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VIA: AccessAtlanta

Alicia Keys says her first visit to Africa was so emotional and inspiring that she is ready to take others there to experience something similar.

The Grammy-winning singer is launching a contest through her charity, Keep a Child Alive, that will give five people an opportunity to visit the continent with her. She says her initial trip to Africa “totally changed my life.”

“Going to Africa was unbelievable for me,” the 28-year-old said.

“I was probably like 19 or something. I was asked to come to Africa to perform, and so you think, ‘I’m just the girl from Harlem, I wrote a couple of songs on 137th Street, and then suddenly you want me to come to Africa? And people will know me? And people will know the songs?’ It was a mind-blowing experience for me.”

“I was able to see the great separation between have and have not,” Keys said. “I was able to see the incredible spirit of people. I was able to learn firsthand about the AIDS pandemic of Africa.”

Keys was to announce the contest Tuesday, which is World AIDS Day, when she performs at the Nokia Theatre in New York’s Time Square. The concert will air live on YouTube (8 p.m. EST).

Fans will be able to enter the contest online at the foundation’s Web site, or by sending a text. The fee for the text is $5, but it will be donated to Keep a Child Alive.

Keys said the winners, who will travel throughout Africa for five days sometime next year, will visit the people and places that were most influential to her.

“Some will probably not want to come back, some will totally want to stay so that they can be a part of just all this beauty that we’re spreading and light that we’re spreading. And some will come back and say, ‘I’ll never turn my back,’ which is what happened to me,” said Keys, who has traveled throughout South Africa (Johannesburg, Soweto and Durban) and Uganda.

At the concert, the entertainer will perform songs from her fourth studio CD, “The Element of Freedom,” to be released Dec. 15.

“I find that the more that I’m able to connect with people’s life experiences, the more I’m able to make better music,” Keys said.