When Andra Day wrote her Grammy-nominated hit “Rise Up” in 2015 she had no way of knowing that it would become an anthem of protest and empowerment.
She wrote the song as a reminder to herself to persevere, “to stand up because if you can stand up then you can take the next step, if you can take the next step, you can take the one after that,” she said on the red carpet at the BET Black Girls Rock! Event.
But “Rise Up” turned out to have a life — and a meaning — of its own.
The way that the R&B singer used her song’s unexpected success to become a “voice for the voiceless,” as she told Essence, is what makes her such a powerful advocate and Global Citizen. Day will be taking the stage at the Global Citizen Festival in New York City on Sept. 23. You can take action to win tickets here.
In 2016, Day performed “Rise Up” at the Democratic National Convention after the mothers of Trayvon Martin and Sandra Bland took the stage to speak about the Black Lives Matter movement and race in the US. It quickly became the unofficial anthem of the Black Lives Matter movement and Day has said she is honored to have her song associated with the movement for racial justice.
“The artists that I admired when I was young and who I was exposed to at school—artists like Nina Simone and Billie Holiday... They use[d] their platforms to talk about race. I don’t have to worry about coming off stage and someone, most likely, won’t try to physically harm me. When Nina was talking about it, she could walk off stage and expect that somebody might be there to harm her,” she told Jezebel.
“Being inspired by artists like that, it’s not just a decision,” she added. “I think it’s a driving force inside me, to do not do music just for myself, but to do it because you have a platform and a you have a responsibility.”
"I love people and I believe in their potential to do good and great things with the right support system. It's hard to thrive in, and contribute to a global society when you are just fighting to survive in a system where it's ostensibly more cost effective if you don't," she told Global Citizen. "Whether it's my team and I donating our time to doing shows for these organizations, writing and creating music and other content to encourage the victims, or doing workshops and teaching classes, for now I am using those things to raise awareness and inspire. People are absolutely worth the fight and sacrifice. They just need to know that and know that other people feel that way about them."
As a supporter of girls education, which she told CNN she considers a global investment, Day performed the song at the White House in support of the CNN film "We Will Rise: Michelle Obama's Mission to Educate Girls Around the World," which uses her hit as its theme song.
Earlier this year, the powerhouse singer was named a Promise Hero honoree by America’s Promise Alliance, an alliance of NGOs, businesses, and government groups that aims to give children in the US a brighter future. And she continues to support children’s rights.
She lent her voice to Common’s Imagine Justice initiative to reform the juvenile justice system just last week.
In the short time since her rise to stardom, the big-hearted singer has given so much back, using her platform to amplify issues in need of attention. And she’s not stopping anytime soon. She’s headed for the stage at this year’s Global Citizen Festival to help put an end to global poverty.