July 3, 2005

Americans told at Live 8 Africans are equal too

By Mark Egan and Claudia Parsons

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Americans at the Live 8 concert inPhiladelphia on Saturday were told a simple message -- Africansare created equal too.

The crowd of about 1 million watched a roster includingStevie Wonder, pop divas Destiny's Child and rapper Jay-Z on astage set up on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art,and heard demands that rich countries such as the UnitedStates, Britain and Japan relieve African debts.

But organizers said the symbolic star of the show was acopy of the Declaration of Independence flown in fromCalifornia to make a point -- that Africans dying of poverty,hunger, malaria and AIDS are created equals to Americans.

"This country was built on (the ideal that) every man wascreated equal. We should read that again and believe it andhelp," actor Chris Tucker told reporters backstage. "We're notbetter than Africans, we are all created equally, we need toremember that and do all we can to help."

The copy of the declaration is one of 25 known to havesurvived from about 200 printed in 1776. Signed in Philadelphiaon July 4, 1776, it states: "We hold these truths to beself-evident, that all men are created equal, that they areendowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, thatamong these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Actor Will Smith kicked off the Philadelphia show -- thebiggest of 10 Live 8 shows across four continents and theworld's biggest music event ever. "We are all in this together.This is our declaration of interdependence," he said.

Irish rocker Bob Geldof arranged the concerts to push theGroup of Eight leaders of the world's richest nations who meetin Scotland next week to take action to eliminate poverty.


Celebrities and politicians alike in Philadelphia urgedAmericans to lobby their leaders when they return to work afterthe July 4 Independence Day holiday.

"This must not end up as just a big concert in 10locations," said civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton. "Thismust become a movement now ... poverty must become history."

As bands like Bon Jovi played in the sweltering summerheat, the crowd stretched about 1 mile down the BenjaminFranklin parkway. Police said the crowd reached 1 million, butThe Philadelphia Inquirer wrote this week the parkway couldonly accommodate a maximum of about 400,000.

Some wondered how the event could engender real change.

"I don't think the awareness thing is working," said SueKim, a 22-year-old student. "There's going to be a lot of drunkpeople and what are they going to remember?"

Grace Newton, 45, said she would telephone her localcongressman on the issue of Africa but wondered, "How is itgoing to make the politicians act?"

Reacting to such skepticism, Care USA's David Ray saidcharities like his will not relent lobbying for Africa. "The G8is a good focal point, but it's not the end of the story," hesaid.

While organizers want to raise awareness of Africa'sissues, the concert received less media attention here than theLive Aid show for the Ethiopian famine 20 years ago.

Singer Alicia Keys encouraged Americans not to feelhelpless about Africa and to press leaders for action.

"America has a sense of disconnect when it comes to Africaor places that are very far away because ... most of us won'tget the opportunity to see those places," she said. "You feelempathy but you feel you don't know what you can possibly do."

Saturday's show was only available on cable channels MTVand VH-1, showing clips from the concerts around the world. ABCwas the only television network set to broadcast any of theshow in a two-hour evening highlight package. The Philadelphiagig could only be seen in full on the Internet at AOL.com,which said more than 5 million logged on globally to watch.

The show closed with a rousing set from Wonder, who endedseven hours of live music with his hit "Superstition" and saidbackstage later, "I'm sure that from heaven above ... theAlmighty is smiling at the contribution of tonight."(Additional reporting by Jon Hurdle)