Springfield native John Legend wrote in an essay in 1994 of his plans to make an impact on black history.
Legend, who was around 16 when he wrote this, was still John Stephens at the time. He was named the local winner of the “McDonald’s Black History Makers of Tomorrow’’ essay competition. His winning essay was published in the Dayton Daily News.
The essay examines the state of Black America and calls for self-empowerment among the African-American community.
Legend also predicted his success. “I envision a successful musical career that will allow me to obtain high visibility in the community,” he wrote
Legend is set to appear on “The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon” tonight, according to the show and will likely discuss his essay.
Here is the full text submitted by Legend (John Stephens) to the Dayton Daily News in 1994:
JOHN STEPHENS’ ESSAY: HOW I PLAN TO MAKE AN IMPACT ON BLACK HISTORY
(Published Wednesday, Jan. 12, 1994 in the Dayton Daily News)
In an ever-changing society, Black America is in dire need of effective leadership that will be an enabling force in the struggle for advancement. Our predecessors used successful tactics in gaining equality through written law, however, the problems of
the African-American extend much deeper than those which can be solved through legislation. A new generation requires a modified approach to success. I feel that I possess a concern for my people, an exemplary character, and God-given talents which will enable me to be a strong leader and an advocate for the African-American people.
In examining Black America, one observes a potentially powerful people being limited by bitterness and inward discord. It seems that African-Americans are suffering in every facet of society. There is an inordinate amount of crime among our people, and, to make matters worse, much of these offenses are committed against other blacks. As a result of these crimes, there is a disproportionate number of African-Americans who are trapped in the judicial system, leaving behind emotionally and economically wounded family members and friends. Afro-Americans are also lagging behind in our educational system. Suffering from a lack of motivation and a school system not geared to their special needs, Blacks are scoring comparatively low in the classroom and on standardized tests. These, in addition to many other pressing needs, are problems which definitely need to be addressed.
In beholding the immense sea of problems which are present in the black community, one would have a proclivity toward placing blame on the predominantly white government and other outside forces. Though the government is not void of responsibility, now is a time for collective introspection and self-examination. Instead of relying on the government’s version of Affirmative Action, the Afro-American must act affirmatively on his/her own behalf. Blacks must strive for economic, educational and moral goals through cooperating with and respecting each other. Instead of allowing the past to cause embitterment and to hinder progress, it is the time to learn from the successes and failures of our forerunners and to build on their experiences.
In order to achieve these goals, it is important for strong men and women to be in the forefront and to lead in the struggle for success. I plan to impact society by developing my own character and being a leader in the community by example. I plan to use my social skills and my musical talents to be a positive role model for my fellow Afro-Americans. I envision a successful musical career that will allow me to obtain high visibility in the community. This, in turn, will put me in a position of great influence, which I will utilize in order to be an advocate for the advancement of blacks in America.
Though the Afro-American community is currently suffering through some difficult times, powerful young men and women have the ability to control the destiny of our people and lead us into the future. I plan to be one of these future Black History Makers of Tomorrow.