Usher Explains Why Juneteenth Is A Cause For Celebration, Calls For The Day To Be Made A National Holiday
Usher is celebrating Juneteenth this year with a call for making June 19 a national holiday. Juneteenth is the day that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, and the singer says that he has been trying to educate others about this topic for years.
In an op-ed published Friday in The Washington Post , Usher wrote that “recognizing Juneteenth as a national holiday would be a small gesture compared with the greater social needs of black people in America.” However, he believes that making June 19 a national holiday would remind us of “our journey toward freedom, and the work America still has to do.”
The singer said that he wore a shirt to the 2015 Essence Musical Festival that crossed out Fourth of July and replaced it with Juneteenth. He says that the message is black people weren’t free on Independence Day in 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,” wrote Usher. “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.”
Usher says that making it a holiday doesn’t mean it should be a day off from work. Instead, all Americans could observe it like many black Americans already do - celebrating the first step toward freedom as black people in America and their many contributions to this land.
The 41-year-old gave examples of those numerous contributions, like the construction of Black Wall Street, the invention of jazz, rock n’ roll, hip-hop, and R&B, entrepreneurship and business brilliance, extraordinary cuisine, sports excellence, and political power and global cultural influence.
Usher wrote that it is his duty as an artist to reflect on the trying times that we live in, and his heart is “shattered” by the ongoing injustices in the country that were incited by America’s long history of racism and its numerous deadly outcomes.
“This country must change,” wrote Usher.
Juneteenth is an official state holiday in Texas, says Usher, because that is where Union General Gordon Granger traveled to by boat to announce that the Civil War had ended and the slaves were free. It happened on June 19, 1865, more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
Senators Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Edward Markey, and Tina Smith agree with Usher, and they announced this week that they are introducing legislation to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.