Usher Pens Powerful Essay on Juneteenth: ‘This Country Must Change’

Usher of 'Burden'
Austin Hargrave

Usher from 'Burden' photographed on Jan. 21, 2018 at The Hollywood Reporter studio at Sky Strada in Park City, Utah.

Recognize June 19 as a national holiday. Support black-owned businesses today and always. And brush up on your history.

Those are some of the salient points made by Usher in a timely essay published in the Washington Post to coincide with Juneteenth, the day that commemorates the emancipation of enslaved people in the U.S.

In it, the R&B artist and actor explores the origins of the Black Lives Matter movement, the horrors of slavery and “the resilience of our people.”

Writing under the headline "Why it’s so important that Juneteenth become a national holiday," Usher pulls back the layers with a history lesson and a retelling of the circumstances surrounding June 19, 1865, the date that honors the official end of slavery and the true “date of independence for our people, black people.”

On that historic day, Union soldiers landed in Galveston, Texas, carrying news of the Emancipation Proclamation, that the Civil War had ended and that slaves were now free.

It’s a day that should unite all Americans, not divide them. “And it should be a national holiday,” Usher writes, “observed by all Americans.”

There’s a groundswell of support for this.

On Thursday, California Democratic Senator Kamala Harris said she was working with Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) on proposed legislation to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. Many music companies are continuing the commitment to racial justice by recognizing Juneteenth as a company holiday.

For the country to heal from the wrongs of the past, “Congress must pass this bill immediately,” writes Usher.

The multiple Grammy-winning artist calls on his compatriots to move forward, and remember the struggles of ancestors. “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.”

He concludes, “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.”

Read the full opinion piece here.

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