Usher called upon the federal government to make Juneteenth a national holiday, writing in a breathtaking essay that doing so will remind the nation of “the work America still has to do” in order to create real change.
As protesters continue to rally against police brutality and racial inequality in the United States, Usher is joining their ranks and calling for change. The singer and activist, 41, penned a powerful op-ed for The Washington Post on July 19 — Juneteenth — laying out why the day commemorating the emancipation of slaves should become a national holiday. “Recognizing Juneteenth as a national holiday would be a small gesture compared with the greater social needs of black people in America. But it can remind us of our journey toward freedom, and the work America still has to do,” he wrote.
In his essay, Usher digs deep through the history of Juneteenth, telling the story of what happened on June 19, 1865: Union soldiers landed in Galveston, Texas, to tell slaves that the Civil War was over and they were officially freed. “It should be a national holiday,” Usher writes, “observed by all Americans.” Rather than taking the day off, Usher suggests that the holiday be observed by reflecting on black culture, “affirming that Black Lives Matter!”
“As an artist, it is my duty to reflect the trying times in which we live,” Usher says in the op-ed. “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. And it must change quickly.”
There’s a groundswell of support from other celebrities to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, as well. Taylor Swift, 30, joined Usher in commemorating the day with a series of tweets. She started by posting a video from The Root about the significance 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 tweeted.
“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,” she concluded. Arnold Schwarzenegger also called for change and reflection on Juneteenth.
“Juneteenth is a holiday all of us should celebrate,” Arnold tweeted. “The day that America finally ended the sin of slavery in every state. Take some time today to learn, to listen, and to find ways to help keep marching toward a better, more equal United States every day.”