This all began with a cryptic message on Beyonce’s website a couple weeks ago, which read “Leave your footprint on 19 August 2012.” That was followed by a PSA video urging fans to get involved for World Humanitarian Day and Friday night Beyonce added another piece to the equation, performing “I Was Here,” at the United Nations in New York.
“Is this what happens at the U.N. every Friday night?” Anderson Cooper jokingly asked the crowd seated in the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations on Friday (August 10). “Because, I’ve gotta tell you … I wanna be here every Friday night if this goes on.”
The news anchor was referring to members of the organization and their invited guests who were gathered for a special event leading up to World Humanitarian Day, quickly approaching on Sunday. Cooper, himself a humanitarian in many respects, was on hand to host a series of interviews with local and international humanitarians that would eventually lead into a performance from Beyoncé.
The 30-year-old star had appeared at the United Nations earlier in the day, where she rehearsed her performance of “I Was Here” and met with members of the United Nations. Now, at 8 p.m. ET on Friday night, Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson made his way to the stage welcoming everyone to the General Assembly Hall and giving an early introduction of Beyoncé.
“Tonight [she] brings more than her stunning talents; she brings inspiration to help another person, to help another human being,” he told the crowd, going on to describe “I Was Here” as a “profound and moving song.” When he slipped on the title for a second, calling the song “I Was There,” it became evident that there were some Bey stans in the audience. They quickly corrected him and joined him in laughing it off, while he added, “in fact ‘here’ and ‘there’ is the same thing — that’s solidarity.”
Eliasson would then recall a “dark day in the history of the U.N.” when 22 humanitarian workers lost their lives in a terrorist attack in Iraq on August 19, 2003. This event and World Humanitarian Day both honor those lost lives and encourage others to join the effort. After letting down the crowd by saying, “Sadly, I will not be dancing to my rendition of ‘Single Ladies’ tonight,” Anderson Cooper hosted individual interviews with guests like the son of a lost humanitarian worker, a former child soldier-turned-author from Sierra Leone and even a local photographer who had worked to help homeless people.
During her sit-down with Cooper, Under-Secretary General and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos would encourage everyone to log on to WHD-IWasHere.org by August 19 and commit to doing one good act to help someone in need, helping to reach the organization’s goal of 1 billion volunteers. Amos explained that Beyoncé was passionate about helping this cause, and she was thankful in return.
“I told [Beyoncé]: It’s great that we have her, because she can reach millions of people,” Amos said. “I could spend the rest of my life doing what I do, and I wouldn’t reach a 10th of that number. And she said: ‘Don’t sell yourself short.’ “
When Beyoncé took the stage, dressed in a skintight sequined white gown, the screens, which spanned from ceiling to floor, lit up with images of different regions around the world struck by disaster while the faces of humanitarian workers flashed. She belted out her vocals to “I Was Here,” while members of the audience sang along, and the moment ended all too quickly, but cameras rolled the entire time, capturing a music video that will premiere on August 19th. When she finished, Beyonce thanked the audience and encouraged them to do their part for World Humanitarian Day. When she finished, Beyoncé thanked the audience and encouraged them to do their part for World Humanitarian Day.
“I’d like to ask everyone to make sure they’re a part of August 19th,” she said of commemorating the Iraq terror attack. “It’s such a beautiful, beautiful day, and I’d like to honor the 22 people who lost their lives. God bless you all. Thank you so much for having me.”