PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Americans at the Live 8 concert in Philadelphia on Saturday were told a simple message -- Africans are created equal too.
The crowd of about 1 million watched a roster including Stevie Wonder, pop divas Destiny's Child and rapper Jay-Z on a stage set up on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and heard demands that rich countries such as the United States, Britain and Japan relieve African debts.
But organizers said the symbolic star of the show was a copy of the Declaration of Independence flown in from California 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 was created equal. We should read that again and believe it and help," actor Chris Tucker told reporters backstage. "We're not better than Africans, we are all created equally, we need to remember that and do all we can to help."
The copy of the declaration is one of 25 known to have survived from about 200 printed in 1776. Signed in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776, it states: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
Actor Will Smith kicked off the Philadelphia show -- the biggest of 10 Live 8 shows across four continents and the world'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 the Group of Eight leaders of the world's richest nations who meet in Scotland next week to take action to eliminate poverty.
LOBBY THE LEADERS
Celebrities and politicians alike in Philadelphia urged Americans to lobby their leaders when they return to work after the July 4 Independence Day holiday.
"This must not end up as just a big concert in 10 locations," said civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton. "This must become a movement now ... poverty must become history."
As bands like Bon Jovi played in the sweltering summer heat, the crowd stretched about 1 mile down the Benjamin Franklin parkway. Police said the crowd reached 1 million, but The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote this week the parkway could only 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 Sue Kim, a 22-year-old student. "There's going to be a lot of drunk people and what are they going to remember?"
Grace Newton, 45, said she would telephone her local congressman on the issue of Africa but wondered, "How is it going to make the politicians act?"
Reacting to such skepticism, Care USA's David Ray said charities like his will not relent lobbying for Africa. "The G8 is a good focal point, but it's not the end of the story," he said.
While organizers want to raise awareness of Africa's issues, the concert received less media attention here than the Live Aid show for the Ethiopian famine 20 years ago.
Singer Alicia Keys encouraged Americans not to feel helpless about Africa and to press leaders for action.
"America has a sense of disconnect when it comes to Africa or places that are very far away because ... most of us won't get the opportunity to see those places," she said. "You feel empathy but you feel you don't know what you can possibly do."
Saturday's show was only available on cable channels MTV and VH-1, showing clips from the concerts around the world. ABC was the only television network set to broadcast any of the show in a two-hour evening highlight package. The Philadelphia gig 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 ended seven hours of live music with his hit "Superstition" and said backstage later, "I'm sure that from heaven above ... the Almighty is smiling at the contribution of tonight."
(Additional reporting by Jon Hurdle)