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Eric McCandless/Getty Images Andra Day
The singer and activist, 35, has partnered with the annual tennis tournament on their new social activation campaign "Be Open," which is committed to pursuing equity, inclusion and respect for everyone on and off the court.
"First of all, I don't know too much about tennis," Day tells PEOPLE exclusively. "My introduction to it was Venus and Serena [Williams], obviously, and just watching them play and seeing people from our communities play."
"The campaign itself is something that is really necessary — especially in our nation where we see so many divisions and we see so many closed signs — to remind people when you're open, it's good for your growth as a person," she continues. "I really liked the message behind it."
As part of the campaign launch, Day narrated a manifesto film which featured powerful scenes of equality champions from years past, as well as those who continue that cause today. Set to her 2015 hit "Rise Up," the film honored those people who have taught the world that when you keep an open mind, big changes can happen.
Following the launch, a content series centered around the themes of equality, including women’s equality, Black tennis players breaking barriers and tennis’ support of the LGBTQ+ community was released. Billy Porter narrated the U.S. Open Pride video, as well as the video that celebrates Black tennis players, while Day narrated the video promoting gender equality. These videos will run on U.S. Open broadcasts and on their digital and social platforms until the tournament ends Sept. 13.
"The narration is just reminding people about the benefits of being open — how they're served and how people are served with their openness, and not just an open mind, but open hearts, and open willingness to serve," Day says. "I was happy to do that."
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'Make Your Troubles Go Away' is available now
Beyond her involvement in the "Be Open" campaign, Day also performed "Rise Up" and her timely new song "Make Your Troubles Go Away" — which proceeds GiveDirectly, an organization that is providing monetary relief for families hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic — during opening night of the U.S. Open on Sunday.
Five years later, Day says she never could have imagined that "Rise Up" would still be making such a huge impact on people's lives.
"I don't think I ever imagined it would have the impact that it had the first year," she says. "But I'm super grateful. You can hope that something will do something, but we can't really fully anticipate that it will have this much of an impact and affect people's lives on a personal level and on a macro level. So I'm grateful that it's still doing what it's doing."
Andra Day Kevork Djansezian/Getty
Day also says that "Rise Up" becoming the unofficial anthem of the Black Lives Matter movement has been "huge."
"It's huge to be able to have such a voice in this time and in this movement right now," she says. "To be able to do it through song and what I love most, it reminded me of the power that we have as musicians. As musicians and as artists we can be a part of healing, progress and affecting people's lives for the good. It's really fulfilling."
Even if you're not a musician or artist, Day makes it clear that you can have power, particularly by voting, to make change too.
"I [recently got off a call] with Kamala Harris," she says. "What I'm going to say up until November is vote. One of the things she said is, 'If you can in your state, vote early. If you can, get out there and vote.'"
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Why Singer Andra Day Feels 'Hopeful About the Future' Amid Racial Injustice Protests
Andra Day says the "support" from communities is "really, really exciting"
In the meantime, Day says she's staying "hopeful" for the future.
"What makes me hopeful is seeing young people's passion," she says. "And not just their passion, but also their innovation. When I look at news reports and I hear them talk about, 'Well, they're just violence fighters and looters,' I'm like, 'No, these people doing that are actually white people undermining the purpose of the movement.' Show the faces of the people that are really protesting."
"The fact that we have video and we can see their faces is important, honestly," she adds. "Otherwise we just continue to deal with these things and continue to be brushed under the rug, I'm hopeful — you have to be, otherwise you can't survive."
With everything happening in the world, Day says she's "definitely" been feeling the creativity as she works on her new album, her follow-up to 2015's Cheers to the Fall.
"We're actually getting to the end of the album," she says. "I'm approving mixes and songs I've been listening to for three years. I'm like, 'I just want to create.' Then there's my manager like, 'Yo, get these songs out.' But I'm super creative right now."