Usher is calling for Juneteenth to be recognized as a national holiday in a new op-ed with the Washington Post. He starts his written piece by detailing how he wore a Juneteenth shirt to the 2015 Essence Music Festival and it caught a lot of people’s attention.
“The design was simple,” the Here I Stand singer wrote. “The words ‘July Fourth’ were crossed out and under them, one word was written: ‘Juneteenth.’ I wore the shirt because, for many years, I celebrated the Fourth of July without a true understanding that the date of independence for our people, Black people, is actually June 19, 1865: the day that the news of the Emancipation Proclamation finally reached some of the last people in America still held in bondage.”
Usher also called for the day to be recognized as a national holiday to be observed by all Americans. “[Juneteenth] 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.”
He continued, “I am humbled by the platform that has been given to me because of my musical talents, but I know must do more with it. 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. And it must change quickly.”
“Recognizing Juneteenth as a national holiday would be a small gesture compared with the greater social needs of black people in America,” Usher continued. “But, it can remind us of our journey toward freedom, and the work America still has to do.”
The state of Virginia has made Juneteenth a paid state holiday. Many companies such as Twitter, Nike, Square, Lyft, and the NFL have also made this day of Black independence a paid company holiday.