an activist and philanthropist whose favorite motto comes from Marian Wright Edelman of the Children’s Defense Fund: “Service is the rent we pay for living.” Compton-Rock’s service has included causes ranging from beauty makeovers for women entering the workforce, to fighting a rare form of breast cancer and helping AIDS orphans in South Africa. She is an in-demand public speaker whose interests include raising children to understand how they can contribute globally, and is the author of a forthcoming book on volunteering geared toward families. 

CNN special correspondent Soledad O’Brien described her as a “tireless advocate and fund-raiser for impoverished children” in a February 2009 report on Compton-Rock’s “Journey for Change” trip to South Africa. For the trip, Compton-Rock and her staff, along with a group of college-age mentors, took 30 at-risk youths, ages 11 to 16, from Bushwick, Brooklyn, to Johannesburg, South Africa, for two weeks in August 2008.

In South Africa, the Bushwick volunteers and their mentors bought food, clothes and household items and delivered them to impoverished families in Soweto and a nearby slum. Back in New York, the children have stayed involved with Compton-Rock’s program by volunteering and sharing their experiences with friends.

Compton-Rock also partners with the Safe Horizon Expert and Compassionate Services Program to help children in Brooklyn, where her husband, comedian Chris Rock, was raised.

The umbrella organization for Compton-Rock’s various initiatives is called The Angelrock Project (www.angelrockproject.com). Compton-Rock updates the project’s Web site with details of her favorite causes and provides links to help visitors find volunteer opportunities in their communities.

In addition to the Journey for Change and Brooklyn Services projects, Compton-Rock supports the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation, which she aided by raising $230,000 from an event at her home in June 2007. Compton-Rock also champions child abuse awareness and prevention through the Champions for Children Campaign; Hurricane Katrina relief by partnering with the Children’s Defense Fund’s Freedom School in New Orleans’ 9th Ward and Bonita House of Hope in Houston, Texas; and South Africa programs focused on educational and micro-finance projects in Soweto and Johannesburg.

Compton-Rock’s first nonprofit charity was StyleWorks, which she founded in 1999 to give makeovers to women leaving public assistance and entering the workforce. The organization linked clients in New York City job training programs with local beauty salons, where makeup artists and hairdressers donated their services.

A graduate of Howard University with a degree in arts and production management, Compton-Rock began her career in public relations and special events, working for the Terrie Williams Agency in New York City on movie and record release campaigns for clients including Eddie Murphy, the Essence Awards and HBO. After a stint in the cosmetics industry, she oversaw the special events and celebrity relations department for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF for three years. She calls her entry into the nonprofit world of UNICEF “a defining moment” and continues to be an active supporter, having visited UNICEF-assisted projects with her family in South Africa and Kenya from 2006 to 2008.

In 2008, Oprah Winfrey invited Compton-Rock to be one of three judges on the philanthropy-driven reality TV show “Oprah’s Big Give,” a job that landed her on the cover of TV Guide.

Compton-Rock, her husband and their two children live in Alpine, N.J. She is a board member of the Children’s Defense Fund and the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation, and is a member of New York Women in Communications, The Cause Marketing Forum and the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

Commencement Honoree Compton-Rock FULL

Doctor of Humane Letters