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CNN Live Event/Special

Historic Concert at Hollywood Bowl; Behind-the-Scenes of Unprecedented Holiday Concert; Interview with "Grandmother of Juneteenth" Opal Lee. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired June 19, 2022 - 19:00   ET



BROWN: And Juneteenth on CNN hosted by Don Lemon is up next, followed by "JUNETEENTH: A GLOBAL CELEBRATION FOR FREEDOM" at 8:00.

Thank you so much for joining me this evening. I'm Pamela Brown. And I'll see you again next weekend.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Welcome to Hollywood, everyone. What a fantastic perfect day. 75 degrees and sunny. Not a cloud here in the sky. In Los Angeles, in Hollywood. Right now the stage is being set as you see at the iconic Hollywood Bowl for an unprecedented celebration for freedom 157 years in the making.

This is JUNETEENTH ON CNN. I'm Don Lemon live from Los Angeles and I am thrilled to be a part of this truly historic event honoring the newest U.S. federal holiday. A long sought official commemoration of the end of slavery in this country.

Tonight it's going to be extraordinary. It's an extraordinary concert. It's going to be uplifting, it's going to be inspiring, it's going to be educational, and it's only going to be seen here on CNN. We're going to enjoy an extraordinary showcase of black talents spanning different musical genres and really a number of different generations here.

The all-star lineup including Earth, Wind and Fire performing, you know it, "September" and of course some of their other big hits. The legendary Chaka Khan also is going to be live on stage with her R&B classic "Ain't Nobody."

That's Nischelle Turner next to me groaning. And other headliners include songwriter Khalid performing his chart topper "Talk" and Ne-Yo performing "Miss Independent" and some of his other most popular tunes. And also featured special messages by trailblazing women of color, the former first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, and the first black vice president of the United States Kamala Harris.

We're also going to hear from President Joe Biden who signed the Juneteenth bill into law. He did that just a year ago.

We're going to set the stage for this amazing show. That happens in less than an hour here by talking to the women -- the woman, I should say, known as the grandmother of Juneteenth and that is Opal Lee. Wait until you get to meet her. Amazingly young at 95 years old. She played a leading role in pushing lawmakers to formally recognize this holiday.

Beautiful day here. I'm so happy to be with you. It's going to be a production unlike anything we have ever seen. The person you heard groaning is sitting right next to me, and that is the lovely and talented, the legendary Nischelle Turner.

I'm so happy to be with you.

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Listen, I want to know who authorized this pairing. I want to know who did that, right?

LEMON: It's going to be trouble. I miss sitting next to you on the CNN set.

TURNER: I miss you, too. I miss you, too. I'm sorry happy to be here today.

LEMON: I am so happy. Yes.

TURNER: Like you said a picture-perfect day here in Hollywood.


TURNER: I'm so glad to see many people filing into the Hollywood Bowl already. I think it's going to be a historic day.

LEMON: You know who's there?


LEMON: You know who's at --

TURNER: I do know who's there.

LEMON: Our Sara Sidner is there.

TURNER: I can't wait. That's my girl. Hey, Sara.

LEMON: She's at the Hollywood Bowl. Sara, tell us about what to expect in the hours ahead.

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Can I just say I'm so happy to be alive to be a part of this right now?

LEMON: Right on, sister.

SIDNER: Like I think we all as a country needed this. We needed this. I am in the iconic Hollywood Bowl. There is nothing that says Los Angeles like this venue. I'm going to give you a quick look at it just so you can see and get -- it's like I want you to be with me. I want you to feel what I'm feeling.

So I'm going to have our photographer Mike Love show you some love, give you a view of this gorgeous, gorgeous venue. It has been 100 years. That's how long this place has been putting on acts. And here are some of the acts that you are going to see.


SIDNER (voice-over): From the nostalgic --


(On-camera): Bell Biv Devoe, "Don't Play with Me."

DIONNE HARMON, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: "Poison." "Poison" is happening.

SIDNER (voice-over): To the iconic.


SIDNER: To the rising stars.


MICKEY GUYTON, COUNTRY MUSIC ARTIST: You know, when I wrote that song never in my wildest dreams that I think these opportunities would present itself.

SIDNER: Artists like Mickey Guyton will take the stage at the world- famous Hollywood Bowl celebrating Juneteenth and the diversity of black American culture.

HARMON: To be able to share this slice of culture, this really important part of American life and American history with the world is a big deal.

SIDNER: Dionne Harmon is used to producing award shows and Super Bowl halftime shows but as executive producer of "JUNETEENTH: A GLOBAL CELEBRATION FOR FREEDOM," she says this show has added meaning.

HARMON: To make sure that we all stand together to protect the freedoms that we do have.

SIDNER: Juneteenth commemorates the day in 1865 that Texas slaves finally learned they were free, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation.


HARMON: To see an entire group of people to get through that and overcome and thrive, I think is a message of hope.

SIDNER: Stars include Khalid, Earth, Wind and Fire and The Roots. Black artists from jazz to pop to country, even poetry from the incomparable Jill Scott.

SHAWN GEE, PRESIDENT, LIVE NATION URBAN: We're not a monolith. We're mosaic. SIDNER: Shawn Gee manages Scott and The Roots, and as president of

Live Nation Urban, one of the show's organizers, he says this celebration will make history.

GEE: It's the first time in the 100 years of the Hollywood Bowl that there'll be an all-black orchestra gracing the stage.

SIDNER (on-camera): That's a heck of a long time to wait for something like this.

GEE: For whatever reason it hadn't happened in the last 99 years but you know, it signifies progress.

SIDNER (voice-over): President Biden will join Vice President Harris and former First Lady Michelle Obama with videotaped messages during the show.

(On-camera): What is special about having them be a part of this?

GEE: Obviously President Biden is the individual who signed the bill to make this a national holiday. Vice President Harris, we're in her home state. And Mrs. Obama, she's still sort of fighting for our freedom.


GUYTON: Absolutely there's going to be fun and celebration. That's what this is all about.

SIDNER (voice-over): Stars like Guyton say they'll bring the fun that organizers hope will become a tradition like other holidays.

GEE: And people can actually sit their kids down in front of and have their kids get educated as to what Juneteenth is in a fun way.

SIDNER (on-camera): It's like learning and jamming at the same time.

HARMON: Yes, yes.

SIDNER: Right?


SIDNER: And I promise you I will be dancing. I will do it off camera to spare you. But I will be dancing. This event out on by the L.A. Philharmonic, Live Nation Urban and CNN, what a great group, man. We just listened to Earth, Wind and Fire. I have seen them in this venue before and Philip Bailey is still hitting those high notes. How does it do it? All these years his four-octave range still on point.

You guys, this is going to be a fantastic show. I cannot wait to share it with you, all back there, and I get to sit here and watch it in person. I cannot wait.

LEMON: We want to see the dance moves on camera because --

TURNER: She's kidding -- I've danced with her -- I have seen her. Come on, Sara.

LEMON: She can dance.


SIDNER: She has.


LEMON: I don't know. All right. I'm not sure. Sara, is going to guide us through all the entertainment tonight.

SIDNER: Excuse me? Did you just say -- no.


LEMON: I didn't say anything. You're hearing things. Thanks, Sara. We'll see you in just a bit. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy.

So what are you looking forward to, Miss Turner?

TURNER: Well, like all of it in short answer but, you know, Shawn Gee said something that really stuck with me there. And he said, we are not a monolith. We are a mosaic.

LEMON: Mosaic, yes.

TURNER: You know? And so first off, Mickey Guyton.


TURNER: I love her and I think because I really identify with who she is and what she brings to country music. I'm a black girl who grew up loving country music and never really knew where she belonged in that genre.

LEMON: Same here. My grandmother used to --

TURNER: You know?

LEMON: We would listen to country music in the middle of the night on the radio.

TURNER: Absolutely. Yes.


TURNER: Absolutely, and so knowing that she's going to be performing "Black Like Me" really just sits with me. I love that song and I love her so much. And then some of my all-time favorites will be on there. The Roots, Earth, Wind and Fire, and then some of my new favorites, Lucky Day, Mickey Guyton.

LEMON: Right.

TURNER: Those guy will be performing, too. So I can't wait to see that mosaic of who we are.

LEMON: Yes. But don't forget -- I mean, Shawn Gee said also that this was a learning experience. A lot of people are saying, how do you celebrate? Quite frankly, you know, is it for everybody?

TURNER: Right.

LEMON: So just rapping, no, it's for everyone.

TURNER: Absolutely.

LEMON: And how it is a learning experience. You're going to hear from the former first lady. You're going to hear from Beyonce. You can hear Jill Scott with spoken word. Someone you may know of, she happens to be the vice president of the United States.

TURNER: Yes, that lady.

LEMON: And the president. That lady as well.


LEMON: So it's a learning experience. And I think, look, it's a new holiday, so to speak.


LEMON: A new national holiday but something that we have been celebrating forever. This is about freedom for the country.

TURNER: It's interesting. Yes, it's interesting that you say that because, you know, everyone celebrates July Fourth. Everyone celebrates, you know, America's independence so we should all celebrate the official end of one of the ills of this society. I think everybody should be out in the streets and out at the Hollywood Bowl celebrating, cheering, dancing because it is a joyous occasion.

Juneteenth is not a holiday that we should be somber on. Juneteenth is a holiday that we should celebrate and be happy because it was an end to a really dark -- official end to a really dark period in America's history.

LEMON: I'm also -- you know what I'm really excited about? I'm going to get the opportunity to speak with Opal Lee who's the grandmother of this, right?

TURNER: Yes, looking for that.

LEMON: And she fought to have this holiday become a national holiday that we all, you know, get to mark and commemorate. But she said she walks two and a half miles because it was about two and a half years before African-Americans figured out that they were actually free. It took from 1863 to 1865 before General Granger rode in on that horse in Galveston and told the slaves there that they were free.

[19:10:02] So she marks it by walking. And she wants the country -- everyone in the country to do the same. She said walk 2 1/2 miles on Juneteenth.

TURNER: I love that. You know what? I love that so much I'm going to do that when we finish here. It's going to be dark but I'm still going to do that. No, I'm going to -- I'm serious. I'm going to do that tonight because if 95-year-old Opal Lee can do it.

LEMON: I mean --

TURNER: Come on.


TURNER: Forty-seven-year-old Nischelle Turner can do it. That's for sure.

LEMON: So I was talking to her and I said, well, Miss Opal Lee, I got to go, right? And she said to me, she goes, oh, you think this interview is over?


TURNER: And you said, no, ma'am.

LEMON: I'm like, no, ma'am.

TURNER: Absolutely.

LEMON: You can talk for as long as you want. You can have the entire hour.

TURNER: She earned that. Exactly. Absolutely.

LEMON: Earned it.

TURNER: Well, I'm looking to that interview with her.

LEMON: Yes. And look, it's at the Hollywood Bowl. It's an iconic place for an iconic event and there are going to be so many people. It's not just the people that you're going to see on stage who are performing but you're going to see some other very notable names in the audience helping to commemorate and mark this very special holiday.

TURNER: I was just on a plane coming back from Atlanta this week, and I was sitting with Marsai Martin and her family.

LEMON: Right.

TURNER: And she is going to be one of the presenters on stage. That little girl is just a mini mogul in the making. But we were all talking about how special this day was because of course not only is it the celebration Juneteenth, it's also Father's Day. So also to see a lot of those black fathers out in the audience, celebrating them, celebrating Juneteenth, for me, that makes my heart so full. So full. LEMON: Makes my heart full, too, to think about what we're sitting

here doing on international television and looking at you as the black host of "Entertainment Tonight."

TURNER: I mean, how about that?

LEMON: I know, right? And me here on CNN.


LEMON: It's amazing. It's amazing.

My conversation with the grandmother of Juneteenth Opal Lee, that's coming up. She explains why she fought so hard for this holiday and what it means for the entire country. It's all leading up to the blowout concert featuring musical performances by Earth, Wind and Fire, other legendary black artists as well.




LEMON: The excitement is building at the Hollywood Bowl with less than an hour to go before a Juneteenth celebration concert that promises to be mind-blowing. So stay right here. You're going to see it all live. But right now let's put the spotlight on the grandmother of Juneteenth and that is Opal Lee. She played a leading role really in the fight to make this a federal holiday. Watch this.


LEMON: So, Miss Opal Lee, thank you so much for being here. First off, I just want to wish you a Happy Juneteenth, of course. How does it feel to be celebrating this federal holiday that you fought so hard for?

OPAL LEE, "GRANDMOTHER OF JUNETEENTH": I'm still pinching myself to make sure it really happened.

LEMON: Right.

LEE: I want you to know that it's mind-boggling to think that we actually have a holiday. I don't know how to explain it.

LEMON: What do you say, Miss Opal Lee, to those who question why Juneteenth even needs to be a federal holiday when this country already has July Fourth?

LEE: They need to be aware that Juneteenth means freedom. They need to know the story of General Gordon Granger getting down to Galveston with some 7,000 black troops. And they spread out and told people that the slaves were free. You see President Abraham Lincoln had declared with the Emancipation Proclamation that they were free January, 1863.

LEMON: Right.

LEE: But it didn't reach Texas. It didn't reach Texas.

LEMON: Until two years later.

LEE: Until the 19th -- yes. The 19th of June 1865. And oh, was that a day to be remembered. You see, the general read this paper he had. It was called "General Number 3." And on it said all slaves are free. Then he nailed that to what's now Reedy Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church. And when the people came in from work, and somebody read that to them, we started celebrating and we've been celebrating ever since.

LEMON: In your 95 years, what -- do you think that we've made a difference? What's the progress in your eyes and in your experience?

LEE: We've made progress. I think it goes in spurts. Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Martin King, Malcolm X, Rosa Park. Each one of those. And then to lose that child's life where the people come out with the Black Lives Matter. All these things give us a little push. But we haven't arrived yet. And so I keep telling people that it's left up to us that each one of us should be responsible for another of us. It is in the bible. We are brother's keeper. And so, I tell you that if we, if people can be taught to hate they can be taught to love. And I give this advice. You know people who aren't on the same page you are on.


Change their minds. And the minds can be changed. That's not going to happen in a day. It's going to take work. And so if we carried a 1,500,000 signatures to Congress and we were prepared to take that many more when we got the call to go to the White House for the signing of the bill to make it a national holiday don't you know three million people on the same page could turn this country around?

LEMON: People ask me, they have been asking me for some years now, Miss Opal Lee. How do you -- I don't know, it's. you know, before there was even a national holiday. How do you celebrate it? Now that it is a national holiday, they say how do you celebrate it? My answer is, and I don't know what yours is, I say you celebrate by learning about the Emancipation Proclamation, about Juneteenth, and if you have a barbecue for the Fourth of July then you should have one for Juneteenth. Now that's my assessment. How do you think people should celebrate? What would your advice be?

LEE: Well, let me tell you what we do. We used to have fabulous parades. Then we've had caravans. Now we have walks. And I walk two and a half miles and the people follow. They walk with me. That two and a half miles is to symbolize that the enslaved weren't free for two and a half years after they were supposed to be free, so now I say to people, let's have a breakfast of prayer and we do.

Now that's not to be confused with a prayer breakfast, and the programs, as the young people say, they're off the chain. They're beautiful. There's so much that people need to learn. And I advocate that we celebrate from the 19th of June to the 4th of July. Now that would be --


LEE: That would be celebrating freedom. What do you think of that?

LEMON: I think it's fantastic. And whatever you say, listen, I think you're amazing. I love the idea of a two and a half mile walk to mark how long it was before people actually knew that they were free.

I am so happy and honored to have you here and to have you be a part of this and I thank you for doing what you have done. Thank you, Miss Opal Lee. You are a sight to behold and -- a sight to see and a wonder to behold.

LEE: Do you think this interview is over? Because I got some more stuff to tell you.


LEE: Listen. Listen, listen, listen. You see? We're going to have the walk here in Fort Worth that starts at 10:00 but in California it's going to start at 8:00 and in Philadelphia and Atlanta it's going to start at 11:00 and it's going to be simulcast. Is that the word?

LEMON: That's right.

LEE: It's going to be shown all over the world, and you ought to be part of it.

LEMON: I'm so glad we had this time together. I hope I get more time to spend with you. OK? In the years to come.

LEE: I see, OK.

LEMON: And I get to see you in person and walk with you. Miss Opal Lee, thank you.

LEE: All right.

LEMON: From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much.

LEE: Thank you for having me here.

LEMON: Happy Juneteenth.

LEE: And the same to you.


LEMON: And that suddenly makes it all worthwhile.

TURNER: Listen, Miss Opal Lee, as the young folks say, got you together.

LEMON: Yes, she did.


LEMON: She said, you think this interview is over?

TURNER: Yes, she gathered you, Don Lemon. She --


TURNER: I am just -- I've fallen head over heels.


TURNER: Head over heels for that lady.

LEMON: Amazing.

TURNER: So much knowledge, so much wisdom, so much life she's lived. She's -- just think about the things she's seen. 95 years in this country.

LEMON: Right. Right.

TURNER: I mean, if there's anyone that has authority to speak on this and speak why this should be a national holiday, it is that woman right there.

LEMON: Well, you said something, as she was -- the interview was playing, you said, I love that idea.


LEMON: June 19th --

TURNER: Celebrate from the 19th of June to the 4th of July.

LEMON: Two and a half miles?

TURNER: Two and a half miles.

LEMON: Two and a half weeks.

TURNER: Two and a half weeks, you know what, it should be an entire country celebration. So why not bridge the two?

LEMON: Right.

TURNER: Because that is what this means. When everybody has the right to freedom. Every, you know, every man, woman and child is free. So we should celebrate that throughout this whole time.


LEMON: She said, she talked about the 7,000 troops.


LEMON: That went along with General Gordon Granger down marched into Galveston, Texas, to tell slaves two and a half years after they were free that they were free. And here's what she said that I really love. She said that basically what she is saying is what you and I say. Make -- have a relationship with someone who doesn't look like you, who doesn't think like you.

TURNER: Absolutely.

LEMON: And she said, minds can be changed. She believes that.

TURNER: They can.

LEMON: And if 95-year-old Opal Lee -- Miss Opal Lee, I got to, because my mom would call me and say you are not on a first name with Miss Opal Lee.

TURNER: Yes, Miss Opal. That's right. That's right.

LEMON: This is -- have some respect. If she can do that considering everything that she's seen in her 95 years, certainly we can.

TURNER: Absolutely.

LEMON: As a country.

TURNER: And I think that I have found even, you know, in conversations we've had a lot going on in this country starting from, you know, 2020 on when we really kind of dove deep into the Black Lives Matter movement, just having conversations with friends, with people I didn't know, you really can make a difference starting one person at a time.


TURNER: Taking just another -- an extra five minutes. Being open, being nonjudgmental, that sometimes they may have questions that you don't really like or you find like -- you know, but if you really sit in it, have really, really good conversations, honest conversations that may not be comfortable, you can start to move forward.

LEMON: Let's hope that this is a catalyst that pushes us to really dealing with what the original sin of this country which is slavery.


LEMON: And that can be a bridge to bring all of us together to realize that black history is American history.


LEMON: Right?

TURNER: And black folks celebrate through song. So tonight that's what we're going to do.

LEMON: That's what we're going to do.

TURNER: Celebrate through song, baby. LEMON: Once this concern gets underway, you know at the Hollywood

Bowl, Beyonce of all people will narrate a moving tribute to Opal Lee, by the way. I need to mention that. And up next, I'm going to talk with the multi-talented Billy Porter about his performance tonight.

TURNER: One of my favorites.

LEMON: I know, amazing, right. And the groundbreaking artist who paved the way for his success.

"JUNETEENTH: A GLOBAL CELEBRATION FOR FREEDOM" begins at the top of the hour. We're right back in a moment. Don't go anywhere.



DON LEMON, CNN HOST: It is gorgeous here.

We're live in Hollywood right now where thousands of people are gathering for a once in a lifetime concert in celebration of the new Juneteenth Federal holiday. It all begins in about a half hour from now.

We're expecting show-stopping performances by an unprecedented lineup of Black talent including the actor, singer, author, everything -- extraordinaire, fashion icon, Billy Porter.

Hi, Billy Porter.


LEMON: How are you doing?

PORTER: I'm fantastic.

LEMON: Can I lean in and get a hug from you?


LEMON: Billy --

PORTER: We can hug again.

LEMON: I've loved you forever.

PORTER: Ditto.

LEMON: Forever. And I love what you're doing tonight.

PORTER: Thank you.

LEMON: I love to see you. You're going to "Let These Children Know What Time It Is."

PORTER: "What Time It Is." My new single. LEMON: Yes. We're joking. But this is -- I mean, you are doing this.

I think this is one of the most significant things I've heard that you said that you felt like you've done to celebrate -- to be involved in the celebration of Juneteenth, the emancipation of slaves in this country.

PORTER: Yes, and you know, I feel like the show that we're doing tonight, the concert, the education for the world is magical. You know, and I stand at a lot of intersections, and so it's nice to have received the call from the company to show up as a Black queer man, and be a part of this conversation because that doesn't always happen.

LEMON: You are a completely emancipated Black man. Yes, really you are. You are the embodiment of emancipation. You do whatever the hell you want. You wear what you want.


LEMON: You know, sometimes you're feminine, sometimes you're masculine. Sometimes you have hair, sometimes you don't.

PORTER: Sometimes I don't. Everything in between.

LEMON: Sometimes you will, sometimes you won't.

PORTER: Sometimes I will, sometimes I won't. Sometimes I want to play with my hair.

LEMON: What does that mean? Where does that come from? And what does it mean? What's a lesson for everybody else?

PORTER: You know, it's taken me a really long time to get here. And what I will say is what a time I'm having.

LEMON: Right. But I ask you, because we haven't always had that freedom that some people have thought.

PORTER: No, we haven't.

LEMON: There were certain roles and things that we had to fit in to. One must do this. If you're a man, you must be this way. If you're a woman, you must be this way. You can't speak out on this issue. You've got to make sure that you don't offend people, what have you.

PORTER: I don't know -- I just -- I'm an artist. I'm an activist. How I grew up, you know, I'm first generation post-Civil Rights Movement. All I know how to do is show up and activate. That's all I know how to do. That's been my whole life.

I came out in 1985 as queer and we went straight to the frontlines to fight for our lives. During the AIDS crisis, I was in the streets at 18, you know, so it's like -- it's just always been this, so it doesn't feel different or odd or --

LEMON: Even new to you?

PORTER: No, it's not new.

LEMON: You are one of the most talented people on any line. You're one of the most talented people I know.

PORTER: Thank you.

LEMON: Okay, so we got that and tonight you're going to be performing.


LEMON: "Children."


LEMON: Okay. But what are you going to wear? You're also a fashion icon now. Who are you wearing?

PORTER: You're going to have to see --

LEMON: And talk to me about tonight and who are you wearing?

PORTER: You're going to have to see. I don't know yet because I have a couple of options. The choreography, I'm doing a big number, so the choreography will dictate what I wear.

But I have a couple of options.


LEMON: All right, how did I do? Did I do okay?

PORTER: You did amazing.

LEMON: All right, thank you.

PORTER: You always do amazing.

LEMON: All right, so I got the okay from Billy Porter. Thank you very much, Billy Porter, I appreciate that.

You can see, they're getting ready at the Hollywood Bowl there. We're going to take you into the crowd at the Hollywood Bowl as we await the first musical performances.


LEMON: You're right, Nischelle, it is filling up.

We're also standing by here for President Joe Biden and the Vice President Kamala Harris and the former First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama. They're going to be delivering some really inspiring messages as his helicopter goes over me and as we await the start of the concert.

Here's a preview of a new CNN film on a tennis legend who broke racial barriers and that's none other than Arthur Ashe.


ARTHUR ASHE, PROFESSIONAL TENNIS PLAYER: Everything is concentrated on the razor's edge and you forget the score. You forget where you are.

I feel that my body is floating within myself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Arthur Ashe, bright young member of the United States Davis Cup team.

ASHE: Some people think, we are all brawn and no brains, and I like to fight the myth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He started becoming a citizen of the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Arthur Ashe, the first Black player to win the men's Wimbledon singles title.

TEXT: Inspiring, thrilling to watch. "Salon."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has evolved from someone who was analytical for someone who became more about direct action.

TEXT: A fascinating portrait. "IndieWire."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It became another fight for Arthur and he picked it up like he did every other cause.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He never forgot about his race and when I say his race, I'm talking about the human race.




LEMON: Guess what, Nischelle? We're getting close. Look at that. That's Hollywood Bowl. We're closing in on an epic Juneteenth Celebration at the Hollywood Bowl, showcasing Black artists including superstar performances that are sure to bring the House down.

Now, you know who's lucky enough to be in that crowd?

TURNER: Who is that?

LEMON: Sara Sidner is lucky to be in that crowd.


LEMON: And she's dancing.

TURNER: Already.

LEMON: She's got the little shoulder action. What have you got for us?

TURNER: She can't help herself.

LEMON: I know she can't. What have you got for us?

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A dance. What else would I have for you?

The acts are incredible. Nobody wants to see that. I know.

The acts are incredible though. I mean Bell Biv DeVoe. You know we're all going to go crazy when Poison comes because you know that's good.

TURNER: That's going to be a problem. Yes, it's going to be a problem, Sara when that happens.

SIDNER: I mean, it's going to be a problem. Everything's going to be thrown around. There are so many people here I want to give you a look at all of the folks that are here because people have come early. We people have been lining up for like an hour already.

And they are coming in -- you've got people from all over the place. They are filling up these stands. They are sold out. So this place is going to be packed. It is outdoors. It is a beautiful clear, crystal clear LA day. We don't get this every single day. It is like the day is made for Juneteenth.

And I just want to reiterate, this is really about many different things. It's about uniting people. It's about teaching history. It's about enjoying time with one another. It's about dancing and singing.

But it's very much about and very purposely about the accomplishments of Black folks. After Juneteenth, after 1865 and what people had been able to accomplish, the director is Black, the producer is Black. The orchestra for the very first time in the 100-year history of the Hollywood Bowl, they have an all-Black orchestra, that's never happened before.

This orchestra has come together in an incredible way from all over the place. So there are so many different acts including by the way, because I love her, Jill Scott is going to be reading some poetry. There is just so much for so many.

TURNER: Jilly from Philly.

SIDNER: Jilly from Philly is here. And so you're going to -- you're going to see all sorts of genres, from country to poetry and I cannot be happier to be here guys.

LEMON: Got my keys, got my purse, got my jacket off to work, screaming -- When I lived in Philadelphia -- down -- is it the way you love me, baby.

TURNER: Oh, it is.

LEMON: Quickly, is this a pre-show we're seeing now. These are not rehearsals right, Sara?

SIDNER: Yes, yes. We listened to rehearsals that sounded like you could just record that and I'd be happy in my life. But you -- I think this is a comedian that's about to come on.

We have seen these wonderful dancers, these Dutch dancers that were all three young Black girls who were just killing it.

And here we go. Good afternoon, LA. That's what's happening in Hollywood Bowl right now. It's amazing, guys.

TURNER: I love that people have gotten there so early because you know, they're going to kick off the celebration tonight with the Negro National Anthem, and my favorite will be singing that, "Lift Every Voice and Sing" that is Yolanda Adams who has never hit a bad note. I cannot wait to hear that.

LEMON: Never.

TURNER: And then they're going to close the show with like the unofficial I call it like the unofficial Black Joy Anthem and that's optimistic. Sounds of Black.

LEMON: I cannot wait. You know, Sara mentioned the Black excellence that is taking part in this including the Musical Director, right, the co-musical director here.

One of them is musician and producer of Roots, QuestLove.

QuestLove is about to -- I'm going to talk to him about his role in the celebration and why Juneteenth isn't just about Black history, it's about American history.

QuestLove will be performing with the iconic, Chaka Khan one of the leadoff entertainers tonight.

Before this mega concert begins, we're going to squeeze in a quick break.

We'll be right back, everybody.



LEMON: All right, so we are getting close. Folks are taking their seats at the Hollywood Bowl, and settling in for a concert that is sure to get them up on their feet, you'll be up on your feet, too, and we are nearing the start of this unprecedented Juneteenth celebration featuring some of music's most talented Black artists, most talented, and that includes none other than QuestLove.

He is one of the musical directors for this concert and he is going to be performing as well as his band, the Roots.

QuestLove, thank you. It is good to see you.

QUESTLOVE, ARTIST: Thank you. Thank you very much.

LEMON: I appreciate it. How do you feel?

QUESTLOVE: I'm excited. You know, this is --

LEMON: You're not nervous?

QUESTLOVE: Oh, I'm never nervous. I mean, I've done too many shows to be nervous, but I am more excited because you know, it's rare for us to. My favorite type of shows to do are kind of the mix and mash of different genres, like the Roots are such a community group. And the fact that tonight we can celebrate, you know, like with the country of Mickey Guyton and kind of the, the hip hop of Killer Mike, and the soul of Anthony Hamilton and the legacy soul of Earth, Wind and Fire and Chaka Khan, and Bell Biv DeVoe, you know, even the meat, Debbie Allen.


QUESTLOVE: Now, I am not bragging.

LEMON: No, but I am glad because -- look, I think it's a beautiful celebration of blackness, but it's a beautiful celebration of America, as well. This is about American history and about celebrating the real --

QUESTLOVE: See, Black history is American history and that is the most important takeaway that I think, you know, because I still have friends that are still like, skittish on what am I allowed to celebrate? Should we celebrate? Is this -- you guys over it? Are we -- and the thing is, is like our history is American history.

And you know, the acknowledgement of this is important, it is very important.

LEMON: I was leaving the hotel this morning, and someone said, are you doing the thing on CNN? What do we do?

QUESTLOVE: Are we allowed to?

LEMON: Are we supposed to -- are we allowed -- I said, "Yes." This is a celebration for everyone and I ask them -- I say, how do you celebrate the Fourth of July? And they say, well, you know I celebrate by doing dah-dah-dah-dah. And I said, well, you do the same thing except you learn about the history of the country. You learn about Juneteenth and that in itself is the beginning of a celebration. And then as Americans, I think we'll figure it out. Am I wrong about that?

QUESTLOVE: No, you're absolutely correct. I know that, I think the floodgates opened, especially in the summer of 2020. But I remember previous to that we were lucky enough -- Kenya Barris called the Roots to do like a short play on Schoolhouse Rock, "I'm Just a Bill." But explaining what Juneteenth was. And it is so weird because even on like streaming services that that

sort of one minute parody song which actually got released as a single was like, I would never think like that song of all songs is like in the top five of like, stuff I worked for Grammys and stuff. And then here's the Juneteenth song. So yes, it was -- a lot of people's eyes were open.

LEMON: Can I just say thank you for what you do for the country. Thank you for helping -- bringing attention to this and the celebration to the entire country, out on CNN here to the entire world and it just really -- I've always appreciated you. But especially for this. You are the man. Thank you, QuestLove.

QUESTLOVE: Thank you. I appreciate it.

LEMON: Appreciate it. Thank you. And Happy Juneteenth.

QUESTLOVE: Happy Juneteenth. All right.

LEMON: And just real quick, Nischelle Turner got me all the way together. She said you didn't say Oscar-winner. QuestLove, Oscar- winner. Thank you, Nischelle.

Coming up, we're just minutes away from the opening acts of this historic Juneteenth concert gets underway, with a stirring performance by gospel singer Yolanda Adams. That's what Nisichelle wants to see. We're giving you a front row seat for every moment. It all begins, next.

You want to see her, right?

TURNER: Yes, absolutely.



LEMON: The stage is now set at the Hollywood Bowl for an all-star Juneteenth Celebration. We're just moments away from enjoying musical performances by iconic Black artists and I am here with the iconic black artist, Nischelle Turner.

TURNER: This is a good day.

LEMON: I know, right.

TURNER: We've been talking about the things that we're looking forward to seeing. One of the things I did want to point out though that I've been keeping my eye on is the crowd. It is a very diverse crowd that makes me incredibly happy to see people from all genres, ages, colors, creeds to come out and enjoy this day because that is what we should be celebrating.

LEMON: Look, there are so many people I can't wait until you said it. I can't -- you know, Yolanda Adams will kick us off.

TURNER: Yes, with "Lift Every Voice and Sing."

LEMON: You know how much I love my Chaka Khan.

TURNER: Oh, come on.

LEMON: And I am talking about Rufus and Chaka Khan.

TURNER: I wish I was -- you're in that. Don's going to be like, "Ain't nobody."

LEMON: Do you remember, we would say this is weird, a car driving song.


LEMON: When it comes on that and let it whip, it makes you drive faster. I got so many tickets listening to "Ain't Nobody" because I'm driving fast down the interstate because of Chaka Khan.

TURNER: Of course, I mean that -- of course, she is a legend and she's going to be performing with the Roots as well. She's a legend, but like, you know, like I said, they're mixing the old and the new we're getting Mickey Guyton, we're getting Lucky Day. We're Chaka Khan. We are getting Earth, Wind and Fire.

LEMON: Richard Hamilton.

TURNER: I mean, his voice sends me to a place that I -- it's hard for me to put into words, but him combined with Mary, Mary and then Michelle Williams from Destiny's Child, they're doing a gospel medley. Come on. You can't get better than this.

LEMON: And then we also, we're going to see the former First Lady the United States, Michelle Obama.


LEMON: We're going to see the current --

TURNER: Whenever we see her.

LEMON: -- The Current Vice President. We are going to see the current President. We're going to the queen of all queens, Queen Bee.


LEMON: Who am I talking about?

TURNER: Beyonce.

LEMON: Beyonce.

TURNER: He says "Who am I talking about?" Who do you think I am, Don Lemon?

LEMON: Look, everybody hear behind the cameras were like what? Who are you talking about, Don Lemon?

TURNER: I mean, come on, the beehives are not coming after me. No, indeed. I am getting my ticket for Renaissance already. No, but I'm so excited about this. Sara is going to be there as well, and it's just going to be a fun day. I'm ready, ready to release and have a good Sunday.

LEMON: And guess what? We're going to be here afterwards because we are going to -- it's going to be so beautiful and you don't get more talented than Billy Porter and I can't wait to hear him sing.

TURNER: You can't get rid of us.

LEMON: Let these children know what time it is.

TURNER: They cannot get rid of us.

LEMON: They cannot get rid of us. I'm so happy to be here. I hope you're happy to be here at home, Juneteenth: A global celebration for freedom is about to begin right here on CNN.

Here it is, everyone. Enjoy. We'll see you after the show.