Live Nation Urban Celebrating Black Culture With Juneteenth, Afro Pride Events

A SPACE FOR US: BbyMutha, pictured performing at the last year’s Rolling Loud showcase in Austin, Texas, will be one of six acts performing at Live Nation Urban’s Afro Pride Concert at Belasco Theater in Los Angeles on July 9 (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

We are well into the blockbuster season, whether it’s at the local cinema or music venue to watch your favorite artist, and Live Nation Urban is one of many companies delivering such large events. Coming off a successful Roots Picnic weekend in Philadelphia, Live Nation Urban has more spectacular musical experiences on the docket with unique performances that celebrate the various facets of Black culture.

The first such show is Juneteenth: A Global Celebration for Freedom, produced by Live Nation Urban and Jesse Collins Entertainment, which commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in the United States. The show, curated by musical directors Adam Blackstone and The Roots co-founder Questlove, takes place at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles on June 19 and features Charlie Wilson, Nelly, Miguel, Jodeci, Davido, Chloe Bailey and more. Vice President Kamala Harris is also slated to make an appearance at the event, which broadcasts live on CNN and the Oprah Winfrey Network.
Following the success of last year’s inaugural show at the Hollywood Bowl, event organizers were emboldened to take more chances this year with a bigger, more diverse lineup that draws fans from any generation.

“We want this to be a family event, whether you can attend in person or sit at home after the barbecue’s done and watch the show with your family,” Malcolm Gray, Live Nation Urban’s marketing and partnerships director, tells Pollstar. “We want to build moments that are authentic and cater to the diverse experience of Black people and the diverse interest of music fans across the globe.”

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The four-hour event that begins at 5 p.m. also highlights the art of dance and honors states such as Texas and Oklahoma that celebrated Juneteenth long before President Joe Biden signed legislation recognizing it as a national holiday by including Southern artists.
“We wanted to make sure that they’re represented in our lineup and those cities feel that we’re doing them justice on this national holiday,” says Mari Davies, vice president of booking and talent at Live Nation Urban. “It was also important for us to show and display the mosaic of Black culture.”

Davies and Gray take pride in the fact that their event sheds light on Black talent, music, art and history, including the Yates family that pioneered the celebration of Juneteenth.

“Our tagline from last year was exposure, education and action,” Gray says. “We want to inspire people to take action and not only learn more about Juneteenth but see how they can help the issues that have plagued Black Americans and Brown Americans in this country afterward. Use that knowledge and inspiration, positive feelings and channel that into something that gives back to the world.”

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Such events inspired Live Nation Urban to explore new experiences this summer with the introduction of Afro Pride weekend, a two-day event curated by the Black queer community that includes ballroom — an LGBTQ+ subculture born in New York and led by young Black and Latin American individuals who use pageant competitions to defy social and gender constructs and racism — and music at L.A.’s Belasco Theater July 8-9. The company partnered with The Haus of Basquiat, one of ballroom’s premier houses, to deliver a Life Imitates Art Ball on the first day and a concert the following day that features Abra, BbyMutha, Alameda, Shy Lennox, Bmajr, Naygod and Black Bass Collective.

“It taps into that Black alternative space that’s also very youthful, bringing it from the underground to a full day of performances from different types of artists, all Black femme and queer,” says James June, Live Nation Urban’s creative and digital manager. “It’s just a beautiful experience to be around femmes and queers having a good time.”

June commended Live Nation Urban President Shawn Gee and his colleagues for being “allies” and open to his idea. He purposefully made the event after Pride month to give the queer community more opportunities to celebrate the culture and hopes to continue delivering such experiences.

“In the future, for some of the other festival properties, we’re going to do preparties around that so that queer fans at our festivals also have an event centered for them,” June says of future plans. “The impact there is [giving] that sense of belonging and joy for that audience that is very hungry for spaces like this and doesn’t get them all the time.”

Though the process of developing the festivities has been an arduous one, June, who identifies themselves as a queer individual, says it’s been a fulfilling experience amid the current political climate with some states pushing anti-LGBTQ laws.

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“There are always going to be aggressors against the culture, no matter what,” June says. “Looking at the laws, sometimes you get a little numb. We need to make sure that we can be as loud as we can and hold space for each other. … It’s needed now. It’s imperative to show up now.”

Live Nation Urban is certainly making its presence known and giving a voice to multiple Black communities with its events celebrating the various cultures within the diaspora.

“There are people — thanks to CNN and OWN networks — from all across the world that are going to get a glimpse of Black entertainment … and that is not to be taken lightly,” Davies says. “It’s just exciting to be a part of that exposure globally.”

June is proud to highlight talent from multiple genres from rap to afro-punk, saying he “wanted to show there’s not just one type of sound when you do those type
of artists. You can show up in a pride space, and you’re going to get a full show. Queer people are not a monolith, and highlighting that range is important.”