John Legend is using his platform to affect social change and his latest mission is to remove “white supremacy” from Louisiana’s constitution.
In an opinion piece published by the Washington Post Tuesday titled “It’s time for Louisiana to strip white supremacy from its constitution,” the Grammy winner blasts the state’s non-unanimous jury decisions as “a 120-year-old measure put in place to suppress the rights of African Americans.”
“Louisiana is one of only two states — the other is Oregon — in which a person can be convicted of a felony and sent to prison without a unanimous vote of the jury,” Legend wrote. “As a result, Louisiana prosecutors do not truly have the burden of proving their case ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.’ They only need to persuade 10 of 12 jurors to send a defendant to prison, even for life.”
Legend explains that Louisiana has “a state justice system in which felony trials are held without the full participation of African Americans.”
“During Louisiana’s all-white constitutional convention in 1898, delegates passed a series of measures specifically designed to ‘perpetuate the supremacy of the Anglo-Saxon race in Louisiana,'” he writes. “Non-unanimous juries were one of those measures, and the intent was clear: If the federal Constitution required that African Americans be allowed to serve on juries, the state constitution would make sure that minority votes could be discounted.”
Louisiana voters will have a chance to amend the state’s constitution in November.
“It’s time to come together, reject prejudice in all its forms and build a future in which everyone is valued and supported,” he adds. “The 1898 constitutional convention was about denying voice to the expression of all of Louisiana’s citizens. This ballot question in November is about giving Louisiana her voice back.”
John Legend is the founder of the criminal justice reform advocacy group FreeAmerica, a criminal justice reform advocacy group and continues to speak out against injustice.