Inside Hollywood's Juneteenth Celebration With The Roots, Billy Porter and More

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Sunday marks the 157th anniversary of Black American Independence Day, more commonly knowns as Juneteenth. The holiday commemorates the date in 1865 when Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to inform enslaved African Americans that the Civil War had ended and they were free -- two months after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House and more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

This year, in honor of the holiday and "the fight still left to be fought," Live Nation Urban and Jesse Collins Entertainment teamed up to produce Juneteenth: A Global Celebration of Freedom, a live event held at the world-famous Hollywood Bowl. The event will air live on CNN at 8 p.m. ET and will feature a diverse lineup of thoughtful, impactful, and essential Black artists striving to give viewers an unforgettable celebration of Black culture and excellence brought to life and powered by Black creators. 

Collins spoke with ET's Kevin Frazier ahead of Sunday's celebration and shared some insight into the "incredible night of music and storytelling" and the preparation that’s gone into it.

"Anything that starts with Questlove, Robert Glasper, Adam Blackstone, the first all-Black orchestra to ever come together at the Hollywood Bowl, you know it's going to be historic," Collins declared. "Juneteenth is a very important holiday that I think the nation is just starting to wrap their head around and understand truly what it is. So, the best way to pull people in is, obviously, with great music."

Great music is an understatement. The list of performers includes Anthony Hamilton, Billy Porter, the Debbie Allen Dance Academy, Earth, Wind & Fire, Jhené Aiko, Killer Mike, Lucky Daye, Mary Mary, Michelle Williams, Mickey Guyton, Questlove, Robert Glasper, The Roots, The Re-Collective Orchestra (a 68-piece all-Black symphony orchestra) and more.

Juneteenth Celebration Poster
Live Nation

When ET spoke with Porter at the 75th annual Tony Awards, the actor teased that he was part of a "big production number," but didn't want to spoil the performance. 

"I'll be singing my own single so I’m really excited to show that side of myself to the world who may not know that I do that," he said. "If you haven’t seen me on Broadway, you may not know that I’m a singer and a dancer, so I’m excited."

As Collins noted, the event marks the first time an all-Black orchestra performs onstage in the Hollywood Bowl’s 100-year history. Principal Conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Thomas Wilkins and Derrick Hodge will conduct, while Adam Blackstone and Questlove will serve as the evening's musical directors.

"It's an opportunity for everybody to understand and celebrate this important holiday," the industry veteran added, noting that there was a lot of "heavy pulling" to get everyone together, but that the show represents his vision, as well as Live Nation Urban President Shawn Gee and Dionne Harmon.

"[But the challenges are great because] people are there because they want the message to get out, they want to tell the story and they want to be a part of the moment," he said. "It's not so much about, 'Oh I've got to do this because I'm pushing a record' or 'I need a TV look' or all those things... Everybody is there because we want to be there for Juneteenth. We want to tell the story. We know CNN is going to be a great platform for it and there's that kind of excitement and energy behind it."

Collins revealed that another essential element of the show is the storytelling, which will be presented alongside the music. The decision was made to approach the event from a teaching perspective. 

"Not everybody may know the history of Juneteenth, so we've got some amazing documentary packages that will flow throughout the night to tell [viewers] the story and help [them] understand why we celebrate this," he explained. "Obviously there is a large audience that is going to get it and know what it is, but we also know that there are those out there that aren't quite sure what Juneteenth is and we want everybody to walk away, not only entertained but educated on the holiday."

The producer said he hoped the event would become a staple after Sunday, noting that it "should." 

"It's part of American history, it's a celebratory moment, it's a moment where the country turned the page on something that was horrible, and so it should be celebrated," he said. "Everybody should celebrate this moment."

Tickets for Juneteenth: A Global Celebration of Freedom are currently available online at The event will air live on CNN on Sunday, June 19 at 8 p.m. ET.


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