ABOVE PHOTO: H.E.R. arrives at the BET Awards on Sunday, June 27, 2021, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
By John Carucci
NEW YORK — In addition to making great music, H.E.R. wants to be an active citizen who empowers young people with information.
The Grammy- and Oscar-winning recording artist gets to do both in the new animated Netflix series, “We the People.”
Created by Chris Nee and produced by Barack and Michelle Obama, the 10-part series provides a range of civics lessons through three-minute music videos on topics that include the Bill of Rights, immigration, and the courts. It features award-winning artists Lin-Manuel Miranda, Brandi Carlisle, Bebe Rexha, and others.
H.E.R. took on the “Active Citizenship” episode, writing and performing the song, “Change.” It deals with teaching young people to get involved with issues in the community by volunteering, writing letters to elected officials, and peaceful protest.
The animated segment was directed by Oscar-winner Peter Ramsey, known for “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.”
H.E.R. admits the idea to make music and educate seemed daunting at first.
“I was, like, thinking about all these topics and how can I make this, like, cool? And, you know, it just started off with just saying exactly what it is: ‘Wrote a letter to the mayor can you hear me out.’ Like how would we really have a conversation about this with somebody who doesn’t necessarily understand,” she said.
That made the process fun, while at the same time gratifying — she was educating the viewer with important information.
The 23-year-old believes the importance of the subject matter lies in the lack of understanding many citizens have when it comes to the rights and duties of citizenship.
“I feel like sometimes things aren’t taught on purpose,” the recording artist said.
H.E.R. cited the power of artists like Bob Marley and Marvin Gaye when it comes to writing music about social justice.
“(They) are saying things so simply. But we digested them, and we really thought about the way that we live our lives based on this music,” she said.
And it’s because music is a language that everyone understands.
“It’s something that makes us feel good, makes us want to fall in love and makes us sad or makes us learn. And so, what better way to teach, especially people at a young age or of all ages,” she said.
She hopes the collection of music videos in “We the People” will “share the knowledge that hasn’t always been shared” when it comes to rights, privileges, and responsibilities.
“It’s up to us to make these changes and to empower the youth. So, as we grow, as we learn, we teach. And in that, I think, will make a huge difference,” she said.
“We the People” premieres Sunday on Netflix.