Photos by Kevin Mazur & Mike Windle. Music’s biggest names joined a number of Hollywood stars and athletes in Los Angeles for a concert about the state of race relations in the United States. Recorded on Wednesday at L.A.’s Shrine Auditorium, Shining A Light: A Concert for Progress on Race in America aired Friday night on the A&E family of networks. The concert was organized to bring awareness to acts of race-related violence and systemic racism following the recent high profile deaths of black men and women. The event also sought donations to the United Way.
This year’s Emanuel AME Church massacre in Charleston, SC, in which nine black church members were gunned down by a white supremacist, took center stage at the event. Members of the Emanuel AME congregation were honored by Pharrell Williams, who sang for the church. The show opened with a performance from Bruce Springsteen and John Legend. The pair performed a duet of Springsteen’s “American Skin (41 Shots),” along with Tom Morello.
Ed Sheeran & Pharrell
Legend and Springsteen were followed by performances from Pink, Sia, Pharrell Williams, Eric Church, Zac Brown, Alicia Keys, Sting, and Nick Jonas, among others. Rapper Nicki Minaj recited the Maya Angelou poem “Still I Rise.” Actor Morgan Freeman also spoke at the event, telling the audience that music is not be enough to heal the wounds of racism and injustice. “Throughout this nation’s history, from the brutal days of slavery to the long march to civil rights until today, music has been there to help us cross that bloody river to the other side,” said Freeman.
“Too many tragic headlines and news stories make painfully clear, music alone cannot heal the wounds so many of us in this great nation still feel, wounds caused by racism and injustice,” Freeman said. “Tonight, as we mourn the loss of life in Paris, let us rededicate ourselves to helping erase hate and to creating an American where we can all move up together toward justice, community, love, brotherhood, sisterhood, and freedom.” The deaths of Freddie Gray and Mike Brown were also revisited during the special, as stars discussed the impacts of their deaths on their respective communities. The special also rehashed America’s history with slavery and racial segregation.
John Legend, Big Sean, Jamie Foxx & Pharrell
While singer Pink played piano, John Legend discussed the need to “reach across barriers” to find justice, after disclosing he had met with wives of police officers in Ferguson, Missouri. Smokey Robinson introduced Sting, saying, “This man is my friend, he’s my brother, and I love him. And he’s white!” Robinson also said young blacks are being underserved by “poverty and lack of opportunity.” George Lopez later said the solution to ending racism is love. “I don’t mean Tinder, I’m talking about real love,” said Lopez. Late in the show, Jill Scott performed “Strange Fruit,” a poem turned Billie Holiday song that was inspired by the lynching of blacks in the South. The show was simulcast on all A&E networks, including A&E, History, and Lifetime.