Juneteenth: How Celebrities From Lizzo To Spike Lee Are Marking The June 19 Day

From Lizzo to Spike Lee, a lot of celebrities are celebrating the final emancipation of slaves.

Juneteenth: How Celebrities From Lizzo To Spike Lee Are Marking The June 19 Day Getty

Today is Juneteenth, the date in 1865 when Union Amry officers told enslaved people in Galveston, Texas that they were free. That was two years after the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation that freed them. The delay meant they suffered two more years in bondage but the day they were freed became a holiday for them.

RELATED: What Is Juneteenth? The History Of Freedom Day On June 19th

It's now 155 years later and people still observe Juneteenth in America. This year, the usual picnics, musical performances, and parades have to be cancelled due to the pandemic but that isn't stopping celebrities from sharing their thoughts on the historic day, as well as the present moment of reckoning America is having about black lives and race. 


Here's how a few celebrities are marking Juneteenth:

1. Lizzo

The Good As Hell singer is making her celebration about helping others. In her Juneteenth online event, she is raising funds for Black Church Food Security Network, Minneapolis Sanctuary Movement, and Black Women Speak. And donors don't just get a sense of personal satisfaction for uplifting great causes: they are also entered for a chance to get VIP treatment at a future Lizzo show. 

2. Rhiannon Giddens

Country musician Giddens teamed up with famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma to drop a new song called "Build A House" in celebration of the day. In an Instagram post about the new piece, she wrote "This song came knocking about a week ago and I had to open the door and let it in. What can I say about what’s been happening, what has happened, and what is continuing to happen, in this country, in the world? There’s too many words and none, all at once. So I let the music speak, as usual. What a thing to mark this 155th anniversary of Juneteenth with that beautiful soul, @yoyoma. Honored to have it out in the world," she concluded.



A post shared by Rhiannon Giddens (@rhiannongiddens) on Jun 19, 2020 at 6:51am PDT

Giddens wrote new music for the day.

3. Senator Elizabeth Warren

In keeping with her reputation for being all about the facts, Senator Warren released a video that shares the history of Juneteenth with her 2.4 million Instagram followers as well as talking about the hard truth that racism isn't a thing of the past. She encouraged her fans to work toward being anti-racist and to build a more equitable society for everyone, including by dramatically rethinking what policing should be in the future. "Let's continue to defend the unshakeable truth that Black families matter and Black lives matter," she wrote. 



A post shared by Elizabeth Warren (@elizabethwarren) on Jun 19, 2020 at 7:00am PDT

Warren calls for more anti-racism work. 

4. Spike Lee

The iconic filmmaker posted a video sharing noteworthy moments from major figures in the battled for U.S. civil rights. "Today Let’s Honor Muhammad Ali, Marvin Gaye, Malcolm X, Tommie Smith,John Carlos, Kwame Ture, Angela Davis And Bobby Seale From DA 5 BLOODS," giving a nod to his upcoming film. 



A post shared by Spike Lee (@officialspikelee) on Jun 19, 2020 at 6:00am PDT

Lee looked at the history of the Civil Rights movement. 

5. Taye Diggs

The All American actor is using his Twitter influence to build support for the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation. The mission of the The Emmett Till Legacy Foundation "honors the memory of Emmett Louis Till, who, at only 14 years old, was brutally tortured and killed in 1955 during a racially-motivated hate crime. Our mission is to bring justice, which can mean a full accounting of crimes committed and exhaustive investigations, to the families of victims of unsolved murders committed during the civil rights era." 


Diggs is trying to get 19,000 new followers for the Foundation's Twitter account

RELATED: What Does #BlackInTheIvory Mean? Black Academics Share Stories Of Institutional Racism At Universities And Hospitals

6. Taylor Swift

TSwift joined the trend a lot of employers have started and announced that her employees would be given June 19 as a holiday from this year forward. She posted a video about the history of the day from The Root and wrote that she's taking time to educate herself more about issues of racism. "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," she wrote on Instagram


7. Michelle Obama

The Former First Lady is eloquent in her Instagram post about the history of the day. Mrs. Obama talks inspirational about Juneteenth as an opportunity to find the space to celebrate the history, even when the history we celebrate is about justice being delayed. "What I love about #Juneteenth is that even in that extended wait, we still find something to celebrate. Even though the story has never been tidy, and Black folks have had to march and fight for every inch of our freedom, our story is nonetheless one of progress," she reflects



A post shared by Michelle Obama (@michelleobama) on Jun 19, 2020 at 10:17am PDT

Obama looks for the joy in the day. 


8. Usher

Usher got out ahead of the day and wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post calling for Juneteenth to be a national holiday. "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," he wrote. "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."

"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!" he concluded. 

Several lawmakers agree with him. Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN), Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) announced that they are introducing legislation to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.


9. Angie Thomas

The author of The Hate You Give tweeted an uplifting message this morning saying, "Happy Juneteenth! Joy is a form of resistance. May you find some today." She also retweeted a number of messages related to racism in policing and criminal justice reform. She added an "Amen" to a tweet from activist Emma Gonzalez who wrote "happy Juneteenth !!! Abolish Prisons :)"

10. LeBron James

The basketball superstar echoes the calls to make Juneteenth an official holiday. He posted a simple definition of the day to his Instagram feed, asking in the caption, "My Ultimate question is why isn’t this date a NATIONAL HOLIDAY???? #StayWoke" Other famous people showed up in his comments to show solidarity. Halle Berry just left a string of black heart emojis, while Atlanta Hawks player Trey Young left a "100" emoji in affirmation. 



A post shared by LeBron James (@kingjames) on Jun 19, 2020 at 10:03am PDT

James wants Juneteenth to be a holiday. 

RELATED: What Does BIPOC Stand For?

Rebekah Kuschmider has been writing about celebrities, pop culture, entertainment, and politics since 2010. She is the creator of the blog FeminXer and she is a cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union.