Singer-songwriter Usher has penned a powerful op-ed explaining why Juneteenth should be a national holiday.
On Friday, Usher was one of a number of stars observing Juneteenth, which commemorates the day in 1865 when enslaved people in Texas, then the most remote region of the Confederacy, finally learned slavery had been abolished in the United States. Lupita Nyong'o, Taylor Swift, Mindy Kaling, Chris Evans, Pharrell, George Takei and more celebrities called for June 19 to be recognized on a federal level.
"Recognizing Juneteenth as a national holiday would be a small gesture compared with the greater social needs of Black people in America," Usher wrote for the Washington Post. "But it can remind us of our journey toward freedom, and the work America still has to do.
"We could observe it, as many Black Americans already do, by celebrating both our first step toward freedom as Black people in America and also the many contributions to this land: the construction of Black Wall Street; the invention of jazz, rock ’n’ roll, hip-hop and R&B; and all the entrepreneurship and business brilliance, extraordinary cuisine, sports excellence, political power and global cultural influence Black Americans have given the world."
Make Juneteenth A National Holiday! I proudly join the incredible people and organizations who have been working on this for years, among them the inspiring Opal Lee, a 93-year-old from Fort Worth, Tex. Sign the petition she started!https://t.co/fdbS9uJr69 pic.twitter.com/MS8Xm1sJfv— Usher Raymond IV (@Usher) June 19, 2020
Oscar-winning actress Nyong'o used her platform to amplify the voice of Opal Lee, "the force behind the movement to make #Juneteenth a national holiday." Lee, a 93-year-old activist, launched a petition to recognize June 19 as a national holiday that has amassed more than 500,000 signatures and counting.
"Public holidays indicate the moments in history that are important to a nation and the values they hold dear," Nyong'o tweeted. "Recognizing #Juneteenth nationally would be one more way to acknowledge the intrinsic value of Black people and their history to the wealth and prosperity of the USA.
"We are aware that oversight of these historical events blinds and misleads both our present and our future generations," she continued. "It encourages willful ignorance and the touting of revisionist history."
2. Public holidays indicate the moments in history that are important to a nation and the values they hold dear. Recognizing #Juneteenth nationally would be one more way to acknowledge the intrinsic value of Black people and their history to the wealth and prosperity of the USA.— Lupita Nyong'o (@Lupita_Nyongo) June 19, 2020
Like many white Americans, "Lover" hitmaker Swift has been newly vocal about racial injustice in recent weeks. She vowed to give her employees the day off on Friday and shared a video narrated by "Real Quick" host Danielle Young breaking down the historical significance of Juneteenth for the Root.
"Personally, I’ve made the decision to give all of my employees June 19th off in honor of Freedom Day from now on, and to continue to educate myself on the history that brought us to this present moment," Swift wrote.
"Everything that has transpired recently gives us an opportunity to reflect, listen and reprogram any part of our lives that hasn’t been loudly and ferociously anti-racist, and to never let privilege lie dormant when it could be used to stand up for what’s right."
Here's a sampling of entertainment luminaries observing and advocating for Juneteenth.
Personally, I’ve made the decision to give all of my employees June 19th off in honor of Freedom Day from now on, and to continue to educate myself on the history that brought us to this present moment.— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) June 19, 2020
happy juneteenth 🧡🏆— Kehlani (@Kehlani) June 19, 2020
“Only those feigning blindness fail to see the body of work we are, and the work of body we have done.— Ava DuVernay (@ava) June 19, 2020
Everything is what it is because of us.
It is a misunderstanding to believe that free fell upon us like a blessing.“
- Patricia Smith #Juneteenth https://t.co/hMDytKAWbD
Happy Juneteenth and I’m so glad that people are finally learning what this day means to us. I was just saying last year this time how unfortunate it is that people are taught about this day especially in contrast to July 4th.— Jaida Essence Hall (@jaidaehall) June 19, 2020
Just so we're clear, white people, firing Aunt Jemima & giving us Juneteenth off are not the frontlines of defeating white supremacy & dismantling structural & instutional racism. Better schools, a just criminal justice system, access to healthcare was more what we were thinking.— W. Kamau Bell (@wkamaubell) June 18, 2020
I can’t imagine a better major federal holiday than a celebration/memorial to the end of slavery. https://t.co/fwYmOYw5t4— Mindy Kaling (@mindykaling) June 19, 2020
Today is #Juneteenth, where we celebrate the freeing of the last remaining enslaved African Americans in Texas after the Civil War. So tell me now, how are you observing? Is this the first time you've heard of Juneteenth? Text me and let me know at +1 (310) 299-9390.— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) June 19, 2020
Happy Juneteenth everyone!! See what I did there? @juneAmbrose sending love to everyone ...I love a new reason to celebrate ...finally recognizing a day that is historically and factually accurate let’s keep putting in work https://t.co/CVIPyieTTs— Ellen Pompeo (@EllenPompeo) June 19, 2020
It’s Juneteenth, an extraordinary day for African-Americans even during these terrible times. I suspect a lot of Americans were unaware of the significance of this day, but not anymore! And that’s a good thing.— bettemidler (@BetteMidler) June 19, 2020
I hope that the attention we can all help bring to a day that has been celebrated for so many years in the black community, and one that is so important in our country’s history, will help us move forward in the direction of recognition and change. #JuneTeenth— Kris Jenner (@KrisJenner) June 19, 2020
#HAPPYJUNETEENTH!!!! The white hat is ON once again…because today we're celebrating ALL black Americans. Yup. All of us. We’ve #HandledIt for CENTURIES. Way before Olivia Pope was a twinkle in @shondarhimes’s eye. and I’m so excited to celebrate us today. pic.twitter.com/o8aXYawfzc— kerry washington (@kerrywashington) June 19, 2020