Pause for a Cause

The leaders of the Global CIimate Strike’s New York movement took a well-deserved bow on Saturday night. But their message is that we have to keep going.

September 23, 2019

1:52 pm

A day after a record-setting global climate strike — one in which 4 million people in 163 countries protested government inaction on the climate emergency — there was cause for a pause.

Saturday night, 11 of the youth who helped organize the New York strike — one of 5,000 around the world, and the biggest in the U.S, with an estimated 250,000 participants — got onstage to briefly catch their breath, to share their stories, their passions, their joy at the success of the event, and, interestingly, their frustration with UN officials who disappointed them at an event held earlier in the day.

Xiye Bastida, the most renowned of these young climate youth leaders, and herself an indigenous climate refugee, spoke first, and vented her frustration, which centered on a sentiment that the UN had “used” the youth for a photo op, without actually making the commitments necessary to move the needle on the climate emergency.

(Those sentiments were echoed later today by Greta Thunberg, who gave a fiery speech of her own at the UN, saying, "This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you come to us young people for hope. How dare you. You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.")

Sandwiching their onstage appearance at the Concert Hall at Ethical Culture on New York’s Upper West Side Saturday, though, were moments of tremendous uplift in the form of musical appearances by some very inspiring artists.

Kicking off the evening was a pair of Native American indigenous leaders — one from the U.S., and one from Brazil — who took note of the tragic, human-set fires burning in the latter. “The eagle and the condor must come together,” they noted, referring to an Amazonian prophecy that saw “human societies splitting into two paths — that of the Eagle, and that of the Condor. The path of the Condor is the path of heart, of intuition, and of the feminine. The path of the Eagle is the path of the mind, of the industrial, and of the masculine.”

In the prophecy, according to the online Pachamama Alliance blog, “during the next 500-year period, beginning in 1990, the potential would arise for the Eagle and the Condor to come together, to fly in the same sky, and to create a new level of consciousness for humanity. The prophecy only speaks of the potential, so it's up to us to activate this potential and ensure that a new consciousness is allowed to arise.”

This relevant metaphor set the tone for an evening of heartfelt, global-minded performances from a line-up that featured (in order of appearance) singer/songwriter Amanda Holley, Grammy-winner Ricky Kej & the World Ensemble; the Los Angeles teen sensations the Compton Kidz Club; and Nigerian Afro-dancehall artist Lamboginny.

Kej’s website describes his art as “world music for environmental consciousness,” and as he noted in his four-song set, he has made a pledge that every song he writes or performs going forward will in some way address the climate crisis or the SDGs. Kej was recently made a UN Goodwill Ambassador for the Land SDG, and the videos playing behind the band onstage showed animals and ecosystems in their organic, natural beauty.

The Compton Kidz (who will certainly be familiar to anyone who watched the Earth’s Call inaugural concert in Aspen this past May) sang their anthem “Stand Up,” which most of the audience seemed to take as a command, as they rose to dance and clap along to the gospel-inflected soul pop. The 11-member troupe asked the 11 youth representatives who had spoken just prior to their performance to come back onstage, whereupon the Compton Kidz serenaded them, honoring and thanking them for their work in environmental activism.

That interactive quality continued with the evening’s anchor act, Lamboginny, whose website describes him as an “artist for humanitarian causes.” Lamboginny invited the entire audience onstage for his electric performance, and stood in the middle of a ring of audience members who danced around him. Lamboginny teared up a few times as he delivered an emphatic, fervent plea for eco justice.

As a whole, the evening was a refreshing, invigorating reminder that we can stop and enjoy ourselves for a moment, but that we also still have a lot of work to do.

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