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Singer and activist John Legend is advancing his advocacy efforts through the creation of a new initiative. The music artist—whose real name is John Stephens—recently unveiled a project designed to support communities that have been significantly impacted by systemic racism.

From wealth disparities to inequities that exist within education and housing, several communities throughout the country have been plagued by the barriers of institutionalized racism. Through the effort, dubbed HUMANLEVEL, Stephens is putting the focus on changing the narrative. In concert with local community leaders and elected officials, those leading the initiative will work to implement transformative programs and equitable policies that will support those who have been marginalized.

Stephens says taking a grassroots approach to tackling these issues is imperative to evoke sustainable change. He also wants to use HUMANLEVEL as an avenue to spread awareness about systemic racial inequities. “Many of the problems our country faces today are difficult to address at the federal level,” he said in a statement. “Many issues are really at the doorstep of your mayor, your county council, and your community leaders coming together to answer questions about how we can support each other, keep each other safe, and rebuild our country in a way that truly includes everyone.”

As part of the initiative, HUMANLEVEL is teaming up with the nonprofit FUSE Corps to bring executive fellows to 11 cities across the country—including Houston, Washington, D.C. and New Orleans—so they can develop solutions to address disparities around criminal justice, education, employment and housing. HUMANLEVEL had also received support from the Sony Music Group, Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey‘s #StartSmall, the Ford Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation.

Stephens is no stranger to philanthropy. He helped launch an entrepreneurial accelerator for the formerly incarcerated to reduce recidivism and provide support for individuals whose lives have been directly affected by the flawed criminal justice system.


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