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Beyoncé, Gaga offer hope at all-star event fighting COVID-19

NEW YORK – Lady Gaga, Stevie Wonder, Lizzo, Shawn Mendes and others sang classic songs brimmed with messages of hope and change during a TV special aimed at fighting the coronavirus, while Beyoncé and Alicia Keys spoke passionately about how the virus has disproportionately affected black Americans.

Beyoncé made a surprise appearance on Saturday’s TV special “One World: Together At Home,” thanking “delivery workers, mail carriers and sanitation employees” for their hard work during the pandemic.

“Black Americans disproportionately belong to these essential parts of the workforce that do not have the luxury of working from home. And African American communities at large have been severely affected in this crisis. Those with pre-existing conditions are at an even higher risk. This virus is killing black people at an alarmingly high rate here in America,” Beyoncé said.

African Americans account for more than one-third of COVID-19 deaths in the United States where the race of victims has been made public. Data from states, cities and counties show black people are regularly overrepresented compared to their share of the population.

“Please protect yourselves,” Beyoncé continued. “We are one family. We need you. We need your voices, your abilities and your strength all over this word. I know it’s very hard but please be patient, stay encouraged, keep the faith, stay positive and continue to pray for our heroes.”

An Associated Press analysis, based on data through Thursday, found that of the more than 21,500 victims whose demographic data was known and disclosed by officials, more than 6,350 were black, a rate of nearly 30%. African Americans account for 14.2% of the 241 million people who live in the areas covered by the analysis. The nation had recorded more than 33,000 deaths as of Thursday.

Keys presented similar data when she spoke during the special, ending with: “Keep your frequency high and I’m sending you all my love.”

Gaga, who curated the all-star TV event, kicked off it off by urging people weathering the coronavirus pandemic to find a way to smile through the pain with a performance of Nat King Cole’s version of the song “Smile.”

She performed during the second part of an eight-hour event supporting the World Health Organization alongside advocacy organization Global Citizen.

“I care so much about the medical workers that are putting their lives at risk for us,” Gaga said.

Wonder performed “Lean On Me” by Bill Withers — who died on March 30 — while playing piano. He told viewers: “During hardships like this we have to lean on each other for help.” John Legend and Sam Smith, each from their own homes, duetted on “Stand by Me”; Lizzo sang “A Change Is Gonna Come” with passion; and Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello, sitting together, performed “What a Wonderful World.”

Paul McCartney sang the Beatles’ “Lady Madonna” and talked about the work his mother did as a nurse. The members of the Rolling Stones — from four different locations — joined forces to perform “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” And Taylor Swift sang “Soon You’ll Get Better” while playing piano.

Former first ladies Michelle Obama and Laura Bush, Oprah Winfrey, Bill and Melinda Gates, Ellen DeGeneres, Pharrell Williams, Kerry Washington, Lupita Nyong’o and Henry Golding offered positive words while photos of health care workers and everyday people were shown on the screen. Reggaeton star J Balvin even offered tips on handwashing, while doctors and other medical workers spoke about social distancing and relief efforts.

“One World: Together At Home” featured stars appearing in intimate settings, beamed virtually to the world. It aired simultaneously on ABC, NBC, CBS, iHeartMedia and Bell Media networks and was hosted by Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel.

Colbert told viewers to “take out their wallets and put them away.” Kimmel added that over $50 million had already been raised to help those during the worldly crisis. At the event's end, organizers announced that the total amount raised was nearly $128 million.

Performers included Billie Eilish and her producer-brother Finneas, Elton John, Jennifer Lopez, Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, Kacey Musgraves, Maluma and Keith Urban. Gaga, Legend, Celine Dion, Andrea Bocelli and Lang Lang closed the special with a collaborative performance of “The Prayer.”

Earlier in the day, a six-hour streaming event featuring Andra Day, Niall Horan, Kesha, Jack Black, Matthew McConaughey, Heidi Klum and Jason Segel aired on digital platforms as part of the “One World: Together At Home” event.

“It’s Kesha from quarantine day 500. I miss my fans so much,” Kesha said, sitting in front of her fireplace as her cat made noises in the background. “I know that there’s so many people working and not sleeping and sacrificing so much to help figure this out for everyone and I just think the vulnerability of us all as human beings right now is really showing a really beautiful side to humanity.”

Country singer Maren Morris, rock performer Hozier, British star Rita Ora and Emirati singer Hussain Al Jassmi also performed during the early part of the special, which included videos focused on health care workers on the front lines fighting the spreading coronavirus. It also aired a package of people getting married — some in front of their homes, others inside — during the pandemic.