Do you want to know what we love about SZA? Other than the fact she’ll be taking to the stage at Global Citizen Festival: Accra on Sept. 24 of course! We love that the 32-year-old R&B singer has given us hits we can listen to all day, every day — which is no easy feat in a genre that has typically helped us define slow Sundays, date nights, and emotional breakups.
She gave us the always relevant CTRL in 2017, and although she hasn’t released an original album since, she’s fed our hunger for new music year-on-year by gracing us with singles released solo, or in collaboration with the likes of Lorde, Kendrick Lamar, DJ Khaled, and Doja Cat.
Her music even helped us ease out of the peak of the pandemic, and we were more than happy to have “Good Days” and Doja Cat’s “Kiss Me More” (on which she features) dominating our headspace all through 2021.
All of this is to say that we cannot get enough of her and her honey-sweet voice, and we’re counting down the days to Global Citizen Festival: Accra where leaders, artists, activists, and Global Citizens will gather to take action for girls, for the planet, and to create change. She’ll be joined by Usher, Gyakie, Sarkodie, Stonebwoy, Stormzy, and TEMS at the historic Black Star Square in Ghana’s capital.
The festival is part of our End Extreme Poverty NOW campaign, where we've been working to call for the advancement of policies that empower women and girls, prioritize immediate climate action, break systemic barriers that keep people in poverty, and lift up the activists and advocates who help to define our civic spaces. The festival in Accra also builds upon Global Citizen's continued expansion of our pan-African movement, with recent festivals staged in South Africa and Nigeria.
We’ve already explained why we love SZA’s voice and music, but we’d be doing the world a great disservice if we didn’t give a shout out to all the ways that SZA is also an incredible Global Citizen.
1. She’s dedicated to fighting against environmental racism
Last year the artist announced a partnership with tea brand, TAZO, and American Forests in an initiative to tackle the reality of environmental racism — an intersectional issue that describes environmental injustices targeted at Black and brown communities. We've written an explainer here to help explain more about environmental racism.
SZA explained the initiative, called TAZO Tree Corps, in an official press release, saying: “Across the country, BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, and People of Color] communities are facing the worst effects of climate change because they live in neighborhoods that are disproportionately burdened with more pollutants and fewer trees.”
“Planting trees can help improve everything – from air quality to economic opportunity to mental health – and everybody deserves these benefits,” she said.
The issue is personal for her, as she told Elle Magazine: “My grandma lives in Newark, New Jersey and there are no trees anywhere… Growing up around that area was definitely a downer.”
“I lived in Carson [California] and I’ve been a victim of environmental racism," she continued. "I’ve driven through Torrence and Compton and I’ve seen on my way to Long Beach the sky is literally fucked up and all you see is factories and all the trees are dead on that side of the street.”
2. She wants everyone to feel included and even works with her fans
SZA is known for speaking out about her feeling of being an “outsider” — but she explained that this feeling of exclusion growing up helped her prioritize an inclusive environment for her, and for her fans.
“I’ve spent most of my life being really unpopular and nerdy in school. I’ve always been super empathetic. My main goal is to make everybody feel included,” she told Attire Media.
“I witnessed what exclusion gets everybody and the whole thing about being cool. It hurt my feelings as a kid, and as a grown-ass woman, I still hate that. Most of the people that work with me right now are fans that I’ve met online,” she said.
She added: “I’d rather interact with as many real human beings as I can and accumulate as much genuine love and interaction if nothing else. That’s really my driving force.”
3. She helped to pay for a fan’s chemotherapy
In 2019 a fan of SZA’s who had been diagnosed with Lupus and Crohn’s disease revealed on social media that the artist had donated money towards her chemotherapy treatments and even used her platforms to help her find a kidney donor.
“SZA gave me her [number], got me into two concerts of hers for free, and on the tour bus,” the fan said on Twitter.
“She sent me and my wife to Universal Studios before I started chemo, helped me pay for chemo, donated money (which will remain undisclosed), shared my fundraiser several times, and helped find me a kidney” the fan wrote.
4. She released a sustainable clothing line in the spirit of protecting the oceans
Made from pre-loved clothing and dedicated to protecting the oceans, SZA released a line of merchandise called Ctrl Fishing Co. in 2019, and she got really creative with the manufacturing process to ensure that the clothes are as sustainable as possible.
“I'm actually partnering with Céline from Slow Factory on getting it to be perfectly sustainable,” SZA told POPSUGAR. "We created our own fabric based off quilted pieces of landfill fabric in different colorways. We're just trying to make shit that I really want to wear, but also in a way that doesn't [mess] up our carbon footprint, or my karma, and that's really difficult.”
5. She’s a major advocate for mental health awareness
On the release of her album, CTRL in 2017, she dedicated the body of work to personal struggles with anxiety and depression, as well as her past relationships. At the time she spoke about feeling excluded, being bullied in school, and beating depression. So it’s only fitting that she prioritizes mental health care and promotes it for all her fans.
In fact, just this year she teamed up with shoe brand Crocs, to release a limited line of shoes during Mental Health Awareness Month in the US in May. The brand and SZA partnered with advocates for mental health awareness in Black communities to help drive positive change in their own communities and around the world. With every shoe purchase, Crocs donated to the mental health organizations of their choice.
Global Citizen Festival is calling on world leaders, corporations, and philanthropists to do more than they’ve ever done before to End Extreme Poverty NOW. Through our global campaign and with stages in two iconic locations — NYC’s Central Park and Accra’s Black Star Square — we will unite leaders, artists, activists, and Global Citizens around the world on Sept. 24 to achieve an ambitious policy agenda focused on empowering girls and women, taking climate action, breaking systemic barriers, and lifting up activists and advocates. Wherever you are in the world, you can join the campaign and take action right now by downloading the Global Citizen app.