On Saturday, Sept. 25, Global Citizen Live’s mission to unite the world to defend the planet and defeat poverty kicked off with artists, activists, and advocates from across the globe calling for change. BTS, Lorde, Femi Kuti, and Alok joined the call to action, broadcasting from remote locations — and Fugees reunited to perform for the first time in 15 years.
The countdown clock struck zero in Paris, cameras went live, lights came up, and the once-in-a-generation 24-hour global broadcast Global Citizen Live began with an inspiring opening ceremony.
The ceremony started off on a ring glowing bright red and a backdrop of the iconic Eiffel Tower, which set the Global Citizen Live stage in Paris, France — the first stop on a 24-hour tour of global events broadcast across seven continents. The crowd received a warm welcome from actress and activist Priyanka Chopra Jonas and French journalist Denis Brogniart as they took the stage to urge world leaders to join the mission to defeat poverty and defend the planet.
In front of a fully masked, COVID-19-free audience, the hosts in Paris teased upcoming performances from Elton John and Doja Cat and delivered messages of unity, stressing the importance of climate action.
“As we all know the world today faces many challenges. A spiraling climate crisis, millions on the brink of starvation, and a pandemic that continues to expose the harsh inequalities of power," said Jonas, a vocal vaccine equity advocate. “But every problem has solutions and if we can just rise to them — if we dare to believe that these solutions are within our power — throughout this pandemic we have seen what we can achieve when the world works together."
The message spread across the Atlantic Ocean, as the hosts turned it over to the US, where in New York City Emmy award-winning actor Billy Porter and actress Rachel Brosnahan joined forces in Central Park, four hours away from welcoming 60,000 fully vaccinated change-makers to the Great Lawn.
Brosnahan spoke about COVID-19 and how the pandemic exacerbated — and set back progress on — issues such as world hunger, education, and environmental protection.
“Global Citizen has hosted a festival here in Central Park since 2012 — last year, of course there was no concert — but we are very happy to be able to gather safely for this year’s show,” said NYC host Porter, who's also an LGBTQ+ activist and star of Pose. “There has never been a greater need for advocacy than there is right now.”
The hosts discussed the musicians and young activists lending their voices to the NYC event before turning the broadcast over to London.
“What a spectacular show we have got here for you here in the UK tonight adding to the sheer force of this once-in-a-generation moment. We've got artists like Kylie Minogue, we have got Nile Rodgers and CHIC, and we've got Duran Duran,” said TV personality Roman Kemp from the Sky Garden in London, England.
The ceremony continued on to India, where in Mumbai, actor Anil Kapoor spoke about the rich musical culture of his country from the iconic archway of the Gateway of India.
“For Global Citizen Live, lending their voices here in Mumbai, you’ll see Tanishk Bagchi, Badshah, Amit Trivedi, Ajay-Atul, and so many more,” Kapoor announced before shifting the spotlight onto Lagos.
In Lagos, Nigeria, at the New Afrika Shrine — a symbol of freedom and activism — lawyer and reality show host Ebuka Obi-Uchendu and actress and model Nancy Isime welcomed Global Citizen Live to Africa.
The hosts spoke in front of an audience of fully vaccinated frontline workers as their words sent cheers through the crowd.
“Across parts of Latin America, Haiti, Afghanistan, and the Horn of Africa, nearly 41 million people are on the brink of starvation. It is unacceptable. So, we ask you and you and you to join us, and demand action from the world’s leaders,” said Isime.
The broadcast turned back to the US, where in Los Angeles actor Scott Evans counted down 10 hours until the event at the Greek Theater.
“In California right now, we, as so many people around the world, are living through the real time effect of climate change. We know that action to keep our planet's temperature increase at no more than 1.5 degrees is totally essential,” said Evans. “And we are going to make a whole bunch of noise to ensure that leaders know the time to act is now.”
Evans then introduced the first performance of the night, broadcast remotely from South Korea.
International K-pop sensations BTS performed their new song “Permission to Dance” from the Sungnyemun Gate in Seoul.
"This is Global Citizen Live," said BTS. "Welcome to South Korea!"
Alok and Mapu Huni Kuin performed from a floating set on a river in the Amazon rainforest.
"Much peace, love, joy, and light," said Mapu. "With the powers and cure of the forest, Huni Kuin talks to humankind! Much light in your hearts!"
Alok was also joined by Yawanawá for a showcase of Indigenous voices. Owerá (Kunumi MC) also took the stage with the Brazilian DJ.
“Together we can move the world, to defend the planet and defeat poverty," said Alok. "I'd like to dedicate this moment to all the Global Citizens that are on the frontline fighting to stop the global warming. I'm so honored to be part of this global movement. And I know that we can change the world, one action at a time.”
Lorde made a special appearance with a four piece band to sing “Solar Power” from her latest album and delivered a speech in the center of a golden sun from New York City.
“It's an honor to be here today, amplifying Global Citizens deeply important messages,” said Lorde. “Environmental systems change must come from our biggest businesses and our lawmakers, but the movement has always belonged to the people. May we all continue to ask questions of our world. And remember, the future is solar.”
In Lagos, Afrobeat royalty Femi Kuti performed “Pà Pá Pà.”
“It's a great honor to be performing with Global Citizen at Lagos at the New Afrika Shrine, a venue dedicated to my father Fela Anikulapo-Kuti to put a stop corruption and inequality. Tonight, we are doing just that, amplifying the voices of those most affected by inequity, poverty, and disease. Sit back, let's have a great evening.”
Back in NYC, Porter and Brosnahan introduced the last performance of the opening ceremony.
Legendary hip-hop trio Fugees reunited to celebrate their 25th anniversary with Global Citizen. And with their performance of “Ready or Not,” Global Citizen Live, a once-in-a-generation moment of global action, began its 24-hour mission.
The Fugees reunite after 15 years for the Global Citizen Live opening ceremony. | Image: Global Citizen/Tyler Twins
You can tune in to the whole show wherever you are in the world. Watch the stream on GlobalCitizen.org, YouTube, and Twitter. Find out more broadcast information here. And make sure to download our app for even more Global Citizen Live content!
You can join the Global Citizen Live campaign to defend the planet and defeat poverty by taking action here, and become part of a movement powered by citizens around the world who are taking action together with governments, corporations, and philanthropists to make change.