United Nations Human Rights has awarded John Legend its second annual High Note Global Prize in recognition of his career as a musician and activist fighting for social justice.
Legend shared a short video with an acceptance speech, saying, “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.”
Over his 20-year career, Legend has been closely involved with a variety of causes. In 2007, he started the Show Me Campaign to improve access to education, while the Bail Project has advocated for ending mass incarceration and making it easier for released prisoners to find work by removing criminal background checks from job applications. In his High Note Global Prize speech, he touched on his most recent campaign, #FreeAmerica, which is aimed at broad criminal justice reform.
“With this award we celebrate a multitude of advocates, generations of movement leaders who have put their shoulder to the wheel of progress,” Legend said. “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.”
Back in June, Legend released his seventh studio album, Bigger Love, which earned a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Album. He recently collaborated with Carrie Underwood on a new duet, “Hallelujah,” from her first Christmas album, My Gift. Legend is set to host and perform at the Global Citizen Prize awards special, airing December 19th, on NBC.