Stevie Wonder knelt before a packed New York festival on Saturday in a protest for peace as he led stars and politicians in pressing for sustained aid to eliminate the world’s worst poverty.
On a balmy late summer night, thousands converged on Central Park for the live-broadcast Global Citizen Festival which hands out tickets for free to fans who take actions such as petitioning their governments to support development assistance.
With President Donald Trump proposing sweeping aid cuts, the concert had set a goal of building political momentum in the world’s largest donor nation. But in a deeply divided United States, another Trump controversy came to the forefront.
Wonder took the stage and knelt, emulating a gesture popularized by NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick during the national anthem to denounce racial injustice. Trump on Friday angrily denounced such protests, using profanity to demand that teams fire the athletes.
“Tonight, I’m taking a knee for America,” the blind soul legend said as took to the ground, his son Kwame Morris clutching his arm.
Wonder also voiced worry over the increasingly personal venom between Trump and North Korean strongman Kim Jong-Un.
“We could lose the ultimate video game — of life — losing sight that weapons are real, and rhetoric is dangerous, whether it be from a superpower in North America or a superpower in North Korea,” Wonder said.
Wonder jammed through more than an hour of his best-loved songs before turning his ever-powerful belting voice to the 1985 charity singalong “We Are the World” as well as “Imagine,” the peace anthem by John Lennon who was assassinated a short stroll away.
The 67-year-old Wonder closed by bringing up a visibly star-struck Pharrell Williams, singing together a funk-heavy take of “Get Lucky,” which Williams co-wrote for Daft Punk, as well as the younger artist’s ode to optimism “Happy.”