John Legend to deliver MLK social justice lecture

John Legend

John Legend, a 1999 Penn grad, will deliver the 12th Annual Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Lecture in Social Justice on Wednesday, Jan. 16.

Like any other graduating senior in the spring of 1999, John Roger Stephens was filled with glee. The son of a seamstress and a factory worker, he was about to earn a degree in English from the College. As a member of Counterparts, a co-ed jazz and pop a cappella group where he served as president and music director, he took his first steps toward becoming a musical legend… John Legend.

Fourteen years later, Legend plans to return to Penn to give the 12th Annual Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Lecture in Social Justice as part of the University’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Symposium for Social Change. But the address will not be a traditional lecture.

Instead, on Wednesday, Jan. 16, Legend will participate in a public conversation with Camille Z. Charles, the Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Term Professor in the Social Sciences and director of the Center for Africana Studies, at 5:30 p.m. in Irvine Auditorium, 3417 Spruce St.

Co-sponsored by the Office of the President, the Center for Africana Studies, and the Annenberg School for Communication, the event honors those who have committed themselves to social justice.

A nine-time Grammy Award-winning recording artist who has collaborated with music superstars such as Alicia Keys, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Rick Ross,, and The Roots, Legend has used his celebrity to draw attention to global issues like poverty and education.

He has performed at numerous benefit concerts, and in 2007 launched the Show Me Campaign, a nonprofit organization fighting poverty around the world. He also serves on the boards of The Education Equality Project, Teach for America, and the Harlem Village Academies.

In 2009, Legend was presented with the CARE Humanitarian Award for Global Change, and in 2010 he was named BET Humanitarian of the Year. 

Tickets to the lecture are free and required for entrance. They are available on a first-come, first-served basis at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts Box Office, 3680 Walnut St.

For more information about the event, call 215-898-4965 or visit

For ticket information, call 215-898-3900.

Originally published on January 10, 2013