Musician-social activist John Legend on the persevering with battle for justice
John Legend most undoubtedly qualifies as a famous person: Two Emmys, 12 Grammy’s, one Oscar and a Tony, an accomplishment so uncommon it deserves a phrase of its personal: an EGOT (winner of an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony).
He’s additionally a social activist; and typically he blends the 2, as when he and the rapper Common recorded the track “Glory,” which Legend and Common co-wrote for the movie, “Selma.” It received the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 2015.
Accepting the Oscar, Legend mentioned, “We wrote this track to a movie that was primarily based on occasions that had been 50 years in the past, however we are saying that Selma is now, as a result of the battle for justice is true now.”
Mass incarceration was Legend’s first goal for social change.
“Sunday Morning” senior contributor Ted Koppel requested Legend, “You spend loads of time specializing in penal reform on this nation, jail reform. Why?”
“That’s a part of me not forgetting the place I come from, and remembering how the legal punishment system has affected so many individuals in my household, individuals in my neighborhood,” he replied. “I do know so many private tales of people that’ve been affected by it, households who’ve been affected by it.
“And then, as I grew older, it grew past what was private to me and private to the individuals round me. And I started to know extra holistically, within the nation, what we have achieved over the previous few a long time. We’ve grow to be essentially the most incarcerated nation on this planet. And it has been pricey in so some ways. I’ve been spending the final decade or so preventing to alter that.”
African Americans are incarcerated at a price greater than 5 instances that of white Americans. And throughout all races, in the case of jail inhabitants, the USA is Number One.
Koppel requested, “Why do you assume we’ve got so many individuals incarcerated on this nation? As you’ve got identified, we’ve got extra prisoners in America than every other nation on this planet.”
“Well, I believe loads of it begins with our authentic sin,” Legend mentioned. “Slavery, I believe, has rather a lot to do with it. The thirteenth Amendment, in fact, outlawed slavery, aside from the people who find themselves within the penal system.”
“I believe you had been referring to jail labor, too, proper?”
“Absolutely, as a result of the thirteenth Amendment made it unlawful to drive individuals to do labor, besides in the event that they had been convicted of against the law.”
“I believe you understand there are an awesome many people who find themselves anxious about the truth that this nation is transferring (and may have moved within the subsequent 10, 15 years or so) to some extent the place there are extra individuals of colour on this nation than there are white individuals,” mentioned Koppel. “You assume they must be anxious?”
“What I would like them to understand is that equality does not need to take from anyone,” Legend mentioned. “Us all having equal rights, us having human dignity, or having a neighborhood that’s more healthy and stronger for everybody, does not want to harm anyone. And when you see the whole lot as a zero-sum recreation, sure, you is likely to be anxious that there are gonna be extra individuals of colour than there are white individuals; and which means when you’re white you are gonna begin dropping one thing. But that solely implies that if individuals of colour determine that they are gonna do to white individuals what white individuals have been doing to individuals of colour for the previous a number of centuries.”
Not, maybe, what a Hollywood or Madison Avenue PR particular person would have drafted for him, however Legend does not mince phrases with regards to racial fairness – in a TV interview, or together with his virtually 14 million followers on Twitter.
Legend mentioned, “We can reside in a society the place all of us respect one another’s human dignity, construct a neighborhood that is stronger for everyone, safer for everyone, more healthy for everyone. We needn’t consider that simply because there’s extra of 1 group or one other, that any individual else has to lose due to that.”
“That’s a stupendous expression, and I hope you are proper,” Koppel mentioned.
“I do not know if it is gonna win the day; however that is what we must always consider!” Legend laughed.
“If I had been born Black on this nation, I’m unsure if I might discover that reservoir of compassion that you just’re speaking about.”
“Well, I really feel like Black individuals have been patriotic on this nation. We’ve been forgiving on this nation. We’ve fought for the beliefs that the nation mentioned we had been based on. We’ve achieved that for hundreds of years. And I believe we have believed in America greater than America believed in us, or itself. But, yeah, I believe we’ve got an curiosity in preventing for a stronger democracy, a extra empathetic neighborhood. It’ll make our lives higher. But it will make everybody’s lives higher, too.”
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Story produced by Deirdre Cohen. Editor: Steven Tyler.