June 19th marks the holiday known as Juneteenth, which celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. Although it's been celebrated among the Black community since the first official Juneteenth in Texas in 1866, it has gained more awareness over the past few years and Americans have begun folding it into their yearly celebrations.
Even though it has a long and important history, Juneteenth wasn't acknowledged as a federal holiday until just last year - when President Joe Biden signed it into law.
Controversy surrounds the holiday; advocates of the Black community and minority rights believe that while it's nice to acknowledge such an important milestone, the vulnerable would be better served by an overhaul of an unequal justice system or great understanding of the enduring inequities Black Americans face to this day due to slavery.
Even so, as awareness of the holiday's meaning spreads around the country, more people are beginning to celebrate out loud, and that includes celebrities. This year, these celebrities had thoughts to share on the original Freedom Day.
Lizzo shared a video of herself on Instagram, singing an a capella rendition of "Lift every voice and sing," with the caption "Happy Juneteenth y’all! Every year I hold a Juneteenth fundraiser where I donate to, signal boost, and buy from black businesses. This is our 3rd year and we’ve raised nearly half a million dollars for black businesses and organizations.
For more info, amazing prizes and how to get involved go to lizzolovesyou.com."
Superstar actress Viola Davis shared a video that includes suggestions on how to celebrate Juneteenth for interested allies, with the caption, "After centuries of chattel slavery, black codes, sharecropping, oppression, peonage, white supremacy, terror, lynchings, mass murders, exploitation, systematic racism, gerrymandering, Jim Crow, redlining, medical apartheid, 'the war on drugs', mass incarceration, and the overall destruction of generations of black lives and families, reparations in the $20 trillion plus range is a necessary and long-overdue step toward the restorative racial justice owed to Black Americans who built this country for FREE. Happy Juneteenth."
Pop queen Mariah Carey shared a touching tribute to her father, captioned, "Celebrate Your Black Excellence! #HappyJuneteenth
#HappyFathersDay Rest in Power Alfred Roy Carey."
And allies got it on the celebrations as well, bringing attention to the holiday. Justin Biebier shared a blacked out image with the words, "Juneteenth: Honor and Celebrate."
The former First Lady of the United States also took time to acknowledge the holiday. Obama shared a video of herself, including the caption, "Juneteenth is a day of power—a chance to celebrate our history and our triumphs, our resilience and our struggle.
Today is about coming together and honoring those before us who reached for progress, who helped build this country with their bare hands, who marched, fought, and protested—who did everything they could so that we might have a voice and a vote.
As we remember them, let's commit to protecting those rights in our time and for the generations yet to come. Go to WhenWeAllVote.org to learn more."
Poet extraordinaire Amanda Gorman, who skyrocketed to fame after she shared an original poem at the inauguration of President Joe Biden, wrote some words for the occasion:
"Unshackled from terror,
To love is how we vow
That we are here,
That we are.
It is how we break free.
Happy Juneteenth everyone."
Tracee Ellis Ross
The leading lady of popular sitcom Blackish, Tracee Ellis Ross, took the opportunity to commemorate the impact the show has had on raising awareness and tackling important issues. Ross wrote, "Happy #Juneteenth! What an honor it was be a part of TV that helped bring awareness to such a historic day. #blackish."
Kerry Washington shared a checklist on productive ways to celebrate Juneteenth, which includes:
- learn Black history
- wear Black, red + green
- uplift Black voices
- read Black authors
- listen to Black artists
- shop Black owned businesses.
And artist/producer/entrepreneur Pharrell Williams celebrated Juneteenth weekend by performing at his Something in the Water Festival in Washington, D.C.
Williams shared a stirring image of himself in front of the lit Capitol rotunda, captioned, "DC, your energy was amazing last night. Happy #Juneteenth from me and my Phriends. See you today for Day 3 of @somethinginthewater."
Even though the holiday celebrates something no sane person could oppose - the end of slavery - Juneteenth nonetheless faces an uphill battle as traditionalists consider it unnecessary.
But they're not in the majority. Across the country as a whole, Americans are recognizing the importance of acknowledging the holiday - and finding a way to celebrate that involves more than just a day off work.