Global Citizen Festival-The Highlights

Close your eyes. Imagine the lush green grass and wide open skies of Central Parks Great Lawn. Now picture over 60,000 activists gathered here, all standing closely together in front of a big red stage. Add some celebrities to this image- not just any celebrities, however. Im talking music industry powerhouses like Beyonce and Pearl Jam, Hollywood superstars like Leonardo DiCaprio and Kerry Washington, feminism game changers like Michelle Obama and Malala Yousafzai. Picture all of these factors, and youve got yourself the 2015 Global Citizen Festival.

What makes Global Citizen so special that it can boast these A-list celebrity guests and draw crowds upwards of 60,000?  It is because Global Citizen is more than just a festival- it is a community, and it is a cause. In addition to hearing some amazing musical performances, attendees get the chance to learn about and devote themselves to important issues, such as the Syrian refugee crisis, gender equality, and extreme poverty. Within Central Park exists the opportunity for an everyday person to make a difference, for an everyday person to become a Global Citizen.

On September 26, 2015, I was lucky enough to attend the Global Citizen Festival after winning a free pair of tickets to the event. The day was filled with great music and even better vibes.

My spot on 64th Street on the three hour line. The entrance was located on 72nd.

My view of the stage from Central Parks Great Lawn.

Following a hilarious introduction by Stephen Colbert and Hugh Jackman, Coldplay was first to hit the stage, singing crowd favorites like Viva la Vidaand Yellow. Arianna Grande even made an appearance to sing a duet of Just A Little Bit of Your Heartwith Coldplays lead singer, Chris Martin, drawing an enthusiastic response from the crowd. Although Coldplays performance was relatively short, the band sounded awesome and really helped to bring some good energy into Central Park.

My next personal highlight was the appearance of global heartthrob Leonardo DiCaprio. Although DiCaprio was only on stage for a few minutes to discuss climate action, his presence was enough to reduce many squealing girls in the audience to tears (myself included ~ cue Titanic feels).

With an introduction from the ever-fabulous Kerry Washington, one-man band Ed Sheeran began his serenade. Sheeran started the crowd out soft and slow with classics like Lego Houseand Thinking Out Loud, but quickly turned it up a notch after jamming out to higher energy songs like Sing. Many people have told me before what a great performer Sheeran is, but nothing compares to actually seeing him live. I was astounded by his raw talent and captivating charisma, and the fact that he performed by himself made it all the more impressive.

Following a few more global awareness speeches came Beyonces set, which was nothing short of ***flawless. A mix of throwback anthems like Survivorand Single Ladiesand more recent hits like Flawlessand 7/11had everyone singing and dancing, and a look of awe fell over the faces of the entire crowd when Ed Sheeran joined Bey on stage for a heartfelt version of Drunk in Love. The superstar placed a special emphasis on women’s empowerment during her performance, with interludes that included a video asking why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we dont teach boys the same? and a recitation of Maya Angelous Phenomenal Woman.

Continuing the girl power trend, Beyonce warmly welcomed Michelle Obama onto the stage to introduce her new campaign, #62milliongirls. The First Lady encouraged the crowd to share a selfie on Twitter or Instagram with the caption #62milliongirls and something they learned in school, in an effort to bring awareness to the approximate 62 million girls worldwide who do not have access to education. (Calling on you, collegiettes- post a selfie with this caption now!!)   


 Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty

Another Global Citizen highlight for me was Malala Yousafzais speech. The 18-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner appeared on stage with four other young women from around the world to discuss the value of a good education, particularly for children. In the words of another Global Citizen host, Janet Mock, can you say #squadgoals?! Yousafzai stated, It is a book and a pen that can change the life of a child - its not a gun.

Pearl Jam then took to the stage as the festivals final musical act. The famous rock band belted out fan-favorites like Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Townand ended with a perfectly simple and soulful cover of Bob Marleys Redemption Song, effectively reminding the crowd of the festivals main purpose- take action and inspire change.

Now that youve had the chance to picture the 2015 Global Citizen Festival, close your eyes one more time. Flash forward 15 years and imagine the year 2030. We are not a generation of bystanders. We have reached our Global Goals- we have ended poverty and hunger, we have reached gender equality, we have provided education for all. We have expanded past Central Park; we now encompass the globe. We are Global Citizens.