Usher is advocating to make Juneteenth a federal holiday in an op-ed published in The Washington Post on Friday. Juneteenth, which falls on June 19, commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S. “Recognizing Juneteenth as a national holiday would be a small gesture compared with the greater social needs of black people in America,” …
Usher is advocating to make Juneteenth a federal holiday in an op-ed published in The Washington Post on Friday.
Juneteenth, which falls on June 19, commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S.
“Recognizing Juneteenth as a national holiday would be a small gesture compared with the greater social needs of black people in America,” the singer wrote. “But it can remind us of our journey toward freedom, and the work America still has to do.”
Usher, 41, shared that during the 2015 Essence Music Festival, he wore a shirt that crossed out Fourth of July and replaced it with Juneteenth, in an effort to educate others that black people weren’t necessarily free in America as of July 4, 1776.
“For me, wearing the shirt was an opportunity to inform others who may not necessarily know the history of black people in America, and who are not aware that Juneteenth is our authentic day of self-determination,” he said. “It is ours to honor the legacy of our ancestors, ours to celebrate and ours to remember where we once were as a people. And it should be a national holiday, observed by all Americans.”
Juneteenth has been celebrated as an official state holiday in Texas because, as Usher explained, that is where Union Gen. Gordon Granger arrived by boat to announce to slaves that the Civil War had ended and they were now free on June 19, 1865 — even though President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation two and a half years prior.
The R&B star said although he wants the US to recognize Juneteenth as a national holiday, he is not necessarily asking for it to be a day off from work.
He said, “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.”
Usher said he is “humbled” by the platform he has been given because of his musical talents, and so he was compelled to speak out given the country’s current climate.
“As an artist, it is my duty to reflect the trying times in which we live,” he said. “My heart is shattered by the ongoing injustices in this country, incited by its long history of racism that has led to deadly outcomes for too many of our people. This country must change.”
On Thursday, Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) announced that they are introducing legislation to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. On Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Juneteenth will be recognized as an official holiday in New York state.