- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 18, 2008

We’re accustomed to seeing John Legend win Grammys. Yet the silken-voiced singer-songwriter, known for such hits as “Ordinary People” (from 2005’s “Get Lifted”) and “Save Room” (from 2006’s “Once Again”) was in the District Tuesday to receive a different kind of honor, an award from CARE for his efforts in helping eradicate poverty in developing nations.

“It wasn’t enough to just give money; I felt I had to visit [Ghana] and use the platform I have been given to help mobilize others worldwide to get involved,” says Mr. Legend, 29, who was to pick up CARE’s Humanitarian Award for Global Change at the group’s 62nd Anniversary Celebration’s Diplomatic Celebration at the Northwest home of British Ambassador Sir Nigel Sheinwald and his wife, Lady Julia Sheinwald.

Mr. Legend’s award recognizes his dedication to fighting extreme poverty in Africa, primarily through his Show Me Campaign (www.showmecampaign.org), which bears the name of a song from his second album.

“The song had already been written before the Web site went up,” Mr. Legend explains. “The lyrics are speaking to God about what’s going wrong in the world.”

Over the past decade, CARE (the Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere) has recognized people who have made significant contributions to the fight against poverty and social injustice and whose work has advanced international understanding, cooperation, friendship and development. Previous Humanitarian Award recipients have included Nelson Mandela, Sir Elton John, Melinda Gates and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who also received CARE’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999.

“I’ve always been socially and politically aware,” says Mr. Legend, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied English and black literature and culture before embarking on a pop-music career.

“The more I read, the more I know that we must all somehow become involved in helping others,” he says.

It was reading, in fact, that set Mr. Legend on his present course.

“I was really inspired by the book ‘The End of Poverty,’” he says of the book by Columbia University professor Jeffrey D. Sachs. “After reading it, I knew that I wanted to be a part of that fight against poverty.”

Mr. Legend soon contacted Mr. Sachs and learned of the Millennium Project, an independent advisory board headed by Mr. Sachs that offers recommendations on ending poverty and disease.

The Millennium Project, Mr. Legend says, has about 80 villages in Africa that it has taken under its wing.

“All this is done in cooperation with the countries,” says the five-time Grammy winner, whose Show Me Campaign has helped fund resources for safe drinking water, free and nutritious lunches for school-age youngsters, bed nets to prevent the mosquito-borne spread of malaria, and fertilizer to improve crops for farmers in Mbola, a village in northwestern Tanzania.

The initiative is his “main nonprofit work,” says Mr. Legend, who also is a board member of Management Leadership for Tomorrow, an organization geared toward helping the next generation of black, Hispanic and American Indian leaders in major corporations, nonprofit organizations and entrepreneurial ventures.

Still, there’s always the music, Mr. Legend says.

His next album, “Evolver,” is due for release in the fall.

There will be some songs about philanthropy, he says - and, most assuredly, there also will be songs about love.

“That’s what I’m known for,” Mr. Legend says.


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