John Legend is no stranger to politics or activism. He was an unabashed supporter of Barack Obama during his 2008 campaign, contributing to will.i.am’s campaign video “Yes We Can,” performing at benefit concerts and appearing front and center at the Democratic National Convention, where he performed his song "If You're Out There,” a call for voter participation and civic engagement.
Now, the Grammy Award-winning artist is turning his eye toward voting rights, which has been bombarded from many sides in the past few years.
This month, Legend formed a partnership with the NAACP to launch a nationwide campaign to promote voting rights and register eligible Americans to vote. The campaign was launched at his recent concert in Durham, N.C., where he asked his fans to join him in taking a stand for voting rights by texting “LEGEND” to 62227 and helped eligible concert-goers register to vote. North Carolina is infamous for having one of the most restrictive voter ID laws in the country.
“Launching in North Carolina, a state feeling the brunt of new restrictive and discriminatory election laws, will set the tone for concert goers across the country in states where some of the most egregious law changes have been introduced or implemented,” said the Rev. William Barber, president, NAACP North Carolina State Conference. “As in the past once again we need the melodies of freedom and justice to inspire movement.”
Legend said he will continue this advocacy throughout his “Made to Love” tour.
“It is maddening to know that there are some who would enact legislation that limits the ability of some Americans to exercise their right to vote,” said Legend in a statement. “Generations have fought hard and even died for this right, and now is not the time for our country to move backwards. All of our leaders should seek to have inclusive elections that reflect the true will of the people, no matter who they intend to vote for. The politics of exclusion are unacceptable. It's time for all of us who believe in democracy and equal rights to take a stand.”
Since President Obama was elected the first African-American commander-in-chief in 2008, GOP-led state legislatures have unleashed a wave of laws with the sum impact of suppressing minority votes. Those changes included fewer early voting days, restrictive voter ID laws, purging of voter rolls and more.
And, a July 2013 Supreme Court ruling that invalidated Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act—essentially crippling Section 5 of the same statute, which has long served to protect minority voters against discrimination—has further emboldened those anti-voting rights efforts.
NAACP interim President Lorraine C. Miller said Legend’s involvement will boost their efforts to combat such measures. In 2012, the NAACP mobilized 1.2 million people to the polls on or before Election Day and worked with other civil rights groups to legally challenge—and defeat—some of the proposed laws.
“We are excited that John Legend has joined with the NAACP in the fight to defend the right to vote,” Miller said in a statement. “His influence as a world-renowned artist and activist will be a catalyst to spread the word that it is not enough just to exercise your right to vote. We must also protect our right to vote for future generations.”
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