John Legend has never shied away from political discussions. In fact, he has increasingly utilized his platform to bring attention to some of the most polarizing issues our country is facing—be it gun control, racism, or internet censorship. And now, with less than two weeks until Election Day, the Grammy- and Oscar-winning singer has reiterated the importance of political involvement by explaining why voting is so important to him.
Legend speaks about his position in the latest installment of Vevo’s “Why I Vote” video series, which features celebrities addressing the ongoing issues that are near to their hearts. Legend begins with an emotional story about his mother, Phyllis, and her struggle with drug abuse. He says that after his grandmother passed away, his mom fell into a deep depression and began using narcotics to escape the emotional distress. She eventually became estranged from the family and was arrested several times on drug-related charges.
“When people are going through those kinds of issues, they really need help,” Legend says. “They don’t need to be locked up. They need counseling. They need drug treatment.”
After researching other countries’ positions on drugs and crime, he has become a stronger advocate for drug treatment and prison reform. He would like the U.S. to adopt policies similar to Portugal’s, which treats drug abuse as a health issue rather than a crime.
“I think we should go to that kind of system, and not even have people who are just drug abusers interact with criminal justice system, unless they do something else that hurts other people,” he says. “So many of the people who are in our criminal justice system are people like what my mother was—people that are going through a hard time in life and have turned to drugs for one reason or another.”
Legend goes on to say that his mother has gotten better thanks in large part to a strong support system; however, he is still concerned about the nation’s issue of mass incarceration, which is why he and his team started Free America. It's a campaign that travels the country speaking to everyone from inmates to policymakers in an effort to better understand the criminal justice system and how to improve it.
“All those decisions to lock people are up are being made in our name, because we’re voters and we decide who’s in charge,” Legend says. "A lot of people protested, and fought, bled, and died so that […] every citizen over the age of 18 would have the right to vote. For you to waste that right, for you to take it for granted and think it’s worthless and meaningless, it’s a slap in the face.”
You can watch Legend’s “Why I Vote” video above.