Andra Day, 32, paid homage to the influential legacy of Billie Holiday at the 2017 Global Citizen Festival with an impassioned performance of the infamous protest ballad, Strange Fruit. The Grammy nominee partnered with Google and the Equal Justice Initiative to shed light on the powerful social justice message embedded in Holiday’s song, which redefined the power of music almost 80 years ago.
Andra Day used her powerhouse vocals to send a strong message against racial violence to the thousands of global citizens in the audience. After singing her last note of the emotional lyrics, she reached out to the audience on Central Park’s Great Lawn to say, “So that was a song that was written over 80 years ago — and unfortunately, the message in the song is still just as relevant today as it was then.”
Day also didn’t hold back when it came to making a statement through fashion. The singer took the stage in a dramatic all-red look featuring a fiery jumpsuit and a bold ruffle jacket to match. A pair of broken handcuffs and gold hoop earrings served as her accessories and a bold cat-eye pulled the look together. “Rita Vinieris designed the look. Andra loves anything over the top, and the fact that it was Central Park I used Diana Ross’ iconic performance in the same place as my inspiration,” said Day’s stylist, Wouri Vice.
Day’s efforts to use her music as activism proved her to be the perfect representative for this Equal Justice Initiative project. “Billie Holiday is one of the greatest inspirations for what I do now,” she said. “She used her music as a platform and her voice to speak for people who were not able to speak for themselves.”
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This isn’t Day’s first time using her voice for much more than a pretty melody. The singer also performed Stand Up for Something, the title track for the upcoming film, Marshall, which tells the story of the first African American United States Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall.
She then closed her set with an empowering performance of her hit track, Rise Up, which has been dubbed the unofficial anthem of the Black Lives Matter movement. “Not everybody will be moved to act,” she told PEOPLE of trying to inspire change through her music, “but some people will, and that matters.”
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This new project by the Equal Justice Initiative aims to bridge the gap between our nation’s past and present forms of racial injustice by sparking social conversation on a larger scale. Bryan Stevenson, the Founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative said, “In this collaboration between Andra Day, EJI, and Google, we use music to express a painful and difficult truth about our nation’s history of racial inequality. Inspired music has the power to expose and confront injustice differently than research, data and words alone.”
What do you think of Andra Day’s rendition of Strange Fruit? Sound off in the comments below!