It’s time to get “Happy,” as there’s a Juneteenth movie musical in the works at Netflix from producers Kenya Barris and Pharrell Williams, who aim to celebrate the burgeoning holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.
Juneteenth is celebrated on June 19 because it was that day in 1865 when General Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas to announce that slaves were now free. The holiday was first celebrated in Austin in 1867, and within five years it was listed on a “calendar of public events. The day has taken on an even deeper meaning this year amid the Black Lives Matter protests across America that have been calling for systemic change in this country.
Deadline broke the news. of the project, reporting that it’s still in its early stages, so plot details remain under wraps for the time being. Barris will produce via his Khalabo Ink Society banner, while Williams will produce alongside his partner Mimi Valdes. Deadline notes that the Juneteenth musical is a new project, and not the same as the live musical that Barris and Williams announced back in 2018.
Williams recently returned to his home state of Virginia, where he joined Governor Ralph Northam in announcing that Juneteenth will be recognized as a paid state holiday for the first time in Virginia history. New York and Texas are also among the states that recognize Juneteenth, and there have been calls to make the day a federal holiday in the wake of George Floyd‘s murder at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Williams said that for Virginia’s decision to make Juneteenth a state holiday was a chance for the state’s government, corporations and citizens to “stand in solidarity with their African-American brothers and sisters,” adding that “this year, Juneteenth will look like no other Juneteenth before it.”
Barris has long lobbied for Juneteenth to be declared a national holiday, having used the Season 4 premiere of Black-ish to bring more attention to the important date. That episode was rebroadcast by ABC on Blackout Tuesday, and Barris has called it one of the most meaningful things he has ever worked on. The fictional Barris also threw a Juneteenth party on the new Netflix comedy #blackAF, which I reviewed back in April.
Hollywood has certainly taken notice of Juneteenth this year, as all four major agencies and several top publicity firms are closed Friday in recognition of the date, which is now an annual paid holiday for their employees, regardless of race. For more on Juneteenth, click here for our list of 20 joyful Black films you can stream this weekend, and if you still have questions about the holiday, Amber Ruffin has answers for you.