The Global Philanthropy Forum was held in Redwood City, California (near San Francisco) on April 9-11, 2008. I was able to attend the evening session on Thursday, April 9th
in order to see Annie Lennox's presentation and performance for her SING project. The event was held at the Sofitel Hotel in the Grand Ballroom and was scheduled to start
at 6:30 p.m. The doors opened around 6:10 p.m. and I made my way through the round dinner tables that had been set up all over the room to one right in front of the stage.
I was joined at the table by a very nice group of people from various charitable organizations, which made for some nice conversations prior to Annie's presentation. At 6:30
p.m., Peter Gabriel (also a speaker at the event), introduced Annie with a heartfelt introduction: "Annie has been making great music for a long time and she is an
extraordinary singer...but I've been meeting her, even though she is now our neighbor, more often at Mandela's 46664 concerts, where she has been a regular...and I guess
there is probably 50-70-100 artists that have been going to these concerts...but really there is only one who has really taken on the issue, taken on HIV/AIDS in the way that
Annie has...it gives me great pleasure to introduce a great artist and a great person, please welcome Annie Lennox".
Annie Lennox came onstage wearing the HIV Positive t-shirt which she wore at the recent American Idol Gives Back concert and proceeded to deliver a very engaging and
informative speech about her SING campaign, the issues she supports surrounding HIV/AIDS treatment, and what she has encountered in her trips to Africa. Annie showed
the short film she made in Africa when she met Avellile, a little girl who was suffering from full-blown AIDS and close to death at the time of their initial meeting. When Annie
showed the follow up pictures of Avellile and her improvement since she has been receiving proper medical treatment and anti-retroviral therapy, the audience cried out and
applauded adamantly. It was a fantastic way to show how effective treatment can be when administered properly and it really drove the point home for the audience. Annie
closed out her presentation by performing three songs alone at the piano: passionate and soulful renditions of "Don't Let It Bring You Down" (the Neil Young song from her
album "Medusa"), "Here Comes the Rain Again" and Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi".
Following are some of the highlights from Annie's speech:
"Peter [Gabriel] is wishing me good luck, and I think I need it, because normally I sing. I'm a singer-songwriter, but of late, over the last few years, I really have become
something of an activist, a participant in the need, the yearning, to make some essential changes to things that have affected me profoundly...this is an extraordinary
experience for me, it's the first time I've been to the Global Forum...I think it's indicative of change, it's indicative of people wanting to put value back into life...it's really
about human value."
"Poverty is not something that is that far away from my own experience, although I have to say it was not chronic or endemic. I became aware of the Apartheid regime when
I was a teenager and that deeply disturbed me. I couldn't believe that there could be such a thing as a regime that would separate us human beings by race or by color, and I
found that to be something that deeply disturbed me and in years to come I was part of wonderful concert that was given to celebrate Nelson Mandela's birthday...at
Wembley Stadium and I performed with Eurythmics...and I understood from that that the collective experience of music, the event of a concert, broadcast across nations,
could be incredibly powerful, because it could raise focus to issues in the most beautiful way, not necessarily intellectually, [but] emotionally, because this is where people
need to get the message about human rights."
"I think that my role as a musician and a communicator can be to translate some of the message that you experts in these fields might want to get across to a broader
audience and that's why I think there is tremendous value in music making with a purpose...I have to say that I feel that the society that we live in is extremely dumbed
down...because you know when you have the benefit of tremendous systems of communication, via internet, via television, press, radio, these things, surely we must use
these vehicles for transformation, for global transformation, because we have the power to do that. Why on earth do we need to get obsessed with celebrity culture, when
there is so much more that we can do in the world?"
"I am seen as a celebrity, and I don't like the phrase, I don't like that label. But in any case, I think there is value to celebrity when people are interested to listen to you, but
if you don't have the right kind of information, if you don't have the genuine interest and knowledge about these things, you actually can do it a disservice, so I've stuck
very closely to HIV and AIDS, and I have to say I'm not an expert. But my visits to South Africa and also to Uganda...filming in the rural districts, filming women who were
affected by HIV and AIDS, I saw people who were literally dying like flies around me, and it is something you cannot put words to this, it changes your life...subsequently I
have been to clinics, orphanages, hospices, hospitals, communities, townships, to find out what HIV/AIDS looks like, what it feels like to look it in the eye, to see what it is
really all about. And I decided to try to make some small, reportage style films...to try to convey the feeling that you get when you see this thing face to face, to try to
translate that into something to do with film...so I've made a few short reportage style documentary pieces about aspects of HIV and AIDS and I am going to continue doing
that, I've housed them on a website that I've made called SING, because I have now a campaign called SING. I say SING because of the stigma of AIDS, where people are
so afraid, even when people are dying all around them, even when their family members are dying, their work members are dying, the teachers in the classrooms, the nurses
and the doctors themselves are dying, people are still afraid to acknowledge this terrible virus...I also wrote a song called SING and I invited several international female
artists to join with me because I hoped that it would give me a broad platform of exposure and in a way it's my theme song,,,and it's calling for access to mother-to-child
transmission prevention programs in every maternity hospital across South Africa and that would my ultimate goal, to see access to treatment, access to medication,
especially in South Africa, which is a country where people have not responded appropriately to the pandemic. Women and children are the very first victims of what I would
say is almost a criminal pandemic. It doesn't need to happen, we can really make a difference."
|Annie Lennox was one of the featured
speakers at this year's Global
Philanthropy Forum held in Redwood
City, California on April 9-11, 2008.
Fresh from her emotional appearance
on the American Idol Gives Back charity
concert, Annie spoke about the SING
project and also gave a heartfelt
musical performance. Following are
some of the highlights of the evening as
well as audio of Annie's speech and
performance to the assembled audience
of dignitaries, humanitarians and
Click to watch the video of Avellile's amazing progress
Below are a couple of cell phone photographs I took during Annie's performance as well as streaming audio of the entire presentation.
Click the player to listen to the audio of Annie's entire presentation