Not even a towering April storm front could stop two-time Grammy winner Ben Harper from coming to town.
As a board member and long-time supporter of LIFT, a nonprofit organization that helps community members achieve economic stability, Harper was going to do whatever it took to make their annual benefit concert in Lincoln Park. Fresh off a performance at the White House, he caught a flight to Milwaukee with his mom, band and crew members, and road tripped to Chicago.
Harper first joined forces with LIFT 10 years ago, when he had been looking to start up a similar organization himself. “Then I met Kirsten (Lodal, CEO and Co-Founder of LIFT), and it was all over,” he says. “We just knew immediately that there was work to do in an interconnected way between us, and I signed right on.”
LIFT provides comprehensive services to help bring low-income individuals and families out of poverty. Through résumé workshops, mock interviews, and one-on-one sessions with college volunteers, LIFT arms people with the tools they need to secure housing and land jobs.
Between world tours and recording sessions, Harper has made his work with LIFT a priority. He’s offered his support through fundraising concerts and visits to local chapters, and by raising awareness of the organization to people in positions of power.
Coming from a family in need, Harper has a personal connection to the cause and insists that giving back should be a requirement for everyone. “Not that you can teach philanthropy or teach giving, but you can certainly teach the principles of generosity.”
Harper’s passion for helping others often works its way into his music, seeing as he draws inspiration from social justice. “A song like ‘With My Own Two Hands’ feels so different playing it tonight than in front of a paying crowd,” he says. “Not only am I singing it, but I’m doing it, and that’s what it was written for. I get chills talking about it.”
Music has always been central to Harper’s life. Growing up with his mother, also a musician, and spending time at his grandparents’ music store, Folk Music Center Store & Museum in California, he knew he’d found his calling early on.
Eleven studio albums later, his music has continued to resonate with millions of people around the world. But he counts his work with LIFT as one of his biggest accomplishments.
“You can give for your appreciation, you can give because you have to, you can give because you know it’s the right thing to do, whatever reason I don’t care,” he says. “Just do it; step up. Find a way to give back in any way you can.”
For more information on LIFT, see “LIFTing Struggling Families, Student Volunteers and Perhaps Eventually Society.”
Photos by Britt Anderson