The New York component of this fall’s consciousness-raising Global Citizen Festival will bring together artists as stylistically diverse as Mariah Carey, Metallica, Maneskin, Rosalia, Mickey Guyton, Charlie Puth and the Jonas Brothers — with a “bonus Jonas,” as it were, in the form of Priyanka Chopra Jonas, the activist who’ll host for the live audience in Central Park Sept. 25 as well as an ABC broadcast special the following night.
The stars will shine as brightly far away from Manhattan, as well, in Accra, Ghana, where the other half of the event will go down — also on Sept. 25 — with a cast of performers that includes H.E.R., Usher, SZA, Tems, Stormzy, Gyakie, Sarkodie and Stonebwoy.
The show is being touted as a 10th anniversary for Global Citizen gathering music stars from multiple genres for a free concert on Central Park’s Great Lawn. But that’s not the only anniversary that’ll be celebrated by Global Citizen, which fights for the alleviation of multiple maladies that all come back in the end to the central cause of eradicating worldwide poverty.
“We wanted to celebrate our 10th anniversary” in the event’s traditional home, Hugh Evans, Global Citizen’s co-founder and CEO, tells Variety. “But this year also marks the 20th anniversary of the African Union, as well as being Ghana’s 65th anniversary of its independence from Britain. This is an important moment for pan-Africanism. You know, Ghana is a beacon for the West African region and the continent, because the first liberated African nation is seen as the leading country in Africa for both democracy and economic growth.There’s this beautiful simpleness of the journey of the transatlantic slave trade, literally from the side of Black Star Square [where the Ghana concert will happen] through to Lady Liberty, connecting the two cities. Ghana is a symbol of African excellence, just as the city of New York stands for freedom and the issues that we espouse at Global Citizen.”
Evans and Chopra Jonas are celebrating an anniversary of her involvement as a host, if one with not quite as neat a number. “Not bad. Your 10-year anniversary and my sixth,” she half-kidded, sharing a speakerphone with Evans earlier this week before they hopped on a late-night plane to go do the formal announcement in Ghana. Chopra Jones hosted a Paris component of the annual festival in 2021, after first coming on board to host the Central Park hub in 2016.
Surely she is under pressure not to take sides in picking an artist on the bill she is most looking forward to… “Do I?” interrupts Chopra Jones, playfully mocking the idea that she might have to maintain neutrality. “I mean, am I looking forward to the Jonas Brothers? I dunno,” she teases.
Says Evans, “Global Citizen by its very nature is global, so we wanted it to be for everyone around the world. And that’s why when you’ve got incredible superstars like SZA, Usher, H.E.R. and Stormzy taking the stage in Ghana, through to the Jonas Brothers and Metallica in Central Park. You’re going to see full demographics, all age groups, all backgrounds, united behind a common mission. Chris Martin [Global Citizen’s most dedicated repeat performer] often talks about how it’s one of the few stages where you bring everyone together under one roof. And that ecumenical nature of what we do is, I think, the power of the movement.
“We have to bring soccer moms through to graduating kids all together on the same lawn, on the same footprint, the same weekend to have the same rallying cry, or otherwise world leaders will continue to ignore these messages. And right now we can’t forward for the world leaders to ignore those messages for one more second.”
The festival can be experienced via multiple media partners, live or the following day. For anyone who wants to see or hear the concerts as they’re going down Aug. 24, live broadcasts or webcast will occur via YouTube, iHeart Radio, Twitter, the ABC News Network, Hulu and other platforms. A more condensed special will air Aug. 25 on ABC at 7 p.m. ET/6 PT. Additional broadcast and streaming details will be released in the coming weeks.
Although Global Citizen typically spotlights different areas of need in its annual or one-off concert events, this year’s poster art focuses on three: “For girls. For the planet. To end poverty.” The “girls” element is one that hasn’t always shown up in the philanthropic org’s emphases. But it’s a big part of it for Chopra Jonas.
“Hugh and I were just talking about it, the food crisis in the world right now, especially [because of] the pandemic and the nature of why the poorer countries in the world are literally [starving],” she says. “How can children still be dying of malnutrition. How can someone even go to bed hungry? Being someone who has grown up in a developing country, I’ve seen tremendous poverty around me. And I just feel like as we evolve, the world evolves and our financial capabilities evolve, deploying funds to the right things is really important. That is something that really matters to me. I think no human being should ever have to go to sleep hungry. That should be a fundamental right of humanity.
“And of course, as a woman, having recognized and realized the privilege that I had when I grew up, I was raised by parents that gave me the opportunity of making my own choices, of being educated, giving me an environment where I could thrive. I feel very strongly about empowering girls around the world that don’t have that.”
Publicity materials for the event lay out a dire picture, but with real goals the org believes are achievable, if “citizen” viewers take heed of the call to put pressure on government and corporate leaders to invest. The Festival “will call on world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly and ahead of the G20 and COP27 in November to step up and invest $600 million into the future of women and girls, close the annual $10 billion climate financing shortfall, deliver $500 million to help African farmers respond to the global food crisis, and provide urgent relief from crushing debts to End Extreme Poverty NOW.”
Martin and Chopra Jones emphasize that this is not a one-and-done exercise in emphasizing Africa. “We have a history on the continent, hosting ‘Mandela 100’ in 2018 with Beyonce and Jay-Z, and as well last year [hosting part of] ‘Global Citizen Live’ from Legos, Nigeria,” Evans says. “Our office is well-established in the region, and we’ve done everything from the Be Good fellowship program through, now, bringing the Curtis scholarship that was funded by Kelly Curtis of Pearl Jam, which is also empowering young people across Africa. So this is a long-term legacy for the organization now. This is really important for us because we wanted to show, despite the economic situation that the world is facing, that we’re not gonna turn our back on the continent. In fact, we’re gonna double down.”