Celebrities are speaking out about the importance of Juneteenth.
The celebration commemorates the day, June 19, 1865, when enslaved people in Galveston, Texas were told more than two years later that enslaved African Americans had been freed by President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
While some have always honored Juneteenth, the Black Lives Matter protest movement against racial injustice last summer in response to the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black Americans sparked increased attention for the event, now a federal holiday.
This week, both chambers of Congress passed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act and on Thursday, President Joe Biden signed the bill into law.
Here’s what stars are saying about the occasion.
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Macy Gray proposes to change American flag
Grammy-winning singer Macy Gray suggested the stars and bars flag could use an update for Juneteenth after she said the meaning of the flag was “hijacked” after the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol.
In an op-ed for MarketWatch, first published Thursday, Gray laid out reasons she thinks Old Glory is outdated and even proposed ways in which the flag could be updated to better represent America in 2021.
“Like the Confederate (flag), it is tattered, dated, divisive, and incorrect. It no longer represents democracy and freedom. It no longer represents ALL of us. It’s not fair to be forced to honor it. It’s time for a new flag,” Gray wrote.
The “I Try” singer wrote that the 50 stars on the current flag needs to be increased to include Washington, D.C. and U.S. territory Puerto Rico, which have been in a decade-long fight for statehood. She also suggested the flag’s stripes be changed to an off-white color because America’s purity is “broken and in pieces.”
“Sixty-two years later, in 2021, we have changed and it’s time for a reset, a transformation. One that represents all states and all of us,” she added.
Usher attends Juneteenth bill signing at White House
Usher, who penned a moving op-ed last year about the importance of Juneteenth, was in the audience at the White House as President Biden signed the bill on Thursday, which he called an “incredible moment.”
“It’s finally official.. #Juneteenth,” Usher tweeted alongside photos of himself with Vice President Kamala Harris and activist Opal Lee.
He also took to his Instagram story to celebrate the “long overdue” moment.
“Ladies and gentlemen we did it,” Usher said. “We managed to get here.”
Tina Knowles-Lawson says Juneteenth is a ‘very important holiday’
Tina Knowles-Lawson, who raised her famous daughters Beyoncé and Solange in Texas, said her family has always celebrated the holiday.
“When I was a child… we always celebrated Juneteenth. It was a day that you went to the beach,” the Galveston native said. “It’s always been a very important holiday.”
Knowles-Lawson said she was “surprised” many people weren’t familiar with Juneteenth when she moved to California in the 70s. She said she believes “a lot of history (has) kind of been hidden,” a fact she’s trying to change through her partnership with Facebook to educate people on the holiday.
“Everyone needs to know the truth. This is not the only history that’s been either overlooked, changed and rewritten,” Knowles-Lawson said.
Original story:Tina Knowles-Lawson says Beyoncé, Solange ‘always’ celebrate Juneteenth
Tia Mowry reflects on lessons she’s had to teach her kids
During Yahoo!’s hour-long special celebrating Juneteenth on Wednesday, actress Tia Mowry explained why it’s important to teach her children about race and racism.
“I want my son or my daughter to be equipped when they go out into the world,” the “Sister, Sister” star said, adding that “knowledge is power.”
“Unfortunately I’ve experienced racism at a young age, and my son experienced hate at a young age, and so I feel that the more I equip him with knowledge… I feel better about him being able to stand up for himself.”
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Kerry Washington shares ways to celebrate Juneteenth
Kerry Washington shared their excitement for the new official holiday on social media. The “Scandal” actress took to Instagram on Saturday to suggest ways to celebrate the holiday.
“It is a day of beauty and freedom and Black joy,” Washington said in an Instagram video.
In the two minute video, Washington suggested to wear clothes that were black, red and green serve red-colored foods and drinks at Juneteenth parties, support Black-owned businesses and to listen to music made by Black artists.
“Juneteenth is a day to celebrate Black people, celebrate our beauty our strength, our history, our wisdom, our complexity, our humanity, our magic. We are all of that and some,” Washington said.
LeVar Burton, Lupita Nyong’o, others celebrate Juneteenth as federal holiday
Lupita Nyong’o sent a poignant message for Juneteenth on Twitter after acknowledging Opal Lee, “We owe deep respect to her unwavering commitment that is responsible for the Senate passing a bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday.”
The “Black Panther” actress added: “His national acknowledgment is imperative; however the real substantial change that must follow is ensuring education is introduced and safeguarded in schools on the significance of Juneteenth and Black people’s experiences in and contributions to American society.”
“Happy Juneteenth (celebrated) y’all!” LeVar Burton wrote Friday.
Music producer Metro Boomin tweeted how he plans to celebrate the holiday: “happy Juneteenth. I’ll prolly watch black panther and all 3 fridays today.”
“Star Trek” actor George Takei used his platform to thank “the tireless advocacy of Opal Lee.”
“On June 19, 1865, enslaved Black people in TX finally learned they’d been freed 2+ years earlier by proclamation. African Americans have been commemorating this day for decades, and it’s finally a federal holiday thanks to the tireless advocacy of Opal Lee, who is 94. #Juneteenth,” Takei tweeted.
Contributing: Cydney Henderson, USA TODAY