When humanity is experiencing one of its most threatening healthcare situations of known existence, the key to fighting ongoing disease and laying down the foundations of a better tomorrow is having as many helping hands as possible.
Our front line heroes - doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers have been constantly prioritizing patients’ health over their own lives and well-being, fighting for the lives of those stricken with the illness. Their help is undoubtedly the most important of them all – without them sacrificing their energy, hours, days, and part of their lives for us, the world would be a much darker place than it is now.
With that said, the weight of the world is overwhelming on one’s shoulders, and responsibility must be shared. That is why help must, and thankfully does come from almost every corner of our existence. Outreach from the arts and media is especially important seeing as both fields directly influence public awareness. Music, for example, is one of the main tools that can unite communities and brighten up their days when confronted with trying times. And over the past couple of weeks, the music industry has done just that.
Aired April 18, One World: Together at Home was a global broadcast organized by international education and advocacy organization Global Citizen and curated by singer-songwriter Lady Gaga.
Hosted by Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, and Stephen Colbert, the virtual concert series declared in its first televised moments that viewers at home should “take out their wallets and put them away”, as the benefit concert would be at no expense to the viewer.
Benefiting the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, the program raised donations with the help of organizations and corporations instead; as reported by New York Daily News, the benefit show raised a whopping number of nearly 128 million dollars for Coronavirus healthcare workers.
The 120-minute syndicated broadcast, preceded by a six-hour online pre-show, debuted its first musical moment with the help of event curator Lady Gaga.
Days before the broadcast, Gaga went on air with The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon to promote the concert. Near the end of her remote talk show appearance, she also called Apple CEO Tim Cook and solicited a $10 million donation: “I think we should call Tim Cook. I don’t know if he knows he’s going to be on TV just yet, but we’re going to FaceTime him and find out”, Gaga said, moments before celebrating Cook’s generous donation with a happy shriek: “My next single’s going to be called Tim Cook”, she added jokingly.
Opening the night with a soulful cover of Nat King Cole’s “Smile”, Gaga sang at her home piano, greeting viewers with her powerful voice and a liberating message: “I hope this concert gives you the permission to smile, even if just for a while”, she declared.
Other performances included Elton John with a fiery acoustic rendition of “I’m Still Standing”, “Safety Dance” sang by The Roots and presented with a slideshow of medical workers dancing along the song’s lines of “Everybody’s washing their hands”, “It’s a Wonderful World” by Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello, and others.
But where One World shined most is undoubtedly its inclusion of stories of human interest – showcasing the everyday lives of essential workers, role models, and other inspirational common folks.
At the beginning of the telecast, the broadcast aired a segment showcasing the lives of children and how they adapt to online learning. Presenting the side of the parents as well, it offered an insight into how bravely the moms and dads now take on roles of around-the-clock academic tutors, as well as presenting kind-hearted teachers who had themselves going around town in “car caravans”, sending love and positive messages to their treasured students.
Comedian and talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres talked about how her home town of New Orleans is managing the difficult situation from their homes, with clips of local musicians playing uplifting jazz from their balconies inserted throughout her speech. She also presented how New Orleans locals are throwing virtual mask-sewing parties to support healthcare workers around town, and how a professor hosted a mobile dance party for her students as a way to encourage social distancing and remote learning.
We learned about Shirley Raines’ Beauty 2 The Streetz project, and how she, along with a team of generous volunteers, gives makeovers to homeless women: “Not all Queens live in castles, some live on the streets”, the project bio reads. To the question if the current pandemic is affecting the work of generous volunteers, she added: “I love them, and now is not the time to desert them”.
Throughout the show, we also heard from the medical workers who are giving their all in the fight to beat COVID-19.
“Do you remember how we used to hug?”, Dr. Anna Carvahlo recalled one of her daughter’s words. A single mom and emergency physician, she had to decide to leave her twin daughters with her parents while she fights for the well-being of others.
Host Stephen Colbert also introduced Dr. Sanam Ahmed, a New York critical care physician, who gave her thoughts on the current crisis and her role in combating it: “If you’re not there to hold your mom’s hand, I’m there”, she commented.
“Once a nurse, always a nurse”, said former The Voice contestant Felicia Temple. Returning to work as a full-time nurse after leaving the Holy Name Medical Center to find a job as a singer. Now she is working 12-hour shifts in an intensive care unit, her hopeful new single being played throughout the center’s halls to give hope and inspire courage to medical workers.
Presenting the current situation in North Korea, we heard from doctors describing how some of them hide their anxiety from patients to keep them feeling safe and positive. Offering a vivid image into how life tries to prevail in times of crisis, we also saw how some employer exams are held in stadiums, with a six-foot distance between each individual’s desk.
Reporting on the health of African-American communities, singer-songwriters Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and Alicia Keys brought awareness to the fact that in the US 33% of the people hospitalized with COVID-19 are African-American, with 57% of fatal cases being African-Americans as well.
Including some much-needed moments of joy and comic relief for children and adults alike, One World brought on pig-tailed Sesame Street character Abby Cadabby.
“Many of us are having some big feelings right now”, the muppet spoke. “But that’s OK, because we’re all in this together”, and then went on to showcase the practice of self-hugging, something she’s learned to do to help keep her calm and encouraged viewers at home to do the same.
SpongeBob SquarePants also made an unexpected cameo, showcasing how one should wash their hands. With his boss giving him constant instructions, SpongeBob scrubbed his hands so much they disappeared: “Now that’s thorough!”
The benefit concert concluded with some of its strongest musical numbers – Taylor Swift performing Soon You’ll Get Better from her home piano, a heart-wrenching ballad about her mother who is battling cancer, “You’ll get better soon / Cause you have to” speaking volumes to everyone in the world right now.
A titanic force of a collaboration between Celine Dion, Andrea Bocelli, Lady Gaga, Lang Lan and John Legend singing The Prayer helped wrap up the concert with a hopeful, elegant bow. The number perfectly encapsulated the role of musicians and artists in dire situations such as the one we are living in today – to inform through entertainment, to entertain through information, and to keep encouraging and feeding souls through art.
Owed to the hard work of Global Citizen, Lady Gaga, and the contributing musicians, actors, and others involved, not only was a donation of 128 million raised – but the spirits of hundreds of millions as well. And in times where raising spirits and inspiring bravery is utmost important, One World: Together at Home excelled in the very same mission, its final shot reading “For tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today”.