John Legend on Politics: 'I Can't Just Shut Up and Sing'

John Legend is honored at the National Association of Broadcasters Celebration of Service to America Awards (Photo Credit: Nicholas Ballasy)

WASHINGTON — Reacting to critics, Grammy and Academy Award-winning artist John Legend said he’s not going to “just shut up and sing” and vowed to continue speaking out about politics.


Legend, a judge on the NBC show The Voice, explained that he has always looked up to “artists who were activists and truth tellers” who “refused to just shut up and sing,” such as Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, and Harry Belafonte. Legend attacked President Trump’s handling of immigration policy.

“They tell me that sometimes, ‘shut up and sing, John.’ When I look at our under-resourced and overly segregated schools I can’t just shut up and sing. When I look at an immigration apparatus that intentionally implements the president’s racist disregard for the lives of people of color, I can’t just shut up and sing. When I see states around the country attacking the most fundamental rights of women to decide when and with whom to have children, I can’t just shut up and sing,” Legend said when accepting the Service to America Leadership Award from the National Association of Broadcasters at the organization’s annual gala on Tuesday evening.

“When I see intensified natural disasters and other crises caused by climate change, I can’t just shut up and sing and when I see so many families including my own who have suffered for decades due to mass incarceration, I can’t just shut up and sing. As citizens and taxpayers in this country, we all have a stake in how it is run and too many parts of our country, too many systems in our country are deeply flawed,” he added.


Legend started the FREEAMERICA campaign in 2014 to address mass incarceration. According to its official website, “FREEAMERICA strives to build thriving, just, and equitable communities by giving every person freedom from the systemic hurdles that hold them back and the opportunity to unlock their greatest potential. By highlighting human stories, supporting innovation projects, and encouraging productive policy change, FREEAMERICA aims to amplify the conversation about mass incarceration at the local, state, and national levels.”

Last year, President Trump signed the First Step Act to reform the federal prison system.

Follow Nicholas Ballasy on Twitter @NicholasBallasy



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