The Global Citizen Festival is music on a mission 

The Global Citizen Festival takes over the Great Lawn at Central Park Saturday.  Photo Credit: Theo Wargo

For its 2020 concert, Global Citizen has already tapped Billie Eilish, Miley Cyrus, Alicia Keys and others to perform a 10-hour globally broadcast show.

The Global Citizen Festival takes over the Great Lawn at Central Park Saturday. 
The Global Citizen Festival takes over the Great Lawn at Central Park Saturday.  Photo Credit: Film at Lincoln Center PR

Global Citizen Festival — the annual event with the goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030 — doesn’t just bring the biggest names in music to Central Park each fall. It brings performers who use their platform to encourage activism.

“Music is a universal language," says Global Citizen’s Madge Thomas, vice president of global policy and government affairs. "It speaks to a lot of different people in a lot of different ways, but there’s a common thread that attracts people to then dive a little deeper in on the issues.”

While Thomas admits the music (for the most part) has no direct political ties attached, the festival’s core is found within the leadership of artists who spread awareness for worldwide issues. And, it’s in the "action journeys," from calling elected officials to signing women’s rights petitions, that get fans coveted spots on Central Park’s Great Lawn each year.

“We have a unique ability to bring together people with divergent political views. It’s important for our Global Citizens to see that you cannot agree on a lot of things, but you can agree on global poverty and what needs to be done on that," Thomas says.

Alicia Keys performs onstage at the 2014 Global Citizen Festival in Central Park to end extreme poverty by 2030. She'll perfom this year, and again in 2020. 
Alicia Keys performs onstage at the 2014 Global Citizen Festival in Central Park to end extreme poverty by 2030. She’ll perfom this year, and again in 2020.  Photo Credit: Theo Wargo

The eighth annual music fest hits the city on Saturday, gathering Queen + Adam Lambert, Pharrell Williams, Alicia Keys, OneRepublic, H.E.R. and Carole King, among others. The year 2019 marks a critical time for Global Citizen: one year before the 10-year countdown to its overall goal to end extreme poverty.

For its 2020 concert, Global Citizen has already tapped Billie Eilish, Metallica, Lizzo, Coldplay, Shawn Mendes, Janelle Monáe, Miley Cyrus and Alicia Keys to perform a 10-hour globally broadcast, multi-location show called "Global Goal Live: The Possible Dream." Other artists are set to be announced in the coming months. 

Within the past eight years, the festival has managed to use such big names to help expose thousands of millennials to global issues they may not have been privy to before. The festival’s goals this year include calling on companies to procure at least $100 million of their products and services from women-owned businesses and encouraging our government to enact the Keeping Girls in School Act, which focuses on increasing access to sanitary products in schools.

Free tickets are awarded to fans who complete acts such as tweeting about causes, but the efforts don’t end once they step foot on the festival grounds.

Trendy names in the entertainment industry — including "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" star Rachel Brosnahan, z100 radio host Elvis Duran, "Empire’s" Taraji P. Henson and "Bohemian Rhapsody" stunner Rami Malek — are set to speak out on the issues in between headlining performances this weekend.

Activist Nicola Fennel, who’s been participating in Global Citizen action journeys since 2013, says the festival has helped expose her to issues years ago that she’s now passionate about year-round.  

"Some of the issues I’m most passionate about are education, food security and women’s health," Fennel says. "Before Global Citizen, I was as active in social activism on an individual basis. I work as a counselor with students, and so many education topics would come up on a case-by-case basis. 

"Global Citizen has become a way for me to be involved on a global level and care about the world," Fennel says. She first heard about Global Citizen in 2013, when she was 28 years old, thanks to headliner Alicia Keys.

"I’m an avid Alicia Keys fan," she says. "I thought activism journeys were something simple to do for such a huge prize." 

An estimated 60,000 fans are expected to attend the festival this weekend. They’ll help boost the nearly $38 billion in commitments Global Citizen reports its activists have made in the past eight years. 

With Emily Mason

What to expect at the Global Citizen Festival

Tickets for this year’s fest have already been awarded to lucky Global Citizens. If you weren’t one of them, you can purchase entry on resale sites.

Who’s performing:

This year’s performers are Queen + Adam Lambert, Pharrell Williams, Alicia Keys, OneRepublic, H.E.R., Carole King, French Montana, Ben Platt, Jon Batiste & Stay Human, David Gray and NCT 127.

Who’s appearing:

Connie Britton, Nina Dobrev, Becky G, Dakota Johnson, Becky Lynch, Aasif Mandvi, Bridget Moynahan, Kal Penn, Erin Richards, Seth Rollins, Savannah Sellers, Matt Bomer, Rachel Brosnahan, Elvis Duran, Taraji P. Henson, Rami Malek, Bill Nye, Joy Reid, Forest Whitaker, Deborra-Lee Furness and Hugh Jackman.

How to watch online:

If you can’t make it to the festival, you can join in online. Global Citizen is streaming the entire concert on YouTube, starting at 4 p.m.

Visit globalcitizen.org for more information.

Meghan Giannotta