Singer-songwriter-street performer AY Young has a new stage for his unique message, announcing Friday the Kansas City artist’s appointment as one of the United Nations’ 17 Young Leaders for Sustainable Development Goals.
“I’ll be honest, I was like, ‘It’s about time,’” Young said, laughing. “I’ve powered over 800 concerts using renewable energy; I’ve been getting the world plugged in — in the sense of raising money and awareness around the world for sustainable solutions. But for me, [this appointment] gave me that validation.”
Nominations are taken from across the globe, and Young is the only change-maker selected from the United States for the 2020 class. He will serve a two-year term in which he will have the opportunity to build a platform, along with engage in UN and partner-led projects.
Known for being the first musical artist to power 100 percent of his performances with renewable energy, Young has become an activist for sustainability. He founded his startup, Battery Tour, in 2012 as a platform to perform, while also sending sustainable solutions (such as portable solar-powered generators) to people around the world.
“Since the beginning, it has always been about, ‘How can I wrap my name, my brand, my music around something that’s bigger than myself? How can I make something that can plug into everyone?’” Young explained.
Click here to read more about AY Young’s backstory and his Battery Tour.
The UN’s initiative to recognize young people creating positive change in the world of sustainability was launched in 2015 and is powered by the Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth. Applicants are selected based on their contributions to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes 17 goals to negate climate change.
“[The United Nations is] acting as an extension of self — so an extension of AY ‘the artist,’ the music and then my start-up, Battery Tour,” Young said. “We’ve got an awesome work plan that I’m putting together with the United Nations. We’re looking at, ‘How can they amplify our voice and further the impact we’re currently making?’”
“That’s huge because we can get more people to hear my music and the message, and we can grow the Battery Tour and its capabilities,” he continued.
Click here to read more about the UN’s Young Leaders for the Sustainable Development Goals.
Back on stage; human again
Back in March, Young was planning his first official 50-state tour — all powered by renewable energy, he said.
“That got canceled the moment COVID hit,” Young said. “So, at first, I took all these huge losses … but honestly, as time went by, I realized I was able to be human. I did 230 shows last year alone, and I hadn’t really had time to be human in the past six years. It was the most time I had been given to dive into myself.”
Feeling refreshed after months of reflection, Young said he is ready to get back out and start performing again.
On Friday, Young is set to perform 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Black Lives Matter mural at 18th and Vine in Kansas City’s Jazz District.
“It wasn’t intentionally planned to be the same day [as the UN appointment], but it’s going to be incredible,” Young said. “Performing next to the mural will be a really cool way to spark some conversation … And it’s also a great way to honor the history of jazz that was birthed here in Kansas City.”
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the venue can only welcome 50 people to the live show. Others can live-stream the performance.
Above all, Young sees his music as a universal language to connect people and do good, he said.
“Everyone’s an outlet for change,” Young said. “We need to get everyone plugged into their local community — whether it’s through entrepreneurs, social movements or businesses — and make a change.”