Global Citizen festival. It’s a phenomena that has galvanized global action during its 10-year presence on the stages of New York’s iconic, Central Park. This year one of its homes will be Ghana, and specifically, Accra’s historic ‘Black Star Square’.
I was at an introduction session on Global Citizen festival’s arrival in Ghana; where CSOs, NGOs, and media all gathered as the team explained the Global Citizen mission, the choice to come to Ghana and their excitement at a global concert held and broadcast on two stages in two cities on two continents.
The team’s excitement about Global citizen coming to Ghana was palpable. The line-up is impressive – Usher, Sarkodie, Stonebwoy to name just a few. We’re all seeing visuals and highlights of the line up across social media platforms. My social media manager shared his own excitement about how unmissable this concert would be for him, and his whole circle. Other members of my team shared what this concert meant to them – a chance to watch their favorite artists stand on global stages, receive unprecedented exposure – and do all of that under the auspices of a festival whose focus is pop meets policy, and action driven entertainment. I get it. I love their passion, excitement and them taking the time to walk their boss through all the ways they were applying for tickets, the actions they were engaging, the petitions they were planning to sign. All good.
I’m excited for a different reason.
Music is a universal language that enables a particular kind of healing for us all in different ways. For me, Global Citizen’s presence in Ghana, and sharing a stage with Black artists in America represents an additional moment – one of musical healing and coming together as global Black people on two different Continents.
Of course, the multicultural nature of the festival will be lauded and applauded. I get that. My work is about intra-racial healing between us as a global Black people – and with this space, the power of music to bring Black people together from two continents and share action-driven joy through music – that is particularly special. It’s special because of what Ghana is, and what it represents for us as a global Black people.
My framework, ‘Emotional Justice’ explores the importance of an intra-racial healing, of repair between us as Africans and Black people across the Continent, as well as Black people in the Diaspora. It’s a roadmap that identifies the importance of a coming together that reckons with a shared history of horror and harm, with its legacy that continues to shape us all. Music is magical precisely because it has the potential to be universally healing in uncountable ways. What is extraordinary is part of our healing work must be to create spaces where we can gather and be together as global Black people. It is partially for this reason that Global Citizen Festival coming to Ghana matters. A stage that honors the shared artistry of a Twi-rapping badass like Sarkodie, and the smooth RnB king that is Usher is a particular healing that serves us as a global Black people.
Add to that mix of magic, action drives the presence of the ticket holding millions who gather to sing, dance, clap to watch artists transform air, space and stage with sound and visuals galore. That combination makes this moment one of musical healing married to mission and reveling in artistry to the biggest audience imaginable. Festivals have multiple purposes – this one, for me, offers something special to the Ghanaians – like those on my team – who have already begun their ticket acquisition process.
To get tickets – which are free – you have to act. That action is one way the Diaspora and the Continent come together in meaningful space to do mission-driven work. This year centers the Global Citizen themes of girls or climate, and its umbrella focus of an end to extreme poverty. Emotional Justice is a framework that has engaged in actions to tackle gender violence – and specifically – the sexual violence in schools that plagues the education outcomes and experiences of too many Ghanaian girls. School is supposed to be a safe space of learning. Our work and campaigns in partnership with the Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CASA) have revealed that school can become a place unsafe for girls, that some teachers treat school as safe hunting ground for criminal and predatory behavior, and that state authorities, and media coverage have too often demonstrated a lack of care of the impact on Ghanaian girls bodies, minds, and futures; while busily protecting perpetrators. Such action is intolerable and the fight to end gender violence continues by grassroots organizations, and activists. Part of that fight also means engaging in celebration and empowerment of girls, who they are, who they can be and how much they matter to themselves, to their communities and to the progress and future of any healthy nation.
There is always the challenge and the critique that comes with festivals, how they show up, and who they serve. In the case of Global Citizen Festival, it is artists, world leaders, corporate leaders, and philanthropists who are brought together in service of commitment to make major change. Numbers identifying what that change has looked like are used to highlight the Festival’s impact. Voices of concern rightly articulate their concern about how that change turns into sustainable transformation that has on the ground impact. I get it. All of these concerns matter, and make sense. I come back to this – that different members of my own team – young, dynamic, excited, and now engaged in action, are currently discussing change, poring over links, checking out petitions as they work feverishly to do what’s necessary to secure their tickets.
There is a power here that must not be lost. Engaging young people to act with a specified outcome and purpose matters. What begins as a treasure trove of favourite artists on stage also reveals myriad possibilities to engage beyond festival, ticket-scoring and memory-sharing. Space opens up to explore further and deeper, to get involved beyond the moment and to use their particular digital tools to engage beyond the digital. It is this possibility that excites me. And so, steered by them, I join their excitement, engagement and focus to apply my own lens and work to this musical, magical moment set to happen on 24th September here in Accra.
So, Global Citizen Festival – in Ghana, the city of Accra, at Black Star Square. The latter is a space of history, a symbol of our independence, a gathering space of global Black people and a moment of healing married to mission via music. On the road leading to this day, I look forward to engaging with, listening to and joining a generation to elevate their action, concretize their excitement, move from music to movement work and also jump, sing, clap and dance.
This is what healing can look like, and be.
Global Citizen Festival, Accra, takes place on 24th September. For more information, check out this link:- https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/festival/accra/