Music

Stevie Wonder Takes a Knee as Green Day and Others Also Speak Out at Global Citizen Festival

Photos: Sachyn Mital

The 2017 Global Citizen Festival's message for social action was amplified by Stevie Wonder and many other incredible performers and notable guests.


Global Citizen Festival

City: New York
Venue: Great Lawn, Central Park
Date: 2017-09-23

This year's Global Citizen Festival still acknowledged extreme poverty and its goal to reduce the number of people living under such conditions. However, the festival has made poverty less of the focus and instead addressed many more of the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals (of which eradicating extreme poverty is the first of eight), including women's rights (gender equality) and global partnership for development, plus other issues like sanitation, vaccination and the environment.

But the festival and the Global Poverty Project's message may have been overpowered by Stevie Wonder. During his introductory remarks, one simple act from Wonder (and his son) turned the focus of attention in the news stories about the festival. Stevie Wonder expressed, "I’m taking a knee for America -- not just one knee, but both knees in prayer for our planet, our future, and leaders of our world." This action and statement was notably broad, but following Sunday's news of the numerous NFL players, and teams, taking the knee to make their own statement, and to show solidarity with Colin Kaepernick and his, somehow controversial free speech right, action of during the U.S. national anthem as a protest against the treatment of black people and the social inequality in the United States.

Of course, Wonder then went into a fantastic performance including "Higher Ground", "Signed, Sealed, Delivered", John Lennon's "Imagine", "Superstition", and, with Pharrell Williams, "Happy" and "Get Lucky". Their set was the finale of an otherwise extraordinary day filled with global leaders (many via pre-recorded video), celebrities, NGO leaders, corporate sponsors (MSNBC live-streamed the show and Citi treated VIPs) and notably the other performers who were the real draw for the thousands on the Great Lawn, Green Day, Andra Day, Alessia Cara, Big Sean, the Chainsmokers, the Killers and the Lumineers.

My favorite moments from the fest were numerous and included the whole set from Green Day. But if I had to choose one song, I was particularly amused by Hugh Jackman's introduction of the band for their "encore" which began with "Wake Me Up When September Ends" and Billie Joe Armstrong on an acoustic guitar in front of a very touching video showing babies and other vulnerable humans. Their earlier rocking portion of the set soared as the band drew energy from the audience. Armstrong made sure people knew that "I'm not a part of a Don Trump America".

Stevie Wonder left Pharrell Williams star struck or at least it seemed so as the latter forgot some lyrics to "Happy" (how is that possible?!). But Wonder generously led his band through a reprise of the tune after acknowledging John Lennon's spirit was still alive. As annoyingly infectious as the tune may be, it's spirit is undeniably positive and it was a wonderful song to unite the audience.

Then, Andra Day's set was simply stunning as well. She opened with a powerful cover of Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit" underscored by desolate strings. The moment was even more powerful as the screen displayed names and dates of people who had been lynched such as Claude Neal and Thomas Miles, Sr.

Links to those moments are embedded above while the full stream is right below, followed by some photos. Hit play and take action on the Global Citizen site, as they continue to offer tickets to shows throughout the year simply in exchange for you taking action.

 

PHOTOS

Priyanka Chopra

Alessia Cara

Alessia Cara

Alessia Cara

Demi Lovato

Demi Lovato

Andra Day

Andra Day

The Chainsmokers

The Chainsmokers

The Chainsmokers

Green Day

Green Day

Green Day

Green Day

Green Day

Green Day

Green Day

Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder

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