Op-Ed: A&E Networks and United Way Worldwide explain the significance behind their Shining a Light concert

Star Studded Shining A Light Concert Tackles Race in America
Star Studded Shining A Light Concert Tackles Race in America

By ​Nancy Dubuc President and Chief Executive Officer A+E Networks and Stacey Stewart U.S. President United Way Worldwide

This is an unsponsored opinion post. The opinions and information expressed belong to the author.

On June 17th, 2015, a gunman walked into Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and took the lives of nine beautiful souls, simply because of their race.

The killer was motivated by deep personal animus – a twisted and evil sickness. But he also carried with him a broader and more nuanced cultural sickness – our country's oldest challenge – the issue of racism.

SEE ALSO:AOL's exclusive live-stream of 'Shining a Light' concert to include P!nk, Ed Sheeran and more!

Talking about race in America makes many people uncomfortable. The conversation is difficult and complex, and if the last few years have taught us anything, it's that there are no easy answers. From Ferguson to Baltimore to Charleston, we have been confronted time and again with the reality that racism and bias do exist. And ignoring this fact will not prevent future bloodshed, make communities safer, nor build lasting trust.

But despite our complicated past and current tension, we see reasons for hope. Around the country, in ways small and large, Americans are coming together in innovative and powerful ways to address racism and bias and create spaces for healing, reconciliation, and trust. Conservative groups are uniting with liberals around criminal justice reform. Young activists are helping us have new conversations that allow us to see the problem (and solutions) afresh. Artists are telling these stories in startling, beautiful ways. Faith and civic leaders are leading conversations on race and bias in their congregations and communities, bringing together people from different ethnic, political and religious lines. All of these efforts are creating a renewed imagination for how we will address these most pressing issues.

It is in that spirit that on Friday, November 20th the A+E family of networks will broadcast "Shining A Light: A Concert for Progress on Race in America." This concert will celebrate the spirit of hope in America, acknowledge the progress we still need to make on race, and illuminate some of the pathways forward. It will be an amazing night of music and stories that will inspire and move us to action, featuring artists from Bruce Springsteen to Pharrell Williams, Jill Scott to Sting, and many more. Journalists Michele Norris, Soledad O'Brien and Byron Pitts also travel with artists to Charleston, Ferguson and Baltimore to hear directly from these communities about that pain they've experienced and what it will take to move forward.

Proceeds from the concert will be used to establish a fund powered by United Way that will leverage its broad reach and deep expertise to convene those in communities who can develop and scale solutions for lasting change, as well help establish a memorial for the Emanuel 9 in Charleston and assist the families of the victims there. The Fund for Progress on Race in America will focus on healing deep historic racial divides, identifying and eradicating bias, while strengthening organizations making a difference on the front lines.

We approach this concert, and this work, with great humility. We don't have all the answers. And we acknowledge not everyone will agree on the steps it will take to move forward. We are also painfully aware not everyone believes our country still faces challenges related to race. But in the aftermath of the events in Charleston, Paris, Ferguson, and Staten Island - and in the spirit of forgiveness and hope that we saw from the families of the lost - we know we must do something.

By: Nancy Dubuc President and Chief Executive Officer A+E Networks and Stacey Stewart U.S. President United Way Worldwide​

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