Global Citizen hosted its first concert in Montreal on Sept. 17. The event put pressure on world leaders who gathered in the city for the Global Fund’s 5th Replenish Conference and raised awareness for infectious diseases — specifically AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. It also brought some of world’s most exciting artists to the stage.
In the weeks leading up to the concert, Global Citizens took action to get world leaders to commit to the Global Fund, to support the eradication of polio, to invest in girls’ education, and more.
The night before the concert, governments, philanthropists, and corporations raised $12.9 billion for the Global Fund and then many in attendance came to the Bell Centre for a night of music and advocacy to celebrate all the progress that has been made against infectious diseases.
It was a rainy evening outside, but thousands of Global Citizens lined up to listen to some great music and learn more about how to make a difference in the world.
From the start, the show recognized the cultural heritage of Montreal by alternating between French and English through hosts like Maripiere Morin, Patrick Langlois, and George Stroumboulopoulos.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stepped onto the stage and delivered a rousing speech.
"I've said it before and I'll say it again: Poverty is sexist!" he said. He went on to describe his his commitment to gender equality and his country’s commitment to fighting infectious diseases around the world.
Montreal-native Charlotte Cardin then performed a few powerful ballads before telling the crowd, "Let's make tonight one of many toward a kinder, safer, and more equal world."
Elton John made a surprise appearance via video to talk about how important it is to continue the against fight AIDS.
"Seeing the next generation embrace the fight against AIDS is incredibly inspiring," he said. "Fighting AIDS is a cause so close to my heart."
Continuing on the topic of AIDS, Kweku Mandela introduced Johnson & Johnson Canada CEO Paul Stoffels who talked about his company's commitment to developing a vaccine.
Later on, Loyce Maturo, who has been diagnosed with HIV and survived tuberculosis, came on stage to describe her work as a champion for victims of both diseases, especially when it comes to girls and women. It was a powerful moment for the audience, which had spent weeks, months, and, in some cases, years campaigning against both diseases.
Canadian group Metric played a gorgeous acoustic set, running through some of their classics like "Help I'm Alive." Frontwoman Emily Haines said, "We want to beat AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis. And we know the ones most affected are girls and women, and not only do they get sick, but they have to care for those in their family who are sick ... that means sliding into poverty. We have to break this cycle."
Global Citizen favorite Ramesh Ferris carried on Maturo's message by sharing his story of contracting polio at 6 months old and then going on to become a global advocate.
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Prime Minister Trudeau made one of many visits to the stage soon after. He was joined by philanthropist Bill Gates and, in one of the most touching moments of the evening, the two shared a long hug. The Gates Foundation had committed $600 million to the Global Fund the day before.
Two more Montreal-natives, Grimes and Half Moon Run, also performed. Grimes raced around the stage with a frenetic energy for some electronic pop and dance songs. Half Moon Run slowed the crowd down with heartfelt calls for unity.
The night ended on a celebratory note that brought everyone in the audience to their feet. The Roots backed up Usher for a boisterous take on the soul singer's sultry music.
Usher is a long-time supporter of Global Citizen and didn't let the audience down when it came to advocacy. Multiple times he called on the audience to take action and to make the world a better place.
Toward the end, after dazzling the crowd with his dance moves, Usher stood at the front of the stage and got the crowd to say, "I'm GC and I'm proud," over and over again. It was powerful end to a weekend that made significant gains in the fight against tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV.