Shawn Gee with Live Nation Urban and the LA Phil will produce the 2022 Juneteenth Celebration at Hollywood Bowl on Sunday (June 19). CNN will serve as the official broadcast partner and will showcase the performances on all CNN platforms live on Sunday, beginning at 8 p.m. ET.
The series will feature the The Re-Collective Orchestra, the first all-Black symphony orchestra to perform onstage in the Hollywood Bowl’s 100-year history. The 68-member orchestra was organized by violinist Stephanie Matthews and will be led by Derrick Hodge and Hollywood Bowl principal conductor Thomas Wilkins.
Adam Blackstone and the BBE All-Star Band will accompany the orchestra and serve as the evening’s house band with Robert Glasper leading the rhythm section. Blackstone and The Roots co-founder Questlove will serve as the musical co-directors, while more than a dozen artists — including Anthony Hamilton, Billy Porter, Earth, Wind & Fire, Jhené Aiko, Killer Mike and Mickey Guyton — will join the performance.
“It’s a variety show model with a mixture of performances with a diverse blend of genres and artists performing with the band and the orchestra,” Gee says of the event, which was born out of a partnership between CNN and Live Nation on The New York City Homecoming Concert in 2021.
“CNN came back to Live Nation and said they wanted to do something big around Juneteenth,” Gee explains, noting that the network wanted to build a tentpole production for the new federal holiday, commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African Americans, similar to Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.
Live Nation connected CNN with Gee, recommending their joint venture partners as “the only ones who can produce this event in an authentic way.”
Gee then connected the cable news executive with Johanna Rees, vp of presentations for the LA Phil, which manages the Hollywood Bowl, and wanted to develop a Juneteenth event for the Hollywood Bowl’s 100-year anniversary season.
“We want to entertain and celebrate, but we also want to educate because there’s a lot of people, whether they’re in the Bowl or watching across the globe, that won’t know what Juneteenth is. So we have pre-recorded packages where we’re going to talk about the history of Juneteenth and highlight people like Opal Lee, who has been fighting to make Juneteenth a federal holiday for 40 years. It’s going to be an incredible three hour celebration.”
Gee has been busy the last two months, launching the new Strength of a Woman festival headlined by Mary J Blige in Atlanta, bringing back the Broccoli City festival to Washington, D.C., and staging the Roots Picnic in Philadelphia, expanding the fest two days, growing from 20,000 attendees to 60,000 attendees.
“2022 has been a period of growth for us,” Gee tells Billboard. “All our brands mean something to the communities in which they exist. The Roots Picnic is a great example — its by and for Philadelphia and the city has embraced it for the last 15 years.”
“This is the most important event we’ve ever produced at Live Nation Urban. It’s a moment to celebrate and reflect on Black independence and the Black experience. It’s also a moment to raise awareness and shine light on the miles we still need to travel to true equity. We hope to see you there.”