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Pop icon Annie Lennox sets record straight on her charity work: ‘Some of these billionaires are philanthropic and some of them are not. For me, I’m an activist’

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Annie Lennox is not retiring.

Though her partner in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band Eurythmics Dave Stewart recently posted that Lennox “ won’t be touring anymore ” and would not be part of the “Sweet Dreams 40th Anniversary Tour” this fall, the “Here Comes the Rain Again” singer told The Associated Press that she will continue to perform, especially at events that support causes she is passionate about and her own nonprofit work.

“I’m not retiring from anything,” Lennox said. “I’m just stepping back because I spent decades on the road. And at the age of 68, I’m very fortunate in that I can do sort of one-off appearances now and then. But I think when it comes to an actual tour where you have like 73-date commitments night after night and traveling on the road, it’s incredibly intense. It’s arduous.”

Instead, Lennox plans on performing at more events like “ Time for Change,” a fundraiser for numerous nonprofits, including Rotary International’s End Polio Now initiative. Lennox will perform on the floor of the Colosseum on Sunday, accompanied only by a piano, as part of the benefit.

Alberto Cecchini, member of Rotary International’s board of directors and one of the event organizers, said Lennox was an easy choice for headliner because of both her music and her commitment to ending polio. He said holding the concert in Italy will magnify the message of her performance.

“We are surrounded by beauty, by art and by history,” Cecchini said of Italy. “And all this beauty has the power to inspire people.”

Jennifer Jones, outgoing Rotary International president and new member of its board of trustees, said only seven polio cases have been reported in the world this year, down 99.9% from 1988 when the Global Polio Eradication Initiative began.

“We have made a promise to the children of the world to eradicate this disease,” said Jones, adding that once there are no more new cases, children will need to be vaccinated for three years to ensure the virus does not return. “We have never been this close. And we can’t take our foot off the gas because billions of children will be vulnerable if we don’t.”

Lennox said she was inspired to get involved with End Polio Now because they are so close to eradicating polio that she wanted to do what she could to help secure that victory.

“I’m very honored to be part of that,” she said.

The AP recently spoke with Lennox about why she considers herself an artist and an activist and why those pursuits pair so well together. The interview was edited for clarity and length.___________

Q: Why did you get involved in the fight against polio?

A: There are just infinite challenges on this planet. There have been for years. And I think there always will be. There’s just so much need. So, first of all, the Rotary Club — they do amazing work. And then I found out it’s to stop polio for children. You know, I was vaccinated when I was a kid back in the early ’60s with every other schoolchild in the country and I’m just so grateful that I never had to have polio. I did see young kids in calipers back in the day, and they were the ones who didn’t have the opportunity to get the vaccine. Decades later, it’s appalling to me that there are still affected children who don’t make it. That’s shocking.Q: Can you talk about why philanthropy is so important to you?

A: Well, philanthropy is a word I’m not completely comfortable with because in many ways I equate philanthropy with massive billionaires like Bill Gates. I mean, some of these billionaires are philanthropic and some of them are not. For me, I’m an activist and I’ve been an advocate for various issues. And I’m an artist first and foremost. I feel I have a very small platform, but it has opportunities to do quite a few things in my smaller way. So I like the notion that I can use my platform as an artist to engage with different issues that I am passionate about.Q: Is combining entertainment with fundraising is useful?

A: Every organization is looking for ways to raise funding. That’s an essential thing. And, of course, if you can have an event with an artist performing, the potential is that it gets a higher profile. Comic Relief, who combined the advocacy aspect with entertainment with a whole day of running film clips and appearances from various people. Comic Relief has been able to raise millions and millions of pounds and I’m not sure how else we would have done, quite honestly.Q: What made you want to start your own nonprofit The Circle, which works to empower women and girls around the world?

A: Well, I’m a woman. And I’ve lived my life as a woman. I’ve given birth and I’ve lost a child. So I’ve had some really profound life experiences and I identify with women all over the world. I describe myself as a global feminist because I feel that the empowerment of women and girls should be a completely global issue. The Circle tries to bridge the gap — to support grassroots organizations and women’s aid organizations who are trying to basically get women their fundamental human rights in countries where they have very few human rights.Q: That work clearly drives you.

A: As well as entertaining, there’s an aspect of wanting to make a difference in the world. I’m only one person among the billions of people on the planet, but it’s a very heartfelt commitment from me to do what I can.

_____

Associated Press coverage of philanthropy and nonprofits receives support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content. For all of AP’s philanthropy coverage, visit https://apnews.com/hub/philanthropy.





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