Juneteenth is one of the most important days in American history — and celebrities are using their platforms to remind their fans of just that.
The holiday falls on June 19 each year and commemorates the end of slavery in America in 1865, two years after President Abraham Lincoln passed the Emancipation Proclamation. While the nation continues to mourn the loss of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and more victims of police brutality, many celebrities have taken this moment to advocate for making Juneteenth a nationally recognized holiday. In a lengthy Washington Post op-ed, Usher detailed how the significant day should be widely celebrated.
“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,” he wrote. “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.”
The “Climax” singer continued: “As an artist, it is my duty to reflect the trying times in which we live. 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.”
Fellow musician Pharrell Williams has also expressed a desire for the holiday to become a state and national holiday, appearing in his home state of Virginia to discuss the important meaning behind celebrating Freedom Day. On Friday, June 19, he went into more detail about the day’s history during an interview on the Today show.
“This should be a holiday for everyone,” he explained. “Our ancestors, their lives were given — they gave their lives, they gave their flesh, they gave their minds. There wasn’t much acknowledgment for the fact that, you know, we never really had our Independence Day like we should have. When July 4, 1776, happened, it was really only our white brothers who were free.”
Black celebrities aren’t the only ones fighting for recognition for this historic day. Vocal allies like Taylor Swift have started to use their prominent platforms to fight for change and equality as support for the Black Lives Matter movement continues to grow.
“For my family, 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,” the Nashville native explained in a thoughtful Instagram post on Friday.
Scroll down to see how more celebrities are speaking out to honor Juneteenth this year.