Artist and activist John Legend feels a duty — in the vein of role model Nina Simone — to reflect the times in which we live through his work. In a video interview with TIME, Legend talks about the nexus of his art and activism, the political climate under Donald Trump and why he remains optimistic for the future of the United States.
“I’m concerned about what’s happening in America when it comes to race and racism,” Legend says. “Obviously I was very disappointed with the outcome of the last election. I feel like our current president and the regime that works with him is actively working to take the country in the wrong direction.”
Still, the singer says he has been inspired by seeing Americans come out to protest the current administration and a spike in political activity since the election.
“I’m also heartened by the response that the American people have shown,” he says. “I’ve seen the activism on the street. I’ve participated in marches. I’ve seen really a surge of interest in the political system and how ordinary people can get involved in the political system and make change happen.”