We Are Here: Alicia Keys

I have long been a fan of Alicia Keys. She’s a gen-yoo-wine Noo Yawker, she’s smart and oh What a Voice! A recent New York Times Op-Ed column reports that the singer wants to “gather an army” for her just launched We Are Here movement to channel her music and her fans to social justice causes, including a number focused on mothers and children. The impetus was a rash of bad news around the globe, from the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. to the displacement of hundreds of thousands in the Middle East.

Keys, usually a non-controversial, non-diva songstress, who is expecting her second child in December, indicates that the movement arose partly from her concern about the world that her child will inherit. So, in a clearly controversial move, she decided to be photographed nude with a peace sign on her pregnant belly as an image of harmony and friendship to introduce the effort. Keys said “People won’t be able to ignore this visual.”

Keys’ new song, “We Are Here,” was the kickoff at the  Social Good Summit, which is a grass-roots version of the annual United Nations General Assembly

Long known for themes of love, heartbreak and, of course, New York, Keys’ songs will do more to address racism, injustice and poverty.

Keys says she will encourage her fans to support 12 specific groups: All Out, a gay rights organization; CARE, the aid group; Equal Justice Initiative, which combats racial inequity in the criminal justice system; the Future Project, which empowers high school students in America; Girl Rising, which supports girls’ education around the world; Keep a Child Alive, which helps children affected by H.I.V. and AIDS; Moms Rising, which supports universal prekindergarten, maternal leaves and tighter gun laws; Oxfam, which fights global poverty; Partners in Health, which tackles disease worldwide; the Trevor Project, which prevents suicide among gay and lesbian youths; the Trayvon Martin Foundation, which fights racial profiling; and War Child, which supports children in conflict areas.

Petitions, rallies, protests, public awareness efforts and fund-raising will be part of the next steps for the organization. And Keys also hopes to bring other artists into the effort.

How successful the initiative ultimately becomes, how successful Keys is directing her fans to her social causes, remains to be seen. But by taking this action, Keys is hitting high notes in my book.