On an inspiring roll in the wake of three consecutive Top 20 hits on the Billboard Hot Gospel Songs chart, Akron, OH based R&B/Hip Hop Trio Half Mile Home blends funk, soul and “wokeness” on their dynamic upcoming single “I Won’t Judge” – a portion of whose proceeds will be earmarked for the Vitiligo Research Foundation (www.vrfoundation.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to finding and instigating research for the chronic skin condition across the world.
Collaborating with their longtime songwriting partner “Ready Writa,” the group wrote the track – set to drop in mid-May - to create greater awareness of an often misunderstood and mischaracterized disorder in which patches of skin lose their pigment. Michael Jackson may have been the most prominent person to ever suffer from vitiligo, yet his suffering from it in part created the misconception that it was a uniquely African American affliction. Yet it’s estimated that globally, about 1% of the population is affected by it, with some populations having rates of 2-3% - and males and females of all races are impacted.
The concept for “I Won’t Judge” originated with Half Mile Home co-founder, lead vocalist and guitarist “Deaken” Brownlee,” who has suffered skin discoloration from vitiligo since childhood and has felt unfairly judged on his appearance for many years – even through all the accolades and achievements of his musical career.
“I have felt that awkward feeling often, when people treat me differently or are taken aback when they first see me,” he says. “I’ve talked to a lot of other people with vitiligo, and everyone feels like they are automatically judged on their appearance. But we’re just like everyone else. Many of the folks I’ve met that suffer from it have had remarkable success in business and in the arts. To me, they’re some of the most creative people in the world. There is so much more too us, and it’s wrong to stigmatize us.
“‘I Won’t Judge’ is important to me and the group not only because it’s a core tenet of our Christian faith,” he adds, “but because I deal with vitiligo and the way people perceive me because of it every day. I’ve never let it hold me back and I want people to know that we’re normal people with the same life and emotions as anyone else – we just happen to have this pigmentation disorder. It’s just something more people need to know about.”
Firmly committed to curing vitiligo, the VR Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization funding and fast-tracking medical research globally. Its mission is to accelerate the end of suffering for millions of people who suffer from vitiligo through research, support and education.
The foundation was born from the determination of one man - Dmitry Aksenov - to help his daughter, who was diagnosed with this debilitating skin disease at an early age. After years of trying, and failing, to find an effective treatment for his daughter Dmitry realized vitiligo wasn’t getting the attention it deserved from the research community - because the money was not there to support projects. Determined to change this, Dmitry decided to take up the fight himself and established the Vitiligo Research Foundation in 2010. The VR Foundation is a small organization with a big reach. From its New York office, its staff manages an international program of research and outreach projects, all centered on finding a cure for vitiligo and helping those with the disease. Their ongoing mission is to develop effective treatments to help the millions of people around the world who suffer from vitiligo.
The success of Half Mile Home’s most recent single “This Far” sparked the formation of the group’s anti-violence non-profit The Boiling Point, which is designed to provide resources to help young people channel their anger and negative energy into positive outlets before they turn to destructive activities that sometimes have deadly consequences. Formed in 2004, the group’s previous radio single “Thinking of Me,” which reached the Top 15 of Billboard’s Gospel Airplay chart, was ranked #49 on the publication’s 2017 Year-End Top 50 Gospel chart. Their third album Church Muzik & Inspiration (Church Boy Muzik/Selecto Hits), was released in 2013 and peaked at #9 on Billboard's Top Gospel Albums chart. Their latest offering Don't Judge Me reached #11 on Billboard's Top Gospel Albums chart and included “Thinking of Me” and the #11 airplay hit “More than Enuff.”