John Legend delivered a moving message during the 2020 FNAAs, about the importance of standing up for what is right amid what has been such a tumultuous year.
After kicking off the virtual awards show, the star musician returned to take a moment to highlight the social justice movement against police brutality and racism in the U.S. that was sparked following the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and so many others by the hands of law enforcement.
“These killings made clear to the general public what Black folks already knew: racism is real, it is ugly and it is woven into the systems that govern our everyday lives. [The deaths] ignited a new commitment for people all over the world to end the violence and destruction of systemic racism, but if the last few months have taught us anything, it is how powerful and essential it is for us to come together for a common cause,” Legend shared.
“Led by an incredible community of Black leaders, we have seen people from all over the world join the fight for justice, equality and fairness. We’ve seen artists and activists; teachers and students; creators and storytellers, stand side-by-side to create the future we deserve,” he continued.
The singer asserted, however, that “the work is far from over” and that “there are people whose lives are in danger simply because of who they are.”
Legend then called on his fellow “artists and tastemakers,” explaining, “We have the opportunity and responsibility, not only to curate experiences and spaces where all people are safe and welcome, but also to join Black, Brown and Indigenous and LGBTQ leaders, who have been on the vanguard of this revolution for so long.”
“Tonight, FN celebrates the work of so many great artists, who are taking action through their art, standing shoulder-to-shoulder, who push forward policies of liberty and justice for all,” he added.
FN Deputy Editor Sheena Butler-Young echoed similar sentiments, sharing: “2020 was the year that you had to make a decision as a brand, whether it was related to the shoes or the messaging, you had to make a decision.”
“Standing on the side lines was not going to work this year,” she added. “It was no longer sexy to just be quiet and stay safe. You had to be bold, you had to stand for something this year, or you were going to be left behind and we meant it. The executives at FN meant it, the consumers meant it. What do you stand for? That was what 2020 was about. We’ve seen so many brands say, what was controversial a year ago, Black Lives Matter. I think when you say that, you’ve opened up the flood gates. We have something to hold you accountable [for]. In a year, I can ask ‘What have you done to prove that Black Lives Matter?’ There’s obviously a lot of work that remains … but I think you have to start somewhere. We’ve really gotten a nice running start.”
For 34 years, the annual FN Achievement Awards — often called the “Shoe Oscars” — have celebrated the style stars, best brand stories, ardent philanthropists, emerging talents and industry veterans. The first virtual FNAAs are presented in partnership with The Style Room Powered by Zappos, and sponsors FDRA, Deckers Brands, Soles4Souls and Foot Locker.