Amid widespread civil unrest, many in the U.S. are learning about the holiday of Juneteenth for the first time. The day commemorates when the last slaves in the Confederacy were liberated in 1865 and has gone on to mark a celebration of the end of slavery in the U.S. in general.
Leading up to this year’s Juneteenth, ABC decided to re-air the episode of “Black-ish” dedicated to the holiday on June. In the musical episode, Dre (Anthony Anderson) is upset that there are not enough holidays celebrating Black people in America. He thus enlists Aloe Blacc to write a song to raise awareness about Juneteenth.
According to series creator Kenya Barris, the decision to re-air the episode was entirely ABC’s.
“I was really, really, really happy that they did it,” Barris said in an interview with Variety. “To me, that is one of the most important things that I’ve ever been a part of.”
Karey Burke, the president of ABC Entertainment, told Variety that the idea to rebroadcast “Juneteenth” and another episode, “Hope,” about police violence, came from colleagues of hers who had been at ABC when those episodes first aired.
“I had seen them as a viewer and a fan, but they were before my time here,” Burke said. “I’m so proud to be a part of the decision to re-air them. I think they are unbelievably powerful episodes of television. They’re required viewing. We actually sent a link around to the Juneteenth episode to everyone at ABC Entertainment in advance of Friday’s holiday.”
Barris said that, growing up, he did not take Juneteenth seriously.
“I kind of took it as a joke,” he says. “Then I thought about it one day. I’m like, ‘This country was built on the backs of free labor of an oppressed and enslaved regime.’ You know what I’m saying? Who were taken from their land. I feel like why would we pop fireworks and eat hotdogs on July 4th when everybody wasn’t independent? How is that Independence Day? I really started understanding. It doesn’t mean to get rid of Independence Day, but this should be a national holiday.”
Barris says that he plans to celebrated the day by not working and “probably have some conversations with some people.” The power of making it a national holiday would be to start a conversation, Barris says. “It makes your kids ask, ‘Why is this a holiday?’ You have to say, ‘Let me tell you why it’s a holiday,’ and you have to really get into it.”