Kennedy Center presents ‘Black Women Breaking Ground’ concert on Juneteenth

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews 'Black Women Breaking Ground' (Part 1)

Are you looking for an empowering way to celebrate Juneteenth this weekend?

The Kennedy Center presents “Black Women Breaking Ground” Saturday at 8 p.m.

“In celebration of Black Music Month, Turnaround Arts, the Kennedy Center and Black Girls Rock are all collaborating to present a night of groundbreaking music by Black women artists,” Director of Hip-Hop Culture & Contemporary Music Simone Eccleston told WTOP. “These women defy genre, they innovate sonically, and they combine past and present to imagine a new future.”

The lineup includes four-time Grammy Award-winner Angélique Kidjo, who won Best Global Music Album at the 2016 Grammys and Best World Music Album at the 2020 Grammys.

“She’s like Africa’s diva,” Eccleston said. “She is a four-time Grammy Award-winning artist, she is originally from Benin, she has provided voice and visibility to community. She most recently released a new album called ‘Mother Nature,’ in which she created an intergenerational dialogue … incorporating a cross-section of Afrobeat, Afropop, dance hall, hip-hop and alternative R&B.”

It also includes Grammy-winning R&B vocalist Estelle, originally hailing from West London.

“You should know ‘American Boy’; I feel like there isn’t a person who does not know that track,” Eccleston said. “She is a Grammy Award-winning international vocalist, known for R&B-soul, but also someone who has brought in a lot of diasporic influences because she is of Senegalese and Grenadian descent born in the U.K. and now in L.A. … She is a force to be reckoned with.”

Last but not least, you’ll enjoy Tennessee singer/songwriter Valerie June.

“She is just a diamond,” Eccleston said. “She is this beautiful cross-section between the blues, country and folk. What’s beautiful about her is that she really speaks to the spirit and soul of the people. … She actually had a really wonderful performance last night on [“Jimmy Kimmel Live”]. … You have to experience her. To experience her is to love her, the way she pours into your spirit.”

In addition to the three headlining women, the concert also features D.C.-based ensemble Mark G. Meadows and the Movement, which will be backing Angélique Kidjo.

“We’re are so excited to have him and his band with us,” Eccleston said. “They actually worked together before when we opened The Reach back in September 2019, long before the pandemic set in. It’s an extraordinary moment to have them back together. It feels like we are picking up where we left off, but also doing so with new eyes and a new path ahead. It’s a new journey.”

The concert marks a return to live shows at the Kennedy Center.


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“This is our first public performance in the Concert Hall that is inviting audiences back,” Eccleston said. “We will have socially distanced seating. We are accommodating about 500 people in our 2,200-seat Concert Hall, so we’re really excited to welcome audiences back.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews 'Black Women Breaking Ground' (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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