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John Legend Selected As Cultural Rhythms Honoree

By Mercer R. Cook and Fatima Mirza, Crimson Staff Writers

Nine-time Grammy Award winner John Legend has been named the Harvard Foundation’s Artist of the Year, according to Harvard Foundation president Dr. S. Allen Counter.

Legend will receive his award during the first of the Cultural Rhythms performances on Saturday, Feb. 25.

Counter said that, in selecting the Artist of the Year, the Harvard Foundation looked beyond musical accomplishments.

“The Artist of the Year has to be more than just an artist, but also a humanitarian,” Counter said.

Cultural Rhythms is an annual, two-part event sponsored by the Harvard Foundation that features over 30 cultural performance groups including Mariachi Veritas, Harvard Bhangra, and the Kuumba Singers.

Students involved in Cultural Rhythms voiced universal excitement at the news that Legend was Artist of the Year.

“I think he’s a great choice,” said Gloria D. Henderson ’12, vice president of the Kuumba Singers, which is performing during the first part of the event. Kuumba also performed for Legend last spring in New York.

Henderson said that her excitement comes from more than just Legend’s performance ability.

“I love his music, but not just his music,” she said. “He’s involved in education and a whole lot of humanitarian projects. For the Harvard Foundation—which is all about race relations and giving back to the community—John Legend is perfect.”

Legend has been involved in several charitable campaigns. He started the “Show Me Campaign,” an initiative to fight poverty and increase access to education in Africa and the United States.

She added that she feels Legend’s music embodies some of the values of Cultural Rhythms.

“His music is universal,” she said.

Gunsagar S. Gulati ’14, a member of Bhangra dance group, said his group was equally excited to hear the news about John Legend, even though they are performing in the second part of Cultural Rhythms and may not have an opportunity to see the artist.

“I think it’s great that he’s coming in,” Gulati said. “Just having him there would be incredible support of all the cultural talents that are going to be performing in cultural rhythms.”

Counter said one of the reasons for founding the Artist of the Year award was to recognize a wider array of individuals who embodied the University’s mission of diversity.

“We created the Harvard Foundation award to represent the whole University, and the new diversity of Harvard,” he said. “The point of those performers are to enlighten students about the different cultures and also celebrate the diversity.”

—Staff writer Fatima Mirza can be reached at fmirza@college.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Mercer R. Cook can be reached at mcook@college.harvard.edu.

This article has been revised to reflect the following clarification:

CLARIFICATION: Feb. 14, 2011.

An earlier version of this article said that the purpose of John Legend's charitable effort, the Show Me Campaign, is to raise money for the Mbola community in Tanzania. While the organization does raise money for the Mbola community, it is also engaged in efforts to fight poverty and increase access to education throughout Africa and in the United States.

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MusicStudent GroupsEthnic or Cultural GroupsMusic GroupsArts