Philadelphia Leads the Charge, Shining the Light for Freedom on July 2 & 4

America’s Birthplace Brings Past, Present and Future Together, Promoting Liberty and Justice as It Has Done for 229 Years

PHILADELPHIA, June 23 /PRNewswire/ — As Philadelphia prepares to make history again, celebrating America’s birthday by leading the charge against poverty with Live 8 on July 2, and HIV/AIDS, with the Philadelphia Freedom Concert and Ball, headlined by Sir Elton John on July 4, it’s a time to remember that America’s birthplace has been a leader in the fight for freedom and liberty since its very beginnings.

Over two centuries ago, Philadelphia led the charge against tyranny as the center of the new American government. Twenty years ago, Philadelphia led the charge against hunger with Live Aid. Now, in a unique convergence of past, present and future, the City of Brotherly Love — home of Benjamin Franklin and the Liberty Bell, a world-class cultural community, site of the 2000 Republican National Convention, renowned for its restaurants, universities, performing arts and vibrant neighborhoods — is leading the call to action once more, shining the light for liberty on those who suffer from poverty and disease. Appropriately, this clarion call comes in the midst of the city’s 13th annual July Fourth celebration, the Sunoco Welcome America! festival.

“Philadelphia is proud once again to be a part of world history; a 21st- century, urban hot spot at the forefront of freedom and democracy,” said Mayor John F. Street. “We are thrilled to host Live 8, Elton John and all of the great Sunoco Welcome America! events that will come together to make for one spectacular Fourth of July week in the place where so many symbols of freedom were born and continue to flourish.

In just 10 days, Philadelphia will take the world stage to bring principles of justice and freedom to impoverished areas of the world by serving as one of the concert venues for Live 8 on July 2. As part of a global effort for poverty awareness, an estimated one million people will gather on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia to encourage the G8 Summit leaders to provide debt relief for poor African countries. Music legends and celebrities, including Bon Jovi, Dave Matthews Band, Destiny’s Child, Jay-Z, P. Diddy, Rob Thomas, Sarah McLaughlin, Stevie Wonder and Philadelphia’s own Will Smith will “help make poverty history.” Philadelphia will take the world’s stage together with London, Paris, Rome, Berlin, Tokyo, Toronto and Johannesburg.

Two days later, on July 4, Philadelphia will lead the charge against one of the world’s deadliest scourges, HIV/AIDS, with the Sunoco Philadelphia Freedom Concert, headlined by Sir Elton John, and featuring Bryan Adams, Patti LaBelle, Peter Nero and the Philly Pops and Rufus Wainwright, and the Philadelphia Freedom Ball fundraiser. Slated to be the largest, outdoor HIV/AIDS awareness event ever held, with a goal of raising $2 million dollars, proceeds will benefit the Elton John AIDS Foundation, which will distribute funds globally, and the Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld Fund, which will distribute funds to Philadelphia region HIV/AIDS service provider organizations. On the morning of July 4, the City will also present Sir Elton John with the first City of Brotherly Love Humanitarian Award, in recognition of his tireless humanitarian efforts for HIV/AIDS.

Almost 20 years to the day since Philadelphia joined London as the host cities for Live Aid, the City is again helping music to move people. In 1985, Live Aid helped to raise millions for those suffering from famine in Ethiopia, with a massive concert for 90,000 at Philadelphia’s former JFK Stadium, featuring Tina Turner, Phil Collins, Mick Jagger, Patti LaBelle, Tom Petty, and many more. Now, in 2005, the City is expecting 1.5 million for both Live 8 and Elton John, while millions more will have access to the concert through television and the web.

Philadelphia’s Freedom History

Philadelphia’s past is highlighted by its role in the fight for freedom. The founding fathers gathered here in 1776 to draft the United States’ Declaration of Independence, and later the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. The city served as a battleground during the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. It was the home of politicians and idealists, and masked a number of stops on the Underground Railroad.

In 1835, the Liberty Bell got its name when abolitionists saw the writing on the old State Bell that read “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the Land, unto all the inhabitants thereof.” That’s when they claimed the bell as their symbol of freedom for the enslaved Africans in this nation.

Philadelphia was at the helm for the Women’s Suffrage Movement when, in 1876, Susan B. Anthony read The Declaration for the Rights of Women from a podium in front of the Liberty Bell — 44 years later the 19th Amendment, named in her honor, became law.

In the 1960s, students demonstrated for civil rights at Independence Hall as part of the national movement for freedom. A lesser-known civil rights movement also took root in Philadelphia during this era. On July 4, 1965, about 40 gays and lesbians risked their personal safety to stage a demonstration on Independence Mall. Dressed in suits and holding picket signs, these activists represented the first-ever mass call for equal treatment of gays and lesbians.

An essential part of its history and legacy, Philadelphia has formally celebrated the Fourth of July each year with fireworks, concerts and parades that have decked the City in red, white and blue. Evolving through the years from The Philadelphia Freedom Festival — featuring food festivals to balloon races, concerts on the Parkway to Penn’s Landing — to today’s Sunoco Welcome America! festival, a full week of free events for millions of residents and visitors from around the globe, each year has seen new programs and entertainment that have helped America’s birthplace to become the nation’s destination for July 4.

And in 1999, Philadelphia celebrated the first national Millennium event by hosting The Photo of the Century, when more than 100 Americans born on the Fourth of July, representing all 50 states, posed together at Independence Hall. The photo represented the faces of America and the world — all races and ethnicities — one person born each year from 1900-1999, including a baby born that very morning.

For additional information on Live 8, visit http://www.live8live.com/. For information on Sunoco Welcome America!, visit http://www.americasbirthday.com/. For information on the Philadelphia Freedom Concert and Ball, visit http://www.phillyfreedom.net/. For information on visiting Philadelphia, visit http://www.gophila.com/.

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