Recalling the response to December’s devastating Asian tsunami, celebrities across the country have pledged to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, from fundraising concerts and charity downloads to expressions of sympathy.
In addition to a September 10 benefit concert featuring Usher, Green Day and Alicia Keys to be broadcast by MTV, VH1 and CMT (see “Kanye, Kelly, Stones Added To Massive Disaster-Relief Special” ), NBC broadcast A Concert for Hurricane Relief on Friday.
The hour-long, live benefit aired on NBC, MSNBC and CNBC and featured a roster of artists with ties to the affected areas, including Louisiana natives Tim McGraw, Wynton Marsalis and Harry Connick Jr. Kanye West also appeared on the program, where he went off script and criticized President Bush for his response time to the tragedy. West first told a long story about calling his business manager to ask how much he could afford to donate and then when the cameras returned to the rapper, he proclaimed, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” (co-presenter Mike Myers appeared stunned).
Earlier Friday, West issued a statement directed toward looters in New Orleans, the U.S. government and his music peers.
“My plea is this, and I hope you will hear it: Please stop the chaos,” he said. “Stop hurting each other. Do only what will be helpful. To our government officials, please do whatever it takes to bring aid and relief to our suffering people, and do it immediately. To my fellow artists and entertainers, please give your time and use your voice to help spread a message of unity. Please, let’s come together in this time of crisis to help our people and our communities and our country. Let’s volunteer, donate our time and money, or help in whatever ways we can.”
Also working on a telethon is BET, whose event will take place September 9 at 7:30 p.m. ET and will feature Russell Simmons, Master P and Marsalis. ABC, CBS and FOX are putting together their own televised event for early next week, according to a Los Angeles Times report.
New Orleans rappers the Cash Money Millionaires (including Baby, Lil’ Wayne and Manny Fresh), Master P, Silkk the Shocker and Lil’ Romeo are also teaming up for a benefit tour. Details are still being worked out, but the trek is scheduled to begin October 7 and hit at least 10 major cities on Friday and Saturday nights through November.
Diddy and Jay-Z reached directly into their pockets to help the victims. On Thursday afternoon, the duo announced they are combining checkbooks to donate $1 million to the American Red Cross.
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“These are our people,” Diddy said. “We can’t stand around waiting for these people to be taken care of — we have to take care of them ourselves. I urge all our fellow artists and Americans to answer the call. These are communities that I know, communities that have always supported me. Now it’s my turn to support them.”
“This event has devastated hundreds of thousands of people,” Jay-Z said. “We, as African-American men and leaders of our community, felt it was a necessity to join forces and help. Diddy and I are committed to supporting our people in whichever way we can.”
Hilary Duff was also among the stars to pitch in early, contributing $250,000 to the relief effort, with $200,000 going to the Red Cross and $50,000 earmarked for USA Harvest.
Master P, along with son Romeo and wife Sonya, has formed a charity called Team Rescue to help gather food, clothing and funds.
“My family has set out to save and rebuild our neighborhoods and help our inner-city brothers and sisters who have lost everything in this disaster,” P was quoted as saying in USA Today. The rapper’s spokesperson told the paper that his parents and a number of relatives had lost their homes in the hurricane.
The Dave Matthews Band has announced plans to add a benefit show (taking place on September 12) to its three-night stand at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre near Denver. Tickets for the benefit will go on sale next week.
Bowling for Soup played a special benefit concert at Bossier City’s Rockin’ Rodeo dance club near Shreveport, Louisiana, on Monday as the first hints of the extent of the hurricane’s damage were being revealed. Hundreds of fans got in free with a donation to hurricane-relief efforts, bringing everything from bottled water to canned foods, pet food and deodorant, according to a group spokesperson.
“The most important thing about tonight is the donations,” bassist Erik Chandler said in a statement. “We just want to do everything we can to help the victims of the hurricane, and getting all these people together, donating things that these people need, it just makes you feel good.”
On the show “Rock Star: INXS” Wednesday night, bandleader Tim Farriss praised New Orleans and said INXS had made an undisclosed donation to the Red Cross to help victims of the disaster.
Download site Napster also weighed in, with a “Download to Donate” program in which it pledged 100 percent of the profits from a custom compilation of songs to the American Red Cross. Among the songs on the compilation are tracks by Elton John (“Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”), Sade (“By Your Side”), Louis Armstrong (“When the Saints Go Marching In”), Bill Withers (“Lean On Me”), Harry Connick Jr. (“Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans”), Aretha Franklin (“Bridge Over Troubled Water”) and Fats Domino (“Walking to New Orleans”).
Actor Morgan Freeman announced an auction to benefit the victims, which will begin Friday and run through September 16 on the Charity Folks Web site (charityfolks.com). It includes VIP tickets to the Fashion Rocks show (which features performances by David Bowie, Destiny’s Child, Duran Duran, Gwen Stefani and Alicia Keys) and a chance to attend the premiere of Freeman’s upcoming movie, “An Unfinished Life,” which stars Jennifer Lopez and Robert Redford. Other items up for auction include vacation packages and tickets to tapings of “That ’70s Show” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”
The annual Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon benefiting the Muscular Dystrophy Association will add celebrity appeals for help for the disaster survivors this year, in addition to a $1 million donation from MDA to help the victims. Musicians, comedians and actors will appear during the first four and last four hours of the 21-and-a-half-hour broadcast, which begins Sunday at 9 p.m. ET.
“While the needs of ‘my kids’ are with us all year round, Hurricane Katrina is a national disaster on a scale that’s difficult to comprehend,” Lewis said in a statement. “We simply couldn’t ignore the need to help. We already have the infrastructure in place.”
The organizers of the annual Voodoo Music Experience, scheduled for October 29 and 30 in New Orleans, offered their thoughts and prayers to the people of New Orleans, which has hosted the show for the past six years. They are awaiting word from city and state officials before announcing the fate of the concert, which is slated to feature the Foo Fighters, Flaming Lips, Queens of the Stone Age, Billy Idol, My Chemical Romance, Louis XIV, Cake and Joss Stone.
Britney Spears, a native of Kentwood, Louisiana, posted a message on her Web site, offering her thoughts and prayers to those affected by the storm in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. “All of my family members there are safe, and thank you to all my fans for your concern,” the singer wrote.
Members of the video game community are also mustering relief.
Bungie, the makers of “Halo,” announced on Friday that the company is selling a special-edition “Halo” T-shirt on BungieStore.com, with all profits going to the Red Cross. The shirt reads, “Fight the Flood,” a reference both to the evil Flood aliens of the “Halo” series and the tragic hurricane aftermath in the South.
“Halo” fans posted messages on Bungie’s Web forums pledging donations. Several said they were giving the money they had saved up for an Xbox 360. “I was about to buy a game and put a down payment down for the 360 when the news of the hurricane came out,” wrote one gamer. “I walked into the store today and couldn’t bring myself to pay $100 for gaming when there are people in the disaster zone that would pay twice that for running water or food. So I went home and donated the $100 to the Red Cross, and I am hoping many other gamers will do the same.”
Sony Computer, makers of PlayStation, is matching all employee donations. Electronic Arts is matching employee donations at 2:1.
[This story was originally published at 4:42 p.m. ET on 09.01.2005]
To find out what you can do to help provide relief to victims of Katrina, head to think MTV’s hurricane relief page.