In an evening filled with a giving spirit, “Hand in Hand: A Benefit for Hurricane Relief” offered an array of stars, including Beyoncé, Drake, and Nicki Minaj, who stepped up with powerful contributions.
Queen Bey delivered a touching tribute to her hometown of Houston, which has been affected by Hurricane Harvey. “During a time where it’s impossible to watch the news without seeing violence or racism in this country, just when you think it couldn’t possibly get worse, natural disasters take precious life, do massive damage, and forever change lives,” she said. “In my hometown city of Houston, people need food, clothing, cleaning supplies, blankets, shoes, diapers, formula for babies, and of course, clean water. Natural disasters don’t discriminate. They don’t see if you’re an immigrant, black or white, Hispanic or Asian, Jewish or Muslim, wealthy or poor. It doesn’t matter if you’re from Third Ward or River Oaks, we’re all in this together.”
The global superstar also used this platform, which drew 15.7 million viewers across various networks, to discuss climate change and its significant impact on the globe. “The effects of climate change are playing out around the world every day,” she said. “Just this past week, we’ve seen devastation from a monsoon in India, an 8.1 earthquake in Mexico, and multiple catastrophic hurricanes. Irma alone has left a trail of death and destruction from the Caribbean to Florida, to southern United States. We have to be prepared for what comes next, so tonight, we come together in a collective effort to raise our voices, to help our communities, to life our spirits and heal.”
After ‘Yoncé said that relief efforts restored her “faith in humanity,” Drake provided some of his own words of encouragement in a call to action. “These days, it seems as if one issue is ending, another is beginning and I know it can be extremely overwhelming but your attention and your assistance is of extreme importance,” he said. “On some days, it will be about speaking up, on other days, it will be about stepping up. In today’s case, we’re asking that you give, give whatever you can to help people just like you rebuild their families, homes, and get back to life as they once knew it.”
Drake and Bey were just two of the many stars who took part in the celebrity-filled telethon, which also included appearances by Justin Timberlake, Diddy, Cassie, Gwen Stefani, Jamie Foxx, Selena Gomez, Will Smith, Questlove, Oprah Winfrey, and Vic Mensa.
The event also featured an array of performances, starting with Stevie Wonder, who opened with a cover of Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me.” Among the other performers were Tori Kelly and Luis Fonsi, who performed “Hallelujah,” Brad Paisley, Darius Rucker, Demi Lovato, and Cece Winans, who covered The Beatles’ “With a Little Help from My Friends,” and Dave Matthews, who performed his own song, “Mercy.” Elsewhere, Usher teamed up with his fellow “Voice” coach Blake Shelton for a cover of Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” classic.
Justin Bieber was joined by a rabbi and an Islamic leader for a moment of prayer, while Nicki Minaj, Travis Scott, and DJ Khaled (with son Asahd) fielded phone calls from donors. “You guys are AMAZING!!!! Had such a good time speaking to all of you,” said Nicki.
In the end, the “Hand in Hand” telethon raised more than $44 million for hurricane survivors, including a $5 million donation from Apple.
The one-hour special was organized by Bun B and Scooter Braun. “I think the whole point of what we’re trying to say with this telethon is that the devastation of the hurricane means we need to help each other — but it doesn’t stop or end there,” said Braun. “It’s an opportunity for all of us to come together and remember a year of where there’s been so much talk of hatred and division, that push comes to shove, we as a people come together. And we have to get back to that idea.”