The general assembly room at the United Nations is (presumably) not usually backlit by multiple giant graphic screens, but last Friday was no usual night.
I joined the Live Civil team at the UN to kick off the annual celebration of World Humanitarian Day, held this year on August 19th and headlined by international recording star Beyoncé. The singer has been the subject of criticism in regard to her charity efforts in the past, with some saying that the multimillion dollar artist doesn’t give back enough. Beyoncé, who donated her time, visuals, and usage of her song “I Was Here” for this year’s World Humanitarian Day, seems to be quietly fighting those criticisms in her own way.
After making the journey through United Nations security, receiving my official “I Was Here” badge, and standing in line for about 45 minutes, the Live Civil team entered the general assembly hall along with about two hundred other attendees. We miraculously found seats just three rows away from center stage and settled down behind actress Julia Stiles as we waited for the event to start. Anderson Cooper was the host for the evening and interviewed several humanitarians before Beyoncé performed, including UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos, who quipped that she would never be able to reach a tenth of the people Beyoncé could, and Erin Dinan, a New York photographer who founded the non-profit “One Sandwich At A Time” in an effort to help NYC’s homeless reach their next meal. After the emotionally charged interviews, Beyoncé appeared onstage in a white floor-length gown and gave a passionate performance of “I Was Here”, dedicating it to the 22 humanitarian workers who died in a terrorist attack in Iraq nine years ago. A video of Beyoncé’s performance will be released on August 19th, the anniversary of that bombing.
Beyoncé is not the only star to come under accusation of not doing enough for the global community. Recently, Oprah responded with “I’ve put 500 African-American men through college” to a criticism on Twitter from a man who asked when she was going to give back to the poor. Beyonce’s husband Jay-Z was recently defended via the same medium by writer dream hampton, who tweeted that the rapper has quietly paid the college tuition of hundreds of students, including the children of Sean Bell, a Queens man murdered by police on the day before his wedding in 2006.
As ordinary people who go to regular workplaces and earn average paychecks, it’s easy for us to read a blog post or two about our favorite big name celebrities and immediately assume that we’ve received an entire, factual story. But the truth is that Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Oprah, and countless others donate their time and money in ways that the casual fan will never be made aware, and sometimes even do so anonymously to avoid drawing attention. Instead, then, it is best that we focus on our own humanitarian efforts and leave the inspection of celebrities’ pockets to their accountants.
Please visit whd-iwashere.org to learn more about how you can add your voice to the “I Was Here” campaign and take simple actions to make a big change.
Written/Covered for LiveCivil.com by Crissle West of Crissle.com