“Equality is our demand, action is our answer.”
“Enough injustice, enough bigotry, mistreatment,” Janet Jackson told the crowd gathered on Central Park’s Great Lawn for the 2018 Global Citizen Festival. “Mindless prejudice has to stop.”
“Equality is our demand, action is our answer,” she added.
Those powerful words echoed throughout the night as performers, activists, and world leaders called for an end to cash bail, sexist laws, education inequality, and other injustices at the 2018 Global Citizen Festival on Saturday.
Nelson Mandela’s legacy was also continuously invoked throughout the evening to honor the 100th year since the legendary human rights activist was born.
“In the year of Madiba’s centenary, let us honour the life and legacy of this great leader by heeding the call to active, participant citizenry, in which each citizen feels valued, and their contribution called upon, so that all of us can be part of the creation of a better world,” Lindiwe Sisulu, South African minister of defense and military veterans, told the crowd.
Janet Jackson headlined the festival alongside The Weeknd, Janelle Monáe, Shawn Mendes, and Cardi B. John Legend performed a guest set and Broadway actress Keala Settle performed “This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman with the New York City Gay Men’s Choir.
Around 60,000 Global Citizens attended the festival after taking action on causes ranging from supporting refugees to fighting diseases of poverty. In the two months leading up to Global Citizen Week, Global Citizens took over 2.1 million actions urging leaders to tackle extreme poverty. Ultimately, dozens of commitments were made worth billions of dollars by governments and companies.
The night started with Janelle Monáe sitting on a throne denouncing sexual violence and calling on the crowd to always show their support for survivors of sexual assault. She performed her ultra-political album Dirty Computer.
“I want to tell any survivor here and any survivor watching us that I hear you, I see you, and I believe you,” she said.
Shawn Mendes had the crowd swooning and asked Global Citizens to take action for the 264 million kids around the world who are unable to get an education.
Cardi B, meanwhile, urged audience members to research organizations that are working to end poverty overseas and ended her set with “her firstborn” song “Bodak Yellow.”
The Weeknd closed the evening with a riveting performance of his biggest hits.
Earlier in the evening, singer Cynthia Erivo and film director Ava DuVernay broke down the criminalization of poverty and shared how cash bail oppresses communities of color by incarcerating innocent citizens and making it impossible for them to get out of prison.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo then pledged that New York will fight the criminalization of poverty and end cash bail in New York in 2018.
John Legend stood up for racial justice while asking politicians to follow through with their commitments.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Legend said. “We can’t just talk the talk. We have a lot of politicians 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, and we’re voting. It’s not enough to talk.”
Robert De Niro and Rachel Brosnahan came to the stage to tell attendees how they can register to vote through the organization When We All Vote. Cardi B and Michelle Obama followed up, urging people to show up for the midterm elections on Nov. 6 and make their voices heard.
In a segment of the night dedicated to raising awareness of plastic pollution, actors Rami Malek and Mark Ruffalo talked about marine plastic and urged audience members to avoid single-use plastics.
Nikolai Astrup, Norway’s minister of international development, then committed $200 million to fighting marine litter over the next four years.
As part of Global Citizen’s #LevelTheLaw campaign, UN Women announced its intention to abolish laws that discriminate against women around the world by 2030. Representatives from The Gambia came to the festival after 10,000 tweets from global citizens to announce the country’s commitment to this cause.
“The Gambia is committed to leveling the law, amending all sexist laws that seek to perpetuate the oppression of women,” Abubacarr M. Tambadou, attorney general and minister of justice of The Gambia, told the audience.
Actress Dakota Johnson told Global Citizens to leave her a voicemail or send her an email to talk about achieving gender equality. The request was part of her new work as an ambassador for Global Citizen’s #SheIsEqual campaign.
“I believe that every woman and every girl should have access to reliable contraceptives, safe reproductive care, and a quality education,” Johnson said. “I believe that every woman and girl should be granted the respect and dignity they deserve.”
“I believe that we should live in a world where every girl can maximize her potential and have a bright future full of enormous opportunity and success in front of her, because her gender does not limit her capability,” she added. “I believe that every woman and girl, should she desire, should have her voice heard.”
The night also featured many corporate commitments to ending poverty.
Paul Stoffels, the chief scientific officer of Johnson & Johnson, announced that the company is conducting large scale testing of its HIV vaccine in five African countries, including South Africa, Verizon pledged to expand its Innovative Learning Schools to impact 2 million children by 2021, and Microsoft launched a new campaign called Digital Peace Now to fight cyber warfare.
“I’m telling you right now – don’t trust anyone over 30 to make decisions that will determine the kind of world you’ll inherit,” Jim Kim, president of the World Bank, told the audience at the end of the night. “It’s up to you to force leaders, including me, to do the right thing for your generation and all future generations.”
“Hold us accountable for combating climate change,” he added. “Hold us accountable for investing in women and girls. Hold us accountable for building human capital. Hold us accountable for ending poverty. Hold us accountable to build the world you deserve.”
The 2018 Global Citizen Festival in New York will be presented for the very first time by Citi. MSNBC and Comcast NBCUniversal will air a live simulcast of the Festival on MSNBC and MSNBC.com. The Festival will also be livestreamed on YouTube and Twitter, presented by Johnson & Johnson. Proud partners of the 2018 Global Citizen Festival include Global Citizen’s global health partner and major partner Johnson & Johnson, and major partners P&G, CHIME FOR CHANGE Founded by Gucci, Verizon, House of Mandela, iHeartMedia, and NYC Parks. Associate partners include Microsoft, Great Big Story, and One Championship.