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CNN Live Event/Special

"Juneteenth: A Global Celebration For Freedom". Aired 7-8p ET

Aired June 19, 2023 - 19:00   ET



SARA SIDNER, CNN HOST: Welcome to Hollywood, where an epic party is getting started. The stage at the historic Greek Theatre will soon light up with an extraordinary list of musical talent all taking part in a global celebration for freedom.

I am Sara Sidner. I am sitting next to my man, Van Jones.

VAN JONES, CNN HOST: Here we go.

SIDNER: He's here to celebrate Juneteenth on CNN. We are so excited to be with you.

This is America's newest federal holiday, commemorating the end, the true end of slavery in this country. Folks heading to the Greek Theatre, here in Hollywood, and all of you at home are going to see an incredible concert with an amazing all-star lineup of Black singers and songwriters. We're going to enjoy a show-stopping tribute to the queen of rock and roll, Tina Turner.


SIDNER: Yeah, we lost her this year. It was devastating for all of us. But you're going to see something you haven't seen before, y'all. So stick around.

Actress Chloe will give us her rendition of one of turner's greatest hits "What's Love Got to Do with It?"

JONES: She's going to blow it out.

SIDNER: She is going to blow it up.

Hip-hop legend Nelly will perform iconic songs including "Dilemma." Nelly will also join us in just a few moments with his thoughts on Juneteenth.

We also have Miguel. He is one of the many featured artists. He'll perform "Sure Thing," his R&B classic that had a resurgence in popularity. I know you saw this online, right?

JONES: The kids found it online, and now it's like back.

SIDNER: It's back and huge to them. He is never gone. He has always been around. There will be messages as well from the first and only Black president of these United States, Barack Obama. And the first Black Vice President Kamala Harris, along with remarks by President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden.

Plus --

JONES: Big time.

SIDNER: Big time.

Plus, this hour, we'll talk to the woman known as the grandmother of Juneteenth, Opal Lee.

Van, I know you had a conversation with her.

JONES: Yeah, she's amazing.

SIDNER: But all of these artists, like she is just truly a light in our world. She is a national treasure and helped make Juneteenth an actual federal holiday. But you look at this lineup as well. What are you expected to see?

JONES: Look, Juneteenth brings all generations together. So you got the young ones -- people may not know Chloe. You're about to see the next generation of Black talent that's going to blow your mind.

You got Jodeci. You got Kirk Franklin.

SIDNER: Charlie Wilson.

JONES: You got the whole thing! The whole thing. It's the whole thing.

So, I just think, you know, freedom can be fun. Freedom can be joyful. It doesn't have to always be sad. Doesn't have to always be, we shall overcome.

Sometimes we can just be. And that's what we're going to do tonight. We're just going to be.

SIDNER: Yeah, it's the freedom to be, that's what people were fighting for.

JONES: Absolutely.

SIDNER: To be who you are in your soul, and then to share that. And all that soul comes from struggle as well.

JONES: Absolutely.

I want to bring in Stephanie Elam. She is actually at the Greek Theatre.

Stephanie, what's happening tonight and what can we expect once this show gets started?

SIDNER: Hey, friend. STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Van and Sara, hey, friend.

I think it's already starting to get hot in here just to steal a line from Nelly because L.A. finally remembered that like the sun here. So, the sun has come out and a little bit of a breeze. People are already congregating. If the music that they're playing right now is any indication of the kind of fun we're going to have tonight, we're in for a good show. In fact, take a look at what we are expecting to see.



ELAM: He's going to make it hot in here.



ELAM: From '90s faves like Nelly. To the next wave of stars like Coi Leray. The second "JUNETEENTH: A GLOBAL CELEBRATION FOR FREEDOM" has it all.

As SWV, I mean, kind of just want to sit here and go S-W- to the beat, right? That's what I hear every single time.

HARMON: I grew up on SWV. You can expect all their hits. I think it's going to be a sing-along in that amphitheater.

ELAM: Dionne Harmon knows how to put on a show, from Super Bowl half times to this year's Emmys.

ANNOUNCER: Juneteenth.

ELAM: She's executive-producing tonight's Juneteenth concert on CNN.

HARMON: Celebrate our culture to share our culture, and to continue to push for freedom for not just Black Americans, but for everybody.

ELAM: Juneteenth commemorates the day in 1865 when Union troops traveled to Texas to enforce the end of slavery, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Black history is American history. Vice President Kamala Harris will appear live on stage just days after the first White House Juneteenth concert.

MARI DAVIES, VP, TALENT AND BOOKING, LIVE NATION URBAN: She and President Biden elevated Juneteenth to a federal holiday in 2021. So to have her in the building, in the house, sharing this energy, it takes it to another dimension. I can teach you a couple things

ELAM: Chloe will hit the Juneteenth stage as one of today's hottest stars.

HARMON: This may be a spoiler alert. But Chloe's going to do a Tina Turner tribute.


HARMON: She was inspired by her. Her voice is amazing, and we're excited for her to come pay homage to such -- such an amazing artist.

ELAM: Also artists like Mike Phillips who's played with music superstars, Prince, Stevie Wonder, and Michael Jackson. Even Michael Jordan and Nike signed him to a shoe deal.

MIKE PHILLIPS, JAZZ ARTIST: Playing an instrument, it's almost like a sport.

ELAM: Tonight, Phillips will pay tribute to his legendary collaborators.

What does it mean to you to come on that stage and be part of the celebration?

PHILLIPS: What we celebrate in contemporary culture is all based off of the pain of the Negro spiritual. So, to take time to celebrate the root of the music I think is a great thing.

ELAM: And it's all happening here at L.A.'s iconic Greek Theatre for a reason.

DAVIES: It's intimate enough where you can feel like you're with your family and friends. And it's an historic L.A. monument. It's an honor when artists get an ability to touch that stage.

ELAM: No matter your musical taste -- "JUNETEENTH: A GLOBAL CELEBRATION FOR FREEDOM" is ready to embrace, educate, and activate.

HARMON: Whether you're 3, 16, 40, 80, we want everybody to have a good time.


ELAM (on camera): And what a way to mark this celebration than through music. It is just a fantastic way to do it because this is not just Black history, this is American history. And that's why we all need to be a part of the celebration, Sara and Van.

SIDNER: We have talked about this a lot, Stephanie, about the history of this country and the fact that Black history shouldn't be looked at in just one day or one month out of the year. We've also talked a lot of other things I can't say on TV, but I love you, girl. I love you.


ELAM: I love you too and I know what you're thinking about.

SIDNER: We're going to check back with you as we get closer to the concert.

Joining us now, one of the biggest names performing tonight, the Grammy Award-winning hip-hop artist Nelly.

JONES: In the house.

SIDNER: Nelly in the house.

My first question to you is, is it hot in here, Van?

JONES: I think it's getting hot.

SIDNER: Is it getting hot in here?

JONES: I think it's getting hot.

SIDNER: How you doing?

NELLY, MUSICIAN: It's definitely pretty warm out here. I'm good. How are you?

JONES: I'm good. I can't wait to see what you do.

When you were first getting started, I was at the BET Awards and you came out and you did the thing. And you had flame throwers or something. You almost burned the place down. There's no telling what you're going to do tonight. We're just happy to have you here.

Do you remember that?

NELLY: Yeah, man. Yeah, definitely. I'm always a little nervous around pyro and all those type of productions, because I haven't had the best success with those. But I want to thank you guys for having me. So, yeah.

SIDNER: What does it mean to you to be performing on this day of all days on Juneteenth?

NELLY: Oh, it's awesome. It's incredible. I'm truly honored that I would even be thought of to come out and help celebrate this wonderful occasion. You know what I mean? Yeah, man, I know my granny's excited. It should be nice.

JONES: You know, part of the thing I think for us is that music, the celebration has been such a part of our community being able to persist and to overcome and entertainers like yourself, when you add your voice and you add your presence to something like this, it just lifts everybody up.

Do you feel that? Are you aware of what it means to us? For us to have Nelly here is a huge deal.

NELLY: Well, any time you can be inspiring and be included in something that you feel is almost setting the precedent for things to come, definitely with this holiday and definitely just being a part of something this huge. JONES: I'm curious, Nelly, what is it that makes you feel free?

NELLY: I mean, you know, just being able to share the things that I've been able to accomplish and things that I've been able to come up with, with the ones you love.


I mean, you know, truly being free, being -- you know, inspiring, giving hope to people who you care about and being able to provide for my family. That's the freedom -- that's all I need.

SIDNER: That's beautiful.

JONES: Yeah. Part of freedom, too, is being free from disease, just being free tomorrow healthy and strong. You're healthy and strong. You've done so much work on bone marrow issues.

Talk a lot about the importance of our health and the work that you've done to make sure we're free in our bodies to be able to enjoy freedom.

NELLY: Well, definitely. You know, I've always been with the fudge cancer. I don't want to say the other word. But unfortunately I lost my sister to cancer. Getting people signed up on the born marrow stem cell registry is something we've advocated for years in her name.

I haven't eaten red meat in over, like, 30 years. I don't know if that's continued to help me keep my gray out. But, I mean, you now, I like to say that it is.

JONES: Don't brag, don't brag.

SIDNER: Congrats, Nelly.

NELLY: And, of course, being as active as you can possibly be. I think that works for everybody.

SIDNER: You have done so many things. You have clothing line out. You have acted. You're rapping. You're doing all the things, and you're also dealing with this charity as well.

You've also performed with a heck of a lot of people. Is there anyone that you have not worked with yet that you would like to?

NELLY: No. You know, you get asked that question pretty much. And I've been very, very blessed to, like you said just now just to work with so many great people. You know, I'm honored when anybody wants to work with me. I'm fans of a lot of people, young, old.

I'm a history buff when it comes to music. And I just enjoy collaborating. I think collaboration is the key not just in music but in life, period. So, you know, I'm trying to make it work.

SIDNER: It's how we get through, isn't it? Can you give me just really, really quickly what's next, Nelly, what

are you getting into next? Because you get into a lot of different things. You're not just a performer. You're not just a creator.

JONES: Multi, multi.

NELLY: Well, I have my next project coming out will probably be "Heartland 2". It's an album inspired by country music and things like that, as well as several other artists that I have coming out on dirty and shout out to Dinero (ph), my man, young coaster, and, you know, doing another rap album, of course. So, I mean, man, I'm just blessed to be back out and back out of COVID, like everybody else. But, you know, just around.

SIDNER: Nelly, thank you so, so much. We're looking forward to "Heartland 2".

NELLY: Yes, ma'am.

SIDNER: We are now -- we are so happy to see you and can't wait to see your performance.

JONES: It's going to be awesome.

NELLY: Thank you. I appreciate it.

SIDNER: All right, country music inspired. Nelly, is there something he doesn't do?

We are just about a half an hour away from the start of tonight's spectacular concert.

Up next, we'll hear from the grandmother of Juneteenth, ladies and gentlemen, Opal Lee on the holiday she fought for and the causes close to her heart. This is "Juneteenth" on CNN.



SIDNER: Welcome back to Juneteenth on CNN. You are looking at the Greek Theatre. It's the backdrop for a blockbuster concert that gets underway very soon. Stay right here for the performances and the moving messages about why today's holiday matters so much for the Black community, and really for all Americans.

There might not be a federal holiday marking the end of slavery in the U.S. if it were not for Ms. Opal Lee.

Van, you had the honor of speaking with her. She is known as the grandmother of Juneteenth. She's 86 years old?

JONES: She's actually -- I think like 96.

SIDNER: She's 96 years old. JONES: And she basically, she spent her entire life focused on making this holiday happen, making sure that this moment of Black freedom and human freedom is recognized by everybody and she's actually brought her family into this fight.


JONES: Opal Lee joins me now along with her granddaughter, Dione Sims.

Ms. Opal Lee, happy Juneteenth. We are celebrating it now as a federal holiday for the third year in a row. Have you gotten used to that yet?

OPAL LEE, GRANDMOTHER OF JUNETEENTH: Not really. I still pinch myself to be sure it's the truth.

JONES: Well, it's the truth because you made it the truth. Everybody calls you the grandmother of Juneteenth because you spent decades working to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.

For the people who don't know, can you talk a little bit about how you did that? How did you help make this a federal holiday?

LEE: Oh, listen, I had, had children, four of them. I had taught school, third grade, 8-year-olds. I was beginning to act like them so they gave me another job. I had been responsible with others, started a food bank. I have what's called Opal's farm.

But I had this feeling that there was something else I should be doing. And, so, we gathered at my church, the minister, a school board member, a county commissioner, lots of others. And they gave me this send-off, because I decided if I walked from Fort Worth to Washington, D.C. 1,400 miles, somebody would take notice.

JONES: Dione, I want to bring you into this. You're a younger person. You represent a different generation than your grandmother. What does Juneteenth mean to you as the next generation coming up?

DIONE SIMS, OPAL LEE'S GRANDDAUGHTER: So, for me, Juneteenth means unity. And it's an opportunity to be able to talk about the real issues that are facing our country.


I think one of the things that we have to understand is that now that Juneteenth is on the calendar, we can now ask freedom from what, we're celebrating freedom, but freedom from what. So, that then poses a question to freedom from slavery. And today, the effects of that slavery are still happening.

JONES: A couple days ago, you were able to celebrate Juneteenth. You were able to talk to and listen to President Biden. President Biden said that many of our freedoms have been put at risk by, quote, racism that's still too powerful a force. Do you agree with that?

LEE: I do. And I think there's something we can do about it. And, so, I'm asking all the people who are listening to make yourself a committee of one. You know somebody who's not on the same page you were on. Change their minds. And their minds can be changed.

If people can be taught to hate, they can be taught to love. And it's up to us to do it. We took 1,500,000 signatures to Congress. And when we were called to the White House, we were prepared to take that many more.

Don't you know 3 million people on the same page could turn this country around? And it needs turning.

JONES: Wow. It's amazing to hear what you're saying, and the passion that you have. You're 96 years young, and you grew up in a segregated world. When you talk about things can be changed, hearts can be changed, minds can be changed, you've seen that happen over the course of your lifetime. People like yourself and others standing up.

How much progress do you think has been made? We have a long way to go. But over your lifetime, how much progress have you seen occur with people standing up?

LEE: I've seen a lot of progress, a lot of progress. I've seen the times when my parents take me to a clothing store, we couldn't try on the clothes, even go to restaurants that we wanted to. Lots of that has changed. But we've still got a long way to go.

And I don't know if I've said it already, but we've got to get rid of the disparities. We simply have to do something about these things that are making us less than the great country we can be. And we should be the country that's leading others to do the same thing.

We keep talking about one nation under God, one people. And I don't know why we don't get it in our heads what it means. We are our brother's keeper.

JONES: As you think about the future, what gives you the most concern and what gives you the most hope? I'm just curious to hear from you, miss opal.

LEE: Well, you've heard this phrase, we've come a long way, but we got a long way to go. And I believe that. But I think it starts with our children. They have to be able to learn their past, as well as the future, and we can't not tell them about it -- the good, the bad, the ugly, because if we don't, it can happen again.

And I think the children, once they know what actually happened, will not let it happen again. I'm counting on it. And I want Juneteenth somewhere along the line to challenge the justice system. We have too many men of color in jail, in prison, and, in some instances, for a minor infraction. Some people get sentences that would be for murderers.

JONES: There's a freedom agenda that continues and continues to move forward. We would not be here without you, Ms. Opal Lee. And I can see that Dione Sims is going to carry us forward even further that you have. I want to wish you a happy Juneteenth, our third federal Juneteenth, with many, many more to come.

SIMS: Thank you, Van.

LEE: Thank you.


JONES: That was an extraordinary thing.

And Ms. Opal and Dione, I want to make sure everybody knows, there's going to be a national Juneteenth Museum that they're working on. It's going to open in Fort Worth, Texas, on Juneteenth, 2025.

SIDNER: It's long from now, it takes a long time to plan these things. How beautiful, I love what she said.


JONES: Yeah.

SIDNER: That if you can teach somebody to love -- you can teach them to hate, you can teach them to love. It's a beautiful thing.

JONES: And she's still on fire at 96 years old.

SIDNER: It's remarkable. I love hearing from her.

For more information on how you can help empower the Black community on Juneteenth and beyond, go to Or use your phone to scan the QR code on the banner right there below.

Now, some of the hottest Black singers and songwriters are getting ready to take the stage for you. Up next, we'll talk with the producer of tonight's Juneteenth concert, the award-winning musician, Questlove!

JONES: Questlove!

SIDNER: Stay with us.

JONES: The man himself.


SIDNER: We're about a half an hour away from a phenomenal concert, celebrating freedom on this Juneteenth holiday, and enormous amount of talent and energy has gone into making this event possible.

JONES: It's going to be insane.

SIDNER: Joining us now, one of the creative forces behind the Juneteenth concert, Questlove is producing tonight's show.


He's an award-winning musician and filmmaker, an Oscar award-winning, just to be clear.


SIDNER: All right. What can we expect from the performances tonight? What are you excited about?

AMIR "QUESTLOVE" THOMPSON, PRODUCER, JUNETEENTH: CONCERT: You know what, tonight is basically a celebration and a display of joy. And often times I think when we talk about our history, about the bloodshed, about the tears. But we often sort of shy away from our emotions, our heart. And I think that, you know, joy is just as important as bloodshed.

So that's pretty much what it is, so be it you find it in Jodeci's performance. I saw that yesterday at sound check. It was really awesome. There's also Chloe Bailey doing something really special today for the people out there. There's so much to get today. But, most importantly, give people sort of familiar with joy.

SIDNER: Black joy, the power of that, yeah.

JONES: This is your second year in a row kind of helping make this. Juneteenth is something that's been celebrated in the Black community, but it's not been celebrated globally unless now. This is a big part of that. Why is it so important for you to do this not just one year in a row but two years in a row?

THOMPSON: For me, I think probably in the pandemic I had my -- a lot of us had our life pivot. I also had a creative pivot. And I think that often times when people think about doing roles of service, it might feel like really sacrificial, like, let me give up my dreams so I can -- you know, and it doesn't have to be that way. And I think that, for me, gathering artists of the same feather, it's something that I'm into.

JONES: We should say, pivot from what to what? You've always been hugely creative and intellectual. But what's different for you inside of you?

THOMPSON: None of us are really the same after 2020, I believe. And I feel like that was the one moment in which me, a notorious workaholic -- and, you know, in general, Black people, our history with this country is that we're often living in a constant fight or flight.


THOMPSON: So, you know, we think of, like, how to get through the day, how to get through the week.

JONES: The month, the grind.

THOMPSON: I'm still alive.

JONES: Grinding, surviving.

THOMPSON: And especially in my line of work, the amount of depth that happens in the hip-hop nation, literally every December 31st is like a, whew, I didn't get shot in a club, I made it, let's see if I can make it next year.

Like, we shouldn't have to have a Russian roulette attitude towards life. I think that, for the first time, I sat in real silence. Because as soon as I graduated high school, like, we started this group, and it was constant work, and a struggle to get to where we were. And once I realized that silence that, meditation time that I had. That was a bit --

SIDNER: That sort of inner voice that we so often push down because the world is loud.

THOMPSON: And I wasn't distracted myself. Often times when silence goes, you pick up your phones or whatever your addiction is. Some people chewed up something, some people smoke, drink something, eat something, whatever -- for me, I think that's probably the first time in my adult life I actually thought of, like, legacy and what is it that I want to do, and how can I help, blah, blah, blah. Instead of, like, let me get this money and this house and a private plane.

SIDNER: Transformation.

JONES: But you're as famous or more famous now. You probably have more money now. And still purpose.

THOMPSON: That's the thing. The thing is that I'm not one of those -- we're often taught to think small and money's the root of all evil. I'm not one of those people at all.

However, I do think that the moment that you do go inside and sort of open yourself, all those things come. Like, the things that have happened to me in the last two years are things I've been dying to happen to me for my music career forever.

SIDNER: That's incredible.

THOMPSON: And it's the one time where I did a project that was really just a passion thing, like, oh, let me do this movie. Because this is something I'm into. And it wasn't like, all right, I'm going to get 90 in Rotten Tomatoes, you know?


THOMPSON: When you don't plan it, that's when your world -- when you open your heart, that's when your world opens and that's what I want to show people.

SIDNER: Your heart opened. We all felt and so, we felt that in so many things.


Questlove, you are transformative. Thank you --

THOMPSON: Thank you. SIDNER: -- for everything that you have done for this country and the

world. Really appreciate it.

THOMPSON: Thank you, guys.

SIDNER: That was just straight up soulful. The excitement is building as we get closer to the Juneteenth concert. We'll set the stage when Van and I visit with hip-hop star Coi Leray, one of tonight's headliners, y'all. That's coming up next.


SIDNER: We are closing in on the second annual Juneteenth concert at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. You're looking at the theater right now. It will be an exceptional display of Black performer as cross generations and genres. We've got everything you want. You'll see it right here on CNN.


SIDNER: Another fantastic artist who's performing tonight is joining us now. Rapper and singer and grinder Coi Leray.

So happy to see you out there.


I want to ask you something. I was watching a lot of you. I know that your kids --

JONES: Yeah, they're crazy about it.

SIDNER: Crazy about it.

I'm going to one-up, Van, I'm crazy about you because you have such an interesting history. You have been grinding since you were a teenager. You left high school. You knew you needed to make money. You had a single mom raising you.

A lot of people think you come from this father who's a producer. But you have been forging your own path. Tell me how you do that.

COI LERAY, PERFORMING IN JUNETEENTH CONCERT: Well, you know, well, first of all, thank you guys so much. I appreciate all the compliments. I've just been -- I have the hustle mentality. It's in my blood, and I'm also surrounded by great people. Shoutout to my team.

I always felt like I had this star quality, and I knew that I was going to be major. I worked my butt off, and again, thank, God. God is always first. So, yeah, I'm here now on the Billboard, three times.

JONES: I know, three times. It's crazy. It's crazy.

In my house, it's all Spiderverse all the time. You're the first Black spider-man. And obviously your song brings a lot of emotion to the very start of the movie. What does it mean to you to not just be a part of celebrating our

history, but you're such a big part of our cultural future. Talk about "Spiderverse" with our kids.

LERAY: It is such a blessing to be a part of the "Spider-verse". I definitely want to give a shout-out to Metro Boomin. The whole soundtrack is just amazing, it's for the culture.

And so, it's so -- I mean, I actually listen to it all day every day on Shuffle. I listen to it throughout my glam when I'm getting ready, in the car. It's like definitely my go-to soundtrack. And, yeah, and then my "Coi", my album dropping June 23rd will be my next go-to soundtrack.

SIDNER: We outside, Coi. Like, we're ready for it.

LERAY: We outside! Yes, yes.


SIDNER: Can I ask you what we can expect from you today on the stage? It is Juneteenth, it is a celebration of joy, relief, even, since 1865, the date when the last few slaves that had no idea that the Emancipation Proclamation had been put in place. And they found out two and a half years later. What are you bringing to us today?

LERAY: Today, I am bringing you energy. We are going to really just bring you energy. And then on top of that it's such a big part of hip- hop and the culture. It's a blessing to be able to have everyone around the world come together with my song "Players".

And I want to give a huge shout-out to Busta Rhymes, DJ Saige, DJ Smallz. You know, Busta Rhymes is somebody major and we're going to give you mashup here, we're going to some fire moves, some flips.

Yeah, shout-out Adam Blackstone. This is going to be my first time actually performing with a live band. So this is going to be insane. I am just -- get ready for the show.

JONES: Yeah, the buzz about it is crazy. People have been talking about since rehearsal. I know people are going to be excited about it.

You know, when we talk about freedom, one of the things that you are really committed to is voting and making sure you use your platform to get people to have political freedom through voting. People don't know that part of you as much.

LERAY: Yes. Well, I feel like as an artist, not only am I just a pretty face and can dance. I feel like it's very important to use the platform to promote not only positivity, but just inform all the young boys and girls that look up to us and just even adults as well to go vote and do the right thing.

I feel like when you have millions and millions of followers who have the attention, you have to put out that message all the time. So, I try my best to do what I can do as far as giving back, promoting positivity, promoting -- just keeping the team together, and striving for just greatness. Confidence is everything.

SIDNER: I am so struck by your confidence. I've watched a lot of interviews that you've done. And you were so confident I'm learning from you. What would you tell young people who struggle with that in their lives?

LERAY: I would tell young people to look in the mirror and really understand that, like, this is how it's supposed to be. Nothing is supposed to change. I wouldn't want to change nothing about me.

The only thing I would want to change, obviously, is to better myself. I want to learn Spanish. So I do want to add a little language to my vocabulary. So I'm going to study some Spanish.

But, you know, for the most part, it's really just staying true to yourself. Don't let nobody tell you who you are. I promise you, I went through a lot in these past couple years in my career, and I overcame every single obstacle.

And there's nothing better than overcoming. You know what I mean? So just keep going and keep grinding.

SIDNER: Yes. Come on, keep going, keep grinding, overcoming.


Coi Leray, muchimimas gracias. A little Spanish for you.

LERAY: Muchas gracias. Adios!


She is remarkable actually. Her confidence is truly unusual. And I am learning from her. These young people know what they're doing. It's amazing.

JONES: Yeah.

SIDNER: We are counting down to the main event, the Juneteenth concert begins really soon. It promises to truly be a remarkable show. We're back in just a moment.


SIDNER: We are live here in Los Angeles for the Juneteenth concert with just a few minutes to go before the opening act.

All right. Let's go back to Stephanie Elam at the Greek Theatre, with some special guests who will be part of tonight's show. Stephanie, I see, like, my college days, school days.


JONES: Exactly. Who you got? Who you got?

ELAM: Wait, you know what? Sara and Van, if you are not sure who is here with me, let me allow them to introduce themselves. Who's here?


ELAM: Yes! Yes! These are members -- all right, all right. These are members of the Divine Nine. As you can see, they're very excited. These are members of the Divine Nine Black Greek organizations, and they are some of our illustrious members here. I'll use a code word for anyone who knows.

I'm going to start out with Jemel McWilliams, because you are also the creative director and choreographer. What can we expect on the stage tonight?

JEMEL MCWILLIAMS, CREATIVE DIRECTOR & CHOREOGRAPHER, DIVINE NINE: You can expect high energy. You can expect a lot of love and energy. And we're representing our organizations, and we're honored and proud of our organizations. And we're so very honored and proud to be a part of our organizations and to be here on Juneteenth doing what we do.

ELAM: Yes, exactly.

And just to talk to one of our dangers, quickly, Simone -- I love her name. Simone, LaBon is here. You are going to be performing. What does it mean to you be a part of this Juneteenth celebration?

SIMONE LABON, ZETA PHI BETA: It means so much to have this opportunity to represent all of our respective orgs in general, but I would love to give a shout-out to our organization, for Opel Lee for being the grandmother of Juneteenth and making this a federal holiday. So, we're really proud.

ELAM: We just heard from Opal Lee. You guys did not hear that. It's really just great energy.

OK. I really just want to know. Who's the best out here, though? I just want to know.


SIDNER: What happened to unity?

ELAM: But all the unity is here. I can tell there's a lot of Panhellenic love here between our Greek organizations. These young folks are from all over the country, but they are based here in Los Angeles. So, they have been preparing for this performance. And it's just going to be a great show. I can already tell you, there's some great energy here, guys.

SIDNER: OK, I've got a question to ask the gentleman over there. Why are the Qs always the loudest? That's what I want to know. You can always hear them louder than anybody.

JONES: Louder than everybody, always, Omega --

ELAM: Sara Sidner wants to know why the Qs are always the loudest?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because the brothers are always out!

ELAM: That's hilarious. We got answers, we got answers.

SIDNER: I did get an answer. And it's beautiful to see all the colors. I know we expect an incredible show. When you talk about high energy, nobody does it like NPHC, nobody does it like the Divine Nine. This is going to be dope, as the young people say.

JONES: Now you know, now you know.

SIDNER: Thank you, Stephanie Elam. Enjoy that show. And we will see you just a bit later.

JONES: Awesome. Yeah.



SIDNER: The stage is set and the Juneteenth concert is about to begin. We're literally minutes away.

JONES: Yeah, look at it. People getting their seats. Hang on to your seats. You know, like, I just can't believe, first of all, we have a federal holiday finally recognizing the end of our enslavement. And CNN is playing such a huge role in determining what the culture of that is.

This is about joy. This is about -- freedom is about joy. Freedom is about expression. Freedom is about art. Freedom is about music.

Freedom is about what you're about to see on the stage tonight with these folks. And, by the way, we haven't even talked about Kirk Franklin. We haven't talked about Jodeci.

SIDNER: SWV, come on.

JONES: SWV. We haven't even --

SIDNER: Scratched the surface of all the greatness.

JONES: Of all the greatness, of all greatness.

SIDNER: I think one of the things when I think about this holiday is I think about what it was like to have been there at that time in Galveston when you had this major general come in from the Union Army and give general order number three, which was that all slaves were free.

Imagine being that person who had not known for two and a half years. You stayed in enslavement for two and a half years longer. We just went through a pandemic -- I just want to put this in perspective.

The pandemic for all purposes lasted about a couple of years. And we were losing our minds. We had trouble being by ourselves. We had trouble -- I mean, and these are real problems. These are real issues. There are real mental issues that came along with that that nobody should push down.

But think about that.

JONES: And two extra years after a couple hundred years. But I think why I love this holiday so much is freedom is also mental.


JONES: It's recognizing, hold on a second, we all have our addictions. We all have our lack of financial freedom. There are certain things that are holding us back today. And yet, once you get the word, you're free. You're free.

SIDNER: It changes everything.

JONES: It changes everything.

And these artists tonight are going to lift people up. We've seen the rehearsals. We know what's coming. People at home don't know what's coming. Get your Kleenex. Great ready to cry a little bit.

SIDNER: Get your tennis shoes on.