With nine Grammy awards under his belt, it’s easy to think that John Legend spends all of his time meditating on his next hit album, but as we found out while working with him to design the John Legend Poketo wallet, the soul in his music also comes from what he has experienced and the causes he believes in.
Legend–who already sits on the boards of Teach for America, The Education Equality Project and the Harlem Village Academies–started the Show Me Campaign to break the evil cycle of poverty. On his site, it says more than one billion people live in extreme poverty globally and living on less than a dollar a day. In the US, more than 13 million children live below the poverty line. For them, a good education is a lifeline.
“I’ve seen how education can make such a great difference if you don’t make a lot of money,” says Legend in an interview on USA Today. “Most people who grow up poor usually end up in the same place. To break the cycle, you have to get a good education. It’s an equalizer and an important tool for empowerment.”
Here’s more from John, who took the time to write this note for the Poketo blog readers:
I’ve always wanted to help people in need, but when I read a book called “The End of Poverty” by Jeffrey Sachs I was deeply moved. I read about the devastating conditions experienced by those living in extreme poverty, but I also read about the attainable possibility of ending extreme poverty within our lifetime. So when Jeff invited me to join him on a trip to Africa to see their work firsthand, I jumped at the chance. For the first time, I witnessed what it’s like to live on less than a dollar a day in real human terms and I couldn’t simply accept that as the way it had to be. I had to do something.
So I started the Show Me Campaign. It’s named after a song I wrote called “Show Me” that asks simple questions about life and death and why there is so much suffering in the world. The mission of the Show Me Campaign is to break the cycle of poverty through solutions that have been proven to improve people’s lives.
We adopted a village in Tanzania through the Millennium Village Program, and we’ve raised money to support access to clean drinking water; health clinics, medicine and bed nets for malaria; agricultural education and fertilizer for farmers; and schools, teachers and free lunches that ensure young people receive quality education. We’re helping these villagers help themselves in their struggle for humanity, dignity and prosperity.
We also do a lot of outreach to young people in the U.S., informing them about what’s going on in the world around them, and empowering them to participate in making meaningful change. And in many ways, I believe we’ve come a long way.
But, even in the United States, the most powerful country in the world, far too many people live in persistent poverty. We still live in a country where opportunities are not equal. And, unfortunately, here in America, a lot of it is perpetuated and institutionalized in our classrooms every day. That’s why the Show Me Campaign has increasingly begun to focus on education reform. We need to make sure ALL children can access a quality education because a good education is inextricably linked to our fundamental rights as citizens and is the most sustainable path out of poverty.
Your gift will help us fight for the right of every child to receive a quality education. I believe this is the civil rights issue of our time.