Chapman is widely regarded as a politically and socially active musician. In a 2009 interview with American radio network NPR, Chapman is quoted as saying: "I'm approached by lots of organizations and lots of people who want me to support their various charitable efforts in some way. And I look at those requests and I basically try to do what I can. And I have certain interests of my own, generally an interest in human rights." This interest in human rights can be seen lyrically in her music. Songs such as 1988's "Talkin' 'Bout a Revolution" highlight the importance of speaking up against injustice. An example is this lyric from "Talkin' 'Bout a Revolution":
Don't you know, talking 'bout a revolution sounds like a whisper / when they're standing in the welfare lines.
Chapman's song "Fast Car" also brings awareness to the struggles of poverty, with lyrics such as:
I know things will get better / you'll find work and I'll get promoted / we'll move out of the shelter / buy a bigger house and live in the suburbs
Chapman's activism extends further than her lyrics. She has performed at numerous socially aware events, and continues to do so. In 1988, Tracy Chapman performed in London as part of a worldwide concert tour to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with Amnesty International.The same year Chapman also performed in the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute, an event which raised money for South Africa's Anti-Apartheid Movement and seven children's charities.More recently, in 2004 Chapman performed (and rode) in the AIDSLifeCycle event.
Chapman has also been involved with Cleveland’s elementary schools. A music video produced by Chapman that highlights significant achievements in African-American history has become an important teaching tool in Cleveland Public Schools. Chapman also agreed to sponsor a "Crossroads in Black History" essay contest for high school students in Cleveland and other cities.
In 2004, Chapman was given an honorary doctorate in Fine Arts by her alma mater, Tufts University, recognizing her commitment to Social Activism.
I'm fortunate that I've been able to do my work and be involved in certain organizations, certain endeavors, and offered some assistance in some way. Whether that is about raising money or helping to raise awareness, just being another body to show some force and conviction for a particular idea. Finding out where the need is - and if someone thinks you're going to be helpful, then helping