On United Nations Human Rights Day (December 10), singer-songwriter-activist John Legend has been named recipient of the High Note Global Prize for social justice, presented by United Nations Human Rights, Partner of the High Note Global Initiative, and David Clark Cause, the organizations announced.
The annual High Note Global Prize honors and celebrates recording artists for outstanding, lifelong achievement using their music and unique platform to promote social justice worldwide.
In his acceptance speech released via video by the High Note Global Initiative, Legend says:
“I am both proud and humbled to thank you for this honor. I believe in the power of music to inspire us, to connect our hearts, to give voice to feelings for which words alone won’t suffice, to wake us up out of complacency, to galvanize and fuel social movements. Artists have a rich tradition of activism. We have a unique opportunity to reach people where they are, beyond political divisions, borders, and silos. And it’s been my privilege to use my voice and my platform to advance the cause of equity and justice.”
He continues, “As a citizen of the United States, and of the world, I know that for far too long our most essential systems have served to perpetuate inequity and injustice. In order for us to create a just world those systems need to change. When we founded #FREEAMERICA we became part of a community of leaders, advocates, and champions working to dismantle inequities in the American criminal justice system. We wanted to lift up the voices of those who had been silenced. We wanted to envision a new way forward. With this award we celebrate a multitude of advocates, generations of movement leaders who have put their shoulder to the wheel of progress. I don’t stand here absorbing these accolades for myself. I stand here grateful for their ideas and their energy and honored that I can amplify their voices by using my platform. I accept this award with deep humility for the honor, renewed commitment to the work, and abiding hope for a just future.
A native of Ohio, Legend has won 11 Grammy awards, an Emmy, an Oscar and a Tony, making him the first Black man to achieve EGOT status. He has released seven albums, with the latest, “Bigger Love,” released earlier this year. He also starred in NBC’s “Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert” in 2018 and joined the competition show “The Voice.”
He was featured on the cover of Variety‘s 2020 Moguls issue for his combination of art, business and social work.
In 2007, Legend launched the Show Me Campaign, which aims to give every child access to a quality education and address the systemic issues in a criminal justice system that continues to disproportionately impact disadvantaged black and brown communities. In 2014 he launched LRNG Innovators to promote innovation in education and the following year he started #FREEAMERICA, a social campaign focused on ending mass incarceration. And Get Lifted Film Co., the production company he co-founded with Mike Jackson and Ty Stiklorius, has combined storytelling and social change for projects like “Atlanta’s Missing And Murdered: The Lost Children” on HBO, while also elevating multicultural creators.