Jennifer Hudson — who lost her mother Darnell Donerson, brother Jason Hudson and 7-year-old nephew Julian King to gun violence in 2008 — closed out Saturday’s March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. with a rousing gospel cover of Bob Dylan’s 1964 protest anthem, “The Times They Are A-Changin’.”
The 36-year-old Oscar winner was joined on stage by a student choir for the performance.
“We all came here for change today, right?” Hudson asked the crowd inbetween the song’s choruses. “We’ve all lost somebody. I’m sure a long time ago, you never thought you’d be standing here today. But we’re all here today for a reason. We all got a story, we all got a purpose, and we all want change.”
Towards the end of the number, speakers from the D.C. march like Naomi Wadler as well as Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students Jaclyn Corin, Cameron Kasky, David Hogg, Emma Gonzalez and Alex Wind — who planned the march within days of the Feb. 14 mass shooting at the Parkland, Florida, school that left 17 of their classmates dead — also joined Hudson on stage.
In 2015, Hudson spoke up about gun violence prevention to W magazine.
“It’s not just the city of Chicago. It’s everywhere. It’s a bad time right now, no matter where we look. Kids can’t go to school, people can’t go to church, you can’t go to the movies,” she said. “It’s like, what are we doing to ourselves? What’s happening? We’re acting like animals.”
The Grammy winner added that it’s time to make a change and put a stop to these “unfortunate” incidents.
“Those who don’t get it, it’s like, how don’t you get it when this is what the issue is? And if you do have a problem with it, have a solution to come along with it,” Hudson said. “What plan do you have? How do you not try? And what are we supposed to do – just kill each other? It’s a scary time no matter who you are, where you go, what color you are, where you live, honey.”
Hudson was one of the many performers at the D.C. rally, which saw crowds upwards of half a million take the streets of the nation’s capital to calling for legislation “to effectively address the gun violence issues that are rampant in our country.”
Rapper Vic Mensa, who performed his anthem “We Could Be Free,” told CNN afterwards that the march is just the beginning.
“This is a powerful event, a powerful moment at time, and I believe that this won’t stop here,” he said in their live broadcast. “That this will continue and go where it needs to go. And make politicians afraid to put whatever the NRA must be giving them on the back end, above our lives. So I think this is a galvanizing moment.”
“It’s a very American thing that it takes white victims for people to really listen about gun violence. But that’s what’s interesting about gun violence, it doesn’t discriminate,” the emcee, 24, added. “White, black, brown, yellow — everybody bleeds red.”
Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and Dear Evan Hansen alumni Ben Platt came together to perform a live version of their musical mashup “Found/Tonight.” Portions of the proceeds from “Found/Tonight” went to fund the March for Our Lives in D.C.
“In the wake of Parkland, I was awestruck by the strength and leadership of the students and their ability to speak truth to power,” Miranda said in a press release for the song. “In the midst of their grief, they mobilized the youth of our nation and created a movement. This is their moment. Not just for themselves, but for all of us. This song is my way of helping to raise funds and awareness for their efforts, and to say Thank You, and that we are with you so let’s keep fighting, together.”
Platt added in his own statement, “These students are paving the way for future generations and it’s so inspiring to see young people standing up for what is probably the most important cause right now in this country, and demanding action. I hope that this song can play some small part in bringing about real change.”
While attendees proceeded through the heart of the nation’s capital begging at noon on Saturday, over 800 “sibling marches” in other cities around the world took off too — like one in New York City, where Paul McCartney was photographed.
George Clooney, Oprah Winfrey, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Steven Spielberg all had also pledged $500,000 each to support the rally.
Amy Schumer was one of the speakers at a sister march in Los Angeles. She has been outspoken about ending gun violence in this country ever since a gunman burst into a screening of her movie Trainwreck in Louisiana and opened fire in 2015.
“It is these moments that define us. What we do in the struggle,” she said in her speech. “What we do when things are hard and messy and involved doing what’s right and not what is clearly wrong, like taking money from the NRA to uphold these laws outdated by hundreds of years. They allow for repeated killings of children. Thank you students and everyone here for standing up and saying no more. Because we know it’s hard and we know they will twist our words and laugh at us and lie and lie and lie and lie and lie. How do they sleep at night? They are killing children.”
Many stars also took to social media to share their photos from the march, including Lady Gaga, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Kanye West, Kim Kardashian West, Glenn Close, Cher, George and Amal Clooney; Julianne Moore, Padma Lakshmi, Kate Capshaw and Steven Spielberg; Christian Siriano and Brad Walsh; Parks and Recreation stars Billy Eichner, Aubrey Plaza, Natalie Morales, Paul Rudd, and Adam Scott; and Liev Schreiber — who marched with his kids, Samuel Kai, 9, and Alexander Pete, 10.
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But the March for Our Lives was not about star power.
As Stoneman Douglas Student Ryan Deitsch said in his D.C. speech, “Movie stars in the crowd, we might have videos on these screens but this is not the Oscars. This is real life, this is reality, this is what’s happening in our country and around the world today.”
“We’re done hiding, we’re done being afraid,” he said. “Though I know we March today, this isn’t the end. This is the beginning. It’s time to fight for our lives.”