John Legend has announced HUMANLEVEL, a new initiative to uplift communities disproportionately impacted by institutionalized racism.
HUMANLEVEL works with local government officials and community members to create projects that address immediate needs at the city and local level while advocating for more equitable policies at a local, state, and federal level.
This national initiative includes an executive fellowship program, in partnership with FUSE Corps, a national nonprofit with a decade of experience in this field, that will place executive fellows in 11 communities: Atlanta, Austin, Birmingham, Durham, Houston, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Oakland, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. — cities and counties that collectively represent over 20 million people. These fellows will work with local communities to develop strategic impact projects designed to address immediate needs while working toward sustainable and equitable policies in the areas of jobs, housing, education, health, and the criminal justice system.
“We’ve started an initiative called HUMANLEVEL where local governments have invited us to work on specific projects to make their communities stronger and more equitable. Many of the problems our country faces today are difficult to address at the federal level. 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.” said John Legend.
While economic inequality has been rising, racial residential segregation has been escalating as well. More than 80% of major metropolitan areas in the United States are more segregated today than they were in 1990. Even affluent and middle-class people of color disproportionately reside in lower-opportunity neighborhoods, while lower-income white people have access to higher-opportunity communities.1
HUMANLEVEL champions the power of local government to improve lives by working to optimize how cities generate and allocate money for essential services, while ensuring those services are available to those who need them most. The initiative will also engage in a public education effort to raise awareness of systemic inequities, and highlight the reality that much of our urban policy infrastructure is in need of investment.
HUMANLEVEL recognizes that government officials and community leaders at the city and local levels are best suited to address the issues they witness and experience in their communities. It is also based on the understanding that meaningful social change rarely is driven by a single individual, organization, or sector, but rather requires cross-sectoral partnerships. Therefore, the initiative:
- Works with cities to examine systems in place and identify opportunities for change.
- Embeds executive fellows into cities for one-to-two-year projects. Fellows bring powerful private sector and social sector experience.
- Educates the public and amplifies successful models through a network of national partners in order to advance public policies that promote equitable, resilient recovery.
“Our goal with this partnership is to take a deeper look at the issues from a human level, with a focus on actions city leaders can take to tackle systemic racism. No single solution will fix the racial and ethnic disparities we see across issues—from housing to education to the workforce—but we must approach this work with a sense of collaboration and urgency,” John Legend said.
HUMANLEVEL’s innovative community partnerships are specifically designed to have the biggest impact in advancing equity across a range of issues like jobs, housing, education, and health. Projects include:
- Increasing the number of accessible living-wage jobs
- Addressing the shortage of affordable housing and its impact on family security and homelessness
- Expanding access to preventive healthcare and mental health resources
- Broadening conceptions of public safety to move beyond policing and incarceration
FUSE Corps CEO James Weinberg added, “The current social and economic disruptions have created a unique opportunity in which we can truly reimagine and rebuild our cities. There is inspiring change happening at the local and regional levels—not as a substitute for national policy, but as a spark and guide for it—and we are thrilled that FUSE Corps, in partnership with HUMANLEVEL, can help drive this local momentum.”
“We welcome this partnership with John Legend and FUSE Corps, which is helping build our capacity to respond to the current crisis in ways that will have lasting impact throughout our city,” said Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin. “Through this program, we are hosting phenomenal leaders who are accelerating progress on some of our most important priorities like college affordability, improving access to affordable housing, and creating healthy communities. In addition, this program also connects us within a network of cities who are exchanging best practices on a whole range of other interconnected issues as we work to better meet the needs of our communities.”
This national effort is being supported by a range of philanthropic partners including Jack Dorsey’s #StartSmall, Emerson Collective, Ford Foundation, Ballmer Group, The Rockefeller Foundation, William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, Sony Music Group, Walton Family Foundation, and others
HUMANLEVEL builds on John Legend’s FREEAMERICA, which aims to end mass incarceration and invest in communities. HUMANLEVEL is a natural progression of the work FREEAMERICA has done to date fighting for freedom from disproportionate incarceration to systemic barriers.
Recognizing that we are all accountable to the urgent work of building a more just, more equitable world, the initiative is also calling on audiences to learn more about community-specific issues, projects happening locally, and how they can get involved by visiting www.humanlevel.org.