Juneteenth is a historic day in American history and a day that has historically not received the attention it deserves . But Juneteenth is different this year, because—thanks to Black activists like the three women who created Black Lives Matter, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi—systemic racism is being examined in new ways in America.
Black Lives Matter is calling for Juneteenth to be observed as a national holiday and celebrities are voicing support.
Here are the big names talking about a holiday that isn't covered in most school curriculums or found on most calendars.
"Happy Juneteenth ya'll. Today, like everyday, is a wonderful day to be Black," the singer says in an Instagram video.
"This year we're doing Juneteenth in a major way...Not only are we celebrating a Black American holiday, but I'm holding a silent auction and a raffle so we can give back to black organizations and businesses, specifically in the Twin Cities."
Kerry Washington posted a video and some powerful words for her Juneteenth post:
"The white hat is ON once again…because today we're celebrating ALL Black Americans. Yup. All of us. We've #HandledIt for CENTURIES. Way before Olivia Pope was even a thought in @shondarhimes 's mind. and I'm so excited to celebrate us today. While this moment we're in feels so special and so invigorating, I want to us to keep in mind that this fight is far from just beginning, and it's far from being over. Register to vote, keep up the momentum. Be counted in the census. Believe in liberation! And spread love to everyone, because ALL black lives matter."
Usher posted an Instagram post in his grid, captioning a historic photograph: "Make Juneteenth A National Holiday! 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. Sign the petition she started! Linked in Story."
Pregnant Nikki Bella used her Instagram platform to educate her audience of 9.3 million followers, many of whom are white like herself.
"Juneteenth. 1865. A day for all of us to learn and remember. 🖤 Swipe left if you are unsure what today means. And know it's okay, better to know now then never know at all. Thank you @naohms for the informative slides of Juneteenth and its importance. 🖤 #blm #juneteenth #freedom "
Amy Schumer also amplified Juneteenth in a captionless post to her audience of 10 million followers.
Idirs Elba celebrated with a selfie. In it he's wearing a shirt from his 2hrset line, "a limited edition collection and will include exclusive Back2Back collaborations with other brands, musicians, artists and photographers who inspire me".
"Celebrate Juneteenth 🖤❤️. Never say Die. @2hrset "
Taylor Swift used her Instagram account to draw attention to a video by Danielle Young and The Root.
"Happy Juneteenth," the singer wrote. "I want to thank @the.root and @thedanielleyoung for allowing me to post this video about the significance of today, June 19th, and why it should be celebrated as a National holiday. 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. 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."
President Barack Obama
Former President Barack Obama marked the day with a poignant Instagram post:
"On this day in 1865, more than two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and two months after the end of the Civil War, the slaves of Galveston, Texas finally received word that they were free at last.
We don't have to look far to see that racism and bigotry, hate, and intolerance, are still all too alive in our world. Just as the slaves of Galveston knew that emancipation was only the first step toward true freedom, just as those who crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma knew their march was far from finished, or the protesters of today continue to fight for Black lives around the country––our work remains far from done. As long as people are treated differently based on nothing more than the color of their skin––we cannot honestly say that our country is living up to its highest ideals.
And that awareness isn't unpatriotic. In fact, it's patriotic to believe that we can make America better. We're strong enough to be self-critical. We're strong enough to look upon our imperfections and strive, together, to make this country we love more perfect. Juneteenth has never been a celebration of victory, or an acceptance of the way things are. Instead, it's a celebration of progress. It's an affirmation that despite the most painful parts of our history, change is possible. So no matter our color or our creed, no matter where we come from or who we love, today is a day to find joy in the face of sorrow and to hold the ones we love a little closer. And tomorrow is a day to keep marching."