FAIRFAX, Virginia — American singer-songwriter Harry Chapin is known for hits like his iconic song “Taxi,” but the rock n’ roll musician is also remembered as a pioneer for anti-hunger organizations. Chapin, in the 1970s, started Artists Against Hunger and Poverty, a subgroup of the nonprofit WhyHunger. The Borgen Project spoke with Hillary Zuckerberg, the director of Artists Against Hunger and Poverty (AAH&P) at WhyHunger, to learn about the organization and its upcoming work.
For centuries, musicians have used the power of their voices and instruments to create impactful songs on world issues that deserved more recognition. From hundreds of years ago when artists inspired civilians to fight in the French Revolution, to musicians in the 1960s using their pieces to support the civil rights movement, Harry Chapin was inspired to fight for global change in the only way he knew how. “He really just leaned on a lot of his musician friends to say like, ‘Hey, I’m doing this. We need to end hunger and poverty and you need to get involved. So step it up.’ And a lot of them did,” Zuckerberg explained.
Even though Chapin died in 1981, his legacy continued and AAH&P still fights “to raise funds to raise awareness, to understand the complexities of the hunger issues in the hunger crisis and really to… step up and do something to help end this issue that’s been going on for way too long,” says Zuckerberg.
But AAH&P is more than just a nonprofit dedicated to solving world hunger and that is largely due to its main company, WhyHunger. WhyHunger supports grassroots movements all around the world, thus allowing them to connect with artists who can increase their impact by putting the money earned from concert and merchandise sales back into the community. Not only do these funds help the people in these towns but they also inspire congregation and team building within these families who get to see a great show and feel the good coming from these artists.
Global superstars like Yoko Ono and Bruce Springsteen have been a part of Artists Against Hunger and Poverty for years: Ono’s Imagine There’s No Hunger campaign raised more than $6.8 million to fight childhood hunger and Springsteen’s efforts have helped more than 130 grassroots organizations. Zuckerberg estimates that more than $15 million has been raised and artists are continuing to come on board and support WhyHunger and AAH&P.
“Some of the other things that really stick out for me, we talked a little bit about Imagine, and we had done for many years a global campaign in partnership with Yoko Ono and the John Lennon estate and Hard Rock International.” And, “through that campaign, we’ve raised money, the $7 million to fuel community-led solutions to hunger, and produced some incredible events. And some amazing merchandise that I still see people wearing when I walk down the street, which is amazing,” says Zuckerberg.
Perhaps one of the most incredible projects Artists Against Hunger and Poverty created is their video “WhyHunger’s Drum Together,” which featured legendary drummers like Ringo Star (The Beatles), Max Weinberg (E Street Band), Matt Cameron (Pearl Jam) and more. The project brought together more than 100 drummers and 50 musicians of various instruments, all playing together to fight for the common cause of eliminating hunger and poverty around the world.
More to Come
Starting in 1975, WhyHunger has broadcasted its message of fighting hunger and poverty all over the world through radio stations promoting its telethon Hungerthon. In 2021, the organization celebrated its 36th Hungerthon, raising more than $920,000 through auctions, giveaways and donations. “We’ve hit a million for like four or five years in a row. And it has many layers. It is in partnership with radio stations. So Sirius XM is pushing it out, Audacy is pushing it out, and iHeart Radio and Audacy are a little more focused in New York. But obviously, people can listen to the radio all over the world now. So it’s… global in a sense,” Zuckerberg explained. The 2022 Hungerthon begins on November 1 and 90 cents to every dollar raised goes toward helping the world.
Also on November 1, 2022, the group is hosting its annual WhyHunger Chapin Awards, an event honoring musicians. This year’s revered icons include Kevin Bacon, Warren Haynes and Bob Wolk and the proceeds from ticket sales go back to the nonprofit.
Artists Against Hunger and Poverty does everything with the greatest of intentions. Zuckerberg affirms that “the whole world really needs to believe [that]people should have food and they should have access to food and they should be able to afford to buy healthy food.” And, “that shouldn’t be a question.” She says further, “water, food, housing… those are the things we need just to be able to function.”
AAH&P continues to have artists reaching out, wanting to do their part in helping people all around the world, once again proving one of the most important messages of all time, “music has the capability to change the world, there is no doubt about that.”
– Yashavi Upasani
Photo: Courtesy of WhyHunger