All-star concert on A&E to put spotlight on race conversation

Alicia Keys and John Legend perform at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Jan. 27, 2014.

Alicia Keys and John Legend perform at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Jan. 27, 2014.

(Kevin Winter / Getty Images )

Bruce Springsteen, Alicia Keys, Sting, Pharrell Williams, John Legend, the Zac Brown Band, Pink, Ed Sheeran, Sia and Miguel are among a raft of rock, pop, R&B, country and hip-hop musicians who will take part in a three-hour special slated to air Friday across A&E’s cable channels and iHeartMedia radio stations to confront issues of racial strife troubling multiple communities across the U.S. in recent years.

Scheduled to begin at 8 p.m., “Shining a Light: A Concert for Progress on Race in America” and “Shining a Light: Conversations on Race in America” are taking a two-pronged approach to addressing racial conflicts, combining the concert with location pieces and town hall meetings recorded in the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., in Ferguson, Mo., and in Baltimore.

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Other musicians on tap for the show include Smokey Robinson, Aloe Blacc, Eric Church, Jamie Foxx, Tori Kelly, Jill Scott, Nick Jonas, Tom Morello and Big Sean.

In addition, actors and other celebrities taking part in the conversation sessions include LL Cool J, Morgan Freeman, Nicki Minaj, George Lopez, Mario Lopez, Kurt Warner, Nick Young and Marshall Faulk


“We are a giant media company, and we thought, ‘What can we do?’” A&E executive vice president and general manager Robert Sharenow told The Times.

Initially the idea was simply to hold an all-star concert that would put racial issues in the spotlight. But musicians who signed on to participate suggested taking a broader approach by also initiating talks in various communities, with survivors, family members and friends of victims of violence engaging in conversation with law enforcement and other officials.

“Any solutions have to begin with dialogue, and we want to help get that dialogue going,” said Pharrell Williams, who sings in the Mother Emanuel Church in one of the location segments, for which musicians are joined by journalist Soledad O’Brien. Other segments are moderated by journalists Michele Norris and Byron Pitts.

The concert portion is to be recorded tonight at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Tickets went on sale Tuesday and quickly sold out. Proceeds will go to the Progress on Race in America, an initiative under the direction of United Way Worldwide (

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