What Went Down in Central Park: Global Citizens Festival 2018

The seventh annual Global Citizens Festival was held on September 29, 2018 in New York's Central Park. Over eight hours long, the festival celebrates the mission of the Global Citizen movement: encouraging people around the world to take action aimed towards global change. The event gains traction with live music performances and celebrity guests, which this year included Janelle Monae, Shawn Mendes, Cardi B, The Weeknd, and Janet Jackson. To win free tickets to the festival, you have to perform online “actions” that range from signing a petition to end human trafficking to tweeting a world leader about a specific issue. Since Global Citizen's inception in 2012, almost 20 billion actions have been taken to further human rights causes around the globe, affecting more than 2 billion lives.

Janelle Monae opened the show in a red, black and white ensemble that took over the stage. While the performances of her hit songs like “Make Me Feel” and “Django Jane” were electric, it was her message to survivors of sexual assault that hit the hardest. “It was an especially hard week for survivors of sexual violence so I want to start of today’s festival by telling any survivor here in this audience right now, any survivor that is watching from your home, that I hear you, I see you, and I believe you.”

And she wasn't the only one. In between musical performances, actors, activists, and political figures like Ava DuVernay, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Lester Holt and Chris Martin, among others, came on stage and told us about the causes that were important to them, whether it be the prison industrial complex, education, or the conservation of the environment. Numbers and statistics played a big role in highlighting global problems and the necessary solutions. This was very evident when DuVernay and Cynthia Erivo spoke about ending cash bail: “Tonight in America, half a million people will sleep in a jail cell, convicted of nothing but [being] too poor to afford the price of freedom.” The injustices of the cash bail system were one of the many issues that the speakers at the Global Citizens festival raised awareness about. I can’t think of a crowd I’d rather be a part of than one made up of thousands of people dedicated to global change.

In the end, the festival isn’t about the music or the celebrities; it’s about learning more about the causes that are important to you and taking action to get involved. “Get involved in anyway that you can. There’s so many ways to get involved,” urged Shawn Mendes before performing a heartfelt rendition of his song “Youth,” with John Legend. I am incredibly glad to have been able to attend this year. I look forward not only to next year’s festival, but also to all the positive change that global citizens like me will have helped create by the time it comes around.

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