While the pandemic has several rueful stories, there are also plenty that are positive. One such story is about R&B icon Alicia Keys who partnered with NFL to launch a USD 1 billion fund to help support black-owned businesses in America badly hit on account of the coronavirus lockdown and global economic downturn. The recent racial furor by black Americans further prompted Alicia, the artist to use her Rhythms & Blues (R&B) musical platform to promote racial equity. As per Alicia Keys, my fund is primarily “to empower Black America through investing in Black businesses, Black investors, institutions, entrepreneurs, schools and banks in a way to create sustainable solutions”. NFL and Keys are looking to tap other industry leaders to contribute to contribute to the fund to make it a “multi-billion dollar endowment across business sectors” which will play an active role in supporting racial justice initiatives.

Who is Alicia Keys?

Born on January 25, 1981, as Alicia Augello Cook, the multiple Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter is known professionally as Alicia Keys. A classically-trained pianist from the age of 7 years, Keys began composing songs when she was 12. After graduating from the Professional Performance Arts School, she was promptly signed up in 1998 by Arista Records. Her debut album, Songs in A Minor (2001), went platinum five times over and earned her five Grammys. What followed were more hit albums like The Diary of Alicia Keys (2003), As I Am (2007), and Girl on Fire (2009), all of which won Grammy Awards.

Image credits: Houston Defender

Alicia Keys the Activist

On January 22, 2017, a day after Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration, Alicia Keys participated in the Women’s March that drew over half a million people to Washington, D.C. Here along with several other celebrities, she protested against President Trump’s stance highlighting issues like immigration, environmental protection, women’s rights, and equality for all.

In her address to the crowd, Keys said, “Let us continue to honor all that is beautiful about being feminine. We are mothers. We are caregivers. We are artists. We are activists. We are entrepreneurs, doctors, leaders of industry and technology. Our potential is unlimited. We rise!”

In March 2020, Alicia Keys also published her memoir, More Myself: A Journey.

Image credits: NFL

The NFL connect

On September 10, Alicia Keys performed her new song “Love Looks Better” during the NFL Kickoff event for the 2020 season. The same day she also announced that she’s tying in with The League to contribute to a new USD 1 billion endowment fund aimed at supporting black American businesses and communities.

According to Keys “We are already seeing the blatant injustices that are going on around us. As an artist, I’m always thinking about how I can use my platform to further racial equity.”

In her letter, she wrote, “The workforce of America has to represent the diversity of this country. We have to strive for true population parity. The NFL has already committed to ensuring Black representation across-the-board, from employees to executives, contractors, suppliers and vendors”.

It continued to explain, “The fund will be steered by Black leadership with a clear goal to empower Black America. The fund will create long term solutions with a focus on Black entrepreneurs, businesses, communities, Black schools, banks, and other Black institutions, while addressing persistent social, economic and environmental disparities. It’s starting here, but the intention is to build a multi-billion-dollar endowment across multiple industries. Through our collective action, we can end the needless and preventable agony created by systemic racism.”

Alicia Keys and NFL have taken the first steps in the right direction, to fight for racial equity and close the wealth gap.

Alicia Keys is a saviour for black Americans but that’s only an interim stop-gap solution to tide over the coronavirus pandemic, the global lockdown, and economic slowdown.

Americans, black, white, yellow it’s time to shed the thought of color and replace it with an idea to restore a bigger and better America.

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