John Legend Performs in Bahrain Despite Protests

John Legend Performs in Bahrain Despite Protests

Singer talks justice amid island's human rights controversy.

Published March 3, 2015

Anti-riot police vehicles guarded the entrance to John Legend's most recent concert, at the Arad Fort in Bahrain.

The "Glory" singer was visiting the Persian Gulf island to perform the Spring of Culture Festival Monday (March 2), despite local activists urging him to boycott the government-sponsored event. According to the Associated Press, more than 2,000 attended the sold-out show.

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Protests citing human rights abuses have been ongoing in the nation since 2011, in part inspired by the Arab Spring. 

"I love that we’re here tonight ... to celebrate art and its power to bring us together and see each other’s humanity," Legend said during his set, which included his Oscar-winning Selma soundtrack song with Common.

He goes on to quote Nina Simone and Dr. Martin Luther King, telling the audience that as an American, as a descendant of slaves, he empathizes with the people's struggle. "A just society is one built not on fear or repression or vengeance or exclusion, but one built on love. Love for our families. Love for our neighbors. Love for the least among us. Love for those who look different or worship differently. Love for those we don’t even know," he said.

"And for those who stand for justice, accountability, freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom to organize without fear of retribution," he added, "please know that I stand with you."

Prior to his arrival, he explained his decision to accept the gig was based on the premise that protesting is not exclusively boycotting. At times, conversations need to be had.

Legend's full speech may be read on the website for his education advocacy organization, The Show Me Campaign.

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(Photo: AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

Written by BET-Staff

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