Inside the Sixth Edition of Global Citizen Festival


What do Jay Z, Metallica and Stevie Wonder all have in common? They’ve all performed at New York’s own Global Citizen Festival, which has become an annual tradition in the Big Apple. Hosted on the Great Lawn at Central Park, the event aims to tackle many causes related to social justice, namely the movement to end extreme poverty, but also includes movements to promote young girls’ education, to fund water and sanitation initiatives and so much more. Coldplay vocalist Chris Martin is the creative director of the yearly festival, and the Global Poverty Project is its organizer.

This year, the principal performers on the bill were, in order from earliest to latest during the day, The Killers, The Lumineers, The Chainsmokers, Green Day and Stevie Wonder. The eclectic ensemble is typical of a Global Citizen lineup, as previous years have hosted ska punk, pop, rap, house and indie—all on the same day. Some might be thrown by the musically-diverse collection of artists, but many, including Fordham students, seem to like it just fine.

“I thought it was fantastic!” said Jackson Wornock, Fordham College Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’20. “I like a little more rock and alternative kind of stuff rather than only pop.” Many festivals tend to stick to only one general genre, or if they are multi-day festivals, one genre per day. This runs the risk of losing some attendees, but perhaps it had the converse effect for others. “I thought the change was for the better,” Wornock affirmed.

Most of the acts performed short sets. With the exception of headliner Stevie Wonder’s 19-track performance, the maximum number of songs performed was Green Day’s eight, while the minimum was The Killers’ mere four. The reason for the relative briefness was to fit guest speakers in between artists. There was no shortage of big names among the speakers, as the list included actress Whoopi Goldberg, primatologist Jane Goodall, former Prime Minister of Australia Julia Gillard and several others. All of the speakers are activists whom the festival frequently referred to as “Global Citizens.” Each of them had a cause for which they were speaking. Goldberg spoke about the HIV/AIDS crisis, Goodall encouraged action in support of animals and the environment, while Gillard dedicated her time to global education.

The speakers were not the only “Global Citizens” who preached about social justice and bettering the planet—the artists all said a few words about their own causes as well. The Lumineers, for instance, were joined onstage by Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda. The nation, which is comprised of two islands, was hit particularly hard by Hurricane Harvey. Prime Minister Browne and Lumineers vocalist Wesley Schultz spoke about hurricane relief in between songs. Andra Day’s performance began with a cover of Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” a song about racist murders, as names of lynching victims flashed on the screen behind her. Later, Green Day’s vocalist delved into politics momentarily but tried to stay as bipartisan as possible by imploring the 60,000 fans in attendance to “make the world great again.”

One major complaint that the concertgoers seemed to have was the weather. It was an uncharacteristically hot day for the time of year—upwards of 85 degrees on the second day of fall seems incongruous to most. Perhaps the festival was not prepared for such intense heat, as fans claimed that the experience of trying to get water was not a pleasant one.

“The website told people to bring empty water bottles so we can fill them there,” said Isabella Bermudez, FCLC ’21, “but the line was way too long so I bought their overpriced water.” There was only one refilling station per section, and there were five general admission sections. “It wasn’t practical … the line was unrealistically long.”

Nevertheless, the day was an overall success. Artists, activists and fans united and celebrated the triumph of the good of humanity. “Global Citizens” everywhere enjoyed good music and pledged to do good in the world. No word better describes the entire event than “good.” Now, we wait to see what Chris Martin and the Global Poverty Project can come up with next year.