NEW YORK (AP) — When Pharrell Williams signed up to perform at an all-star concert highlighting race relations in America, the multi-layered musician didn’t want to “have a kumbaya type-of-moment” onstage with his fellow performers, as he put it.
“That’s not what these communities need. They don’t need another song, they need action,” Williams said in an interview Monday. “And if that’s accompanied by music, that’s a beautiful thing.”
What came from that are two specials airing on A&E on Friday. The two-hour “Shining a Light: A Concert for Progress on Race in America” — which includes Bruce Springsteen, Smokey Robinson, Ed Sheeran, Sia and John Legend — will tape Wednesday at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. It will air at 8 p.m. Eastern on Friday.
“Shining a Light: Conversations on Race in America,” a one-hour special, will follow at 10 p.m. Eastern and includes conversations about racial inequality and violence in communities like Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri.
Williams visited and taped a performance earlier this month at the South Carolina church where nine black parishioners were shot and killed on June 17.
“We feel like for the first time a major network was very generous and (was) open to the concept of there being a platform for people in communities to voice their opinions and talk about their stories,” said Williams, who was joined by Soledad O’Brien in Charleston, South Carolina. “Even if they agree or disagree, they have a platform to do it in an organized way.”
Alicia Keys performed in Baltimore, where protests and rioting followed in April after the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who died a week after he was injured in police custody. Legend visited the area where 18-year-old Michael Brown was killed last year in Ferguson and filmed a performance in St. Louis.
“I think A&E … and everybody wanted to do the show because they were looking at a clear groundswell of activism around Black Lives Matter, a clear heightened of awareness of the issue of the relationships between the black community and the police, and seeing so much unrest in the black community over the past couple years. They wanted to do something to bring people together,” Legend said Monday.