Major musical acts are the main draw at the annual Global Citizen Festival, a concert and political rally that started in New York City's Central Park in 2012. Organized by Global Poverty Project, the original focus of the event was to encourage citizens to take actions designed to end extreme poverty around the world by the year 2030, but has since expanded to increase awareness of environmental and social justice causes. Those who perform designated activism, including writing letters or signing petitions, earn free tickets to the event. The Global Citizen Festivals are live-streamed in order to make them global. Chris Martin of Coldplay became the events' curator in 2015.
The 2018 festival, held in Central Park's Great Lawn on September 29, followed a week of U.N. General Assembly meetings in New York. The concert and rally drew 60,000 music fans to see performances by the Weeknd, Janet Jackson, Shawn Mendes, Cardi B and Janelle Monáe, with John Legend listed as special guest performer. Hugh Jackman and his wife, Deborra-lee Furness, hosted the event, which included presentations by Chris Martin, Naomi Campbell, Dakota Johnson, Robert DeNiro, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and dozens of other entertainment and political leaders. Cable television's MSNBC broadcasted the festival live.
This year's festival in Central Park was interrupted for about a half hour about 7:30 p.m. by a stampede in the right pen by the stage. Hundreds of attendees, unsure of what happened but following the rush, ran out of the area leaving behind shoes, blankets and other personal belongings. Police charged into the area and discovered no danger. The promoters and the police initially attributed the cause of the panic to a fallen metal barricade but later determined it to be someone standing on and exploding a soda bottle, making a sound that was mistaken as an active shooter. No explanation or appeal for calm came from the stage for almost a half hour, as medics attended to those injured in the melee. Some attendees who fled among the panic and confusion were unable to re-enter the park for their possessions.
Highlights from the Global Citizen Festival 2018 in New York
Janelle Monáe supported survivors of sexual assault
Combating sexual assault was a prevalent theme at the 2018 Global Citizen Festival. Janelle Monáe cited Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh two days earlier. "I dedicate this to Dr. Ford, I dedicate this to Anita Hill, I dedicate this to anyone who is trying to make this place a better world," Monae said between songs. "This past week was a brutal, brutal week for a lot of us women," she said. "It was an especially hard week for survivors of sexual violence, so I want to start out today's festival by telling any survivor here in this audience right now, any survivor watching from your home that I hear you, I see you, and I believe you." She led a call and response chant of, "We hear you, we see you, we support you, we believe you."
|Chris Martin of Coldplay|
John Legend introduced a social action-inspired song
Billed as a special guest, John Legend performed only three songs, solo at the piano, including his biggest hit, "All of Me," and a cover of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song." Before debuting a new song, "Preach," Legend said "We have a lot of politicians here talking the talk, and we're going to follow up with them, right? We need legislation passed — we better follow up with you, Governor Cuomo. All our governors around the country: We're going to follow up with you. We're paying attention, and we're voting. It's not enough to talk." He prefaced the song by adding, "in the song we talk about how frustrating it can be to look at your phone, read the news, see what's happening, see how senators treat women who come forward with sexual abuse claims, see how people ridicule young people who march for their right to go to school without getting shot up, see how people denigrate those who would make the very simple claim that Black Lives Matter." Although those particulars were not named in the lyrics, he concluded, "We've got to make the world a better place. We can't just preach."
|Rami Malek & Mark Ruffalo|
|Hugh Jackman & Deborra-Lee Furman|
|Shawn Mendes & John Legend|
Shawn Mendes invited John Legend on stage for a duet
Shawn Mendes invited his audience to take action for the 264 million youth around the world who are unable to get an education. Mendes brought John Legend back on stage for a duet on Mendes' "Youth." Mendes and Legend alternated verses, with Legend taking the parts that were sung by Khalid on the original track, and harmonized on the chorus of "You can't take my youth away."
|Keala Settle & the New York City Gay Men's Chorus|
The Greatest Showman's Keala Settle sang with the New York City Gay Men's Chorus
Host Hugh Jackman introduced Keala Settle, his co-star in the 2017 musical film The Greatest Showman. Settle performed the Oscar-nominated "This Is Me" backed by members of the New York City Gay Men's Choir. The lyrics embraced the value of inclusivity.
|Amber Heard & Bridget Moynahan|
Cardi B's ad-libbed and introduced a video message by Michelle Obama
Bronx-born Cardi B returned to the stage following a four-month maternity leave, rapping and twerking her hits. She said, "I'm nervous, I'm sweating, I had a nervous breakdown today, but it's fine and I'm here and trying to change the world." Towards the end of her set, she was supposed to read from a teleprompter, but Cardi ad-libbed instead. "We need to vote, especially us, the millennials, under 25 and over 18, we need to vote. Last election, everybody took it as a joke, even me. I'm not even gonna' front…I thought 'that person ain't gonna win' and look where we at now." She then introduced a video message from former First Lady Michelle Obama.
|Janet Jackson with Q-Tip|
Janet Jackson offered tributes to Joe and Michael Jackson
Janet Jackson was the first performer after the security scare. Like several other performers, Jackson spoke about abuse. "Like millions of other women out there, I know about bullying. I know about verbal abuse. I know about physical abuse. I know about abuse of authority. I'm sick, I'm repulsed, I'm infuriated by the double standards that continue to threaten women as second class citizens," she said as the crowd cheered. "Enough, guys, enough. Enough injustice. Enough bigotry. Mistreatment and mindless prejudice has to stop, and stop now. Equality is our demand. Action is our answer. Let's go."
Jackson performed many of her best-known songs. In an unanticipated moment, Jackson introduced rapper Q-Tip, who performed "Got 'Til It's Gone" with her. As she has done on other stops on her tour, Jackson paid tribute to her late brother, Michael Jackson. She shouted, "Let's go, Mike!" and sang along to a video of the late pop star singing "Scream." During "Together Again," she paid tribute to her late father, Joe Jackson, projecting photographs of them together. "I miss you," she said. "I love you, both of you."
The Weeknd comforted the audience
The Weeknd's closing set was cut short due to the festival's temporary evacuation. "Fortunately no one got hurt tonight, but you know I love you," he told the audience. "I had to cut it short, but I still feel the love." He later tweeted "so grateful we got to perform at @GlblCtzn tonight after the whole mishap earlier. wish we could have done the whole set but curfew at Central Park is serious and thankfully they gave us extra time! fortunately no one got hurt! Thank you New York!"