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Chaka Khan, Khalid, Ne-Yo and more light up the stage at CNN’s ‘Juneteenth: A Global Celebration of Freedom’

By Scottie Andrew, CNN

CNN’s inaugural “Juneteenth: A Global Celebration of Freedom” concert is roaring: Live from the Hollywood Bowl, Black legends of music are bringing audiences to their feet in a joyful commemoration of the holiday.

The concert celebrates Juneteenth, the holiday that marks the end of slavery in the US. From icons like Earth Wind & Fire to R&B stars like Khalid, Black artists across genres are taking the stage this Juneteenth, the second year it’s been observed as a federal holiday.

Below, relive some of the most joyous and impactful performances from the night.

Musical icons like Chaka Khan get audiences dancing

Gospel star Yolanda Adams opened the show with a rousing performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” a historical rallying cry that’s also considered the Black National Anthem. A beaming Chaka Khan, backed by the Roots, followed with her hits “Ain’t Nobody” and “I’m Every Woman,” dedicating the latter song to the “powerful women” in the audience at the Hollywood Bowl.

Bell Biv Devoe hit the stage, dressed in stylish tracksuits, and got nearly every member of the audience dancing. Backstage, presenters Leslie Jones and Amanda Seales bopped along with the audience to the group’s hit, “Poison.”

Ne-Yo followed the ’90s trio with a high-energy performance of “Give Me Everything” and got the audience singing along with him.

And yes, that was Beyoncé making a vocal cameo in a prerecorded segment on Opal Lee, the 95-year-old activist who worked to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. (More on Lee below.)

Mickey Guyton and more deliver powerful messages

Country phenom Mickey Guyton covered Marvin Gaye’s protest anthem “What’s Going On” and sang her original, Grammy-nominated single, “Black Like Me.” Poet Amir Sulaiman performed a powerful piece with a message to viewers: “You will be someone’s ancestor. Act accordingly.”

The entire creative team behind the concert is Black, CNN’s Sara Sidner reported ahead of the show, including creator Shawn Gee of Live Nation Urban and Jesse Collins Entertainment. The night also marks the first time an all-Black orchestra, Re-Collective Orchestra, will play the Hollywood Bowl, Sidner said.

The Re-Collective Orchestra performed with members of the Debbie Allen Dance Company, who performed a vibrant dance piece (and were introduced by Allen herself).

President Joe Biden and more deliver impactful messages

Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021, but many Black Americans have honored the date for years with parades, parties and family gatherings. The holiday is also an opportunity to reflect on the persisting systemic inequalities that Black Americans face.

President Joe Biden addressed that duality in a recorded message, recommending that Americans celebrate the date and remember the horrors of slavery.

“It’s time to celebrate, time to educate and time to act,” Biden said.

Vice President Kamala Harris also appeared in a recorded message celebrating the holiday, as did former first lady Michelle Obama, who called on viewers to vote.

Jill Scott delivered a spoken word piece entitled “Agitation: Definition #3” on an empty stage, speaking to the pain of watching systemic changes fail to pass. She ended the piece by wordlessly throwing up her arms.

The event honored the ‘grandmother of Juneteenth’

In a pre-show special, 95-year-old Lee told CNN’s Don Lemon that she was “pinching [herself]” at the fact that her life’s work of making Juneteenth a federal holiday had succeeded.

Earlier this Juneteenth, Lee, considered the “grandmother of Juneeteenth,” walked 2.5 miles to symbolize the two-and-a-half years that the enslaved African Americans of Galveston, Texas, lived in slavery after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.

Lee said Americans should spend the holiday celebrating, learning and continuing to advocate for change.

“I advocate that we celebrate from the 19th of June to the 4th of July,” she said. “That would be celebrating freedom.”

™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Harmeet Kaur and Chloe Melas contributed to this report.

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