Usher Calls for Juneteenth National Holiday Declaration

Usher Raymond IV attends the Burden Atlanta Red Carpet Screening - Getty 2-H 2020
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"There has never been a more urgent time than now to get this done," the Grammy-winning artist says.

Usher on Friday joined the growing chorus of voices calling for Juneteenth to be declared a national holiday. The Grammy-winning singer laid out his argument for the proposal in a Washington Post op-ed. 

Friday marks Juneteenth, celebrating the end of slavery in the United States, which occurred in 1865, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Following worldwide anti-racism protests and a renewed conversation about equality after the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a major push is underway for the holiday's recognition. Numerous companies across the nation closed their offices Friday to recognize and honor the day.

"Recognizing Juneteenth as a national holiday would be a small gesture compared with the greater social needs of black people in America," Usher wrote. "But it can remind us of our journey toward freedom, and the work America still has to do. 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." 

He added, "And rather than observing Juneteenth as we do other holidays, by taking it off, we can make it a day when black culture, black entrepreneurship and black business get our support. A national Juneteenth observance can affirm that Black Lives Matter!"

Born Usher Raymond IV, the celebrated artist talked about his upbringing and education in the South, saying, "I was taught in school one version of U.S. history that frequently excluded the history of my family and my community. The black history I learned came from the Eyes On the Prize documentary that aired during Black History Month."

He concluded, "I proudly join the incredible people and organizations who have been working on this for years, among them the inspiring Opal Lee, a 93-year-old from Fort Worth, Tex., who has campaigned for the recognition of Juneteenth at the state and local level. There has never been a more urgent time than now to get this done. As we celebrate today, let’s stay open to possibility. Let’s support black-owned businesses today and every day. Let’s uplift our resilient history. Let’s honor our people. Happy Juneteenth, America."