Black-ish creator Kenya Barris will team with Grammy-winning producer Pharrell Williams on a stage musical inspired by Juneteenth, the African American holiday tradition celebrating the final day of United States slavery.
The subject was the focus of a 2017 Black-ish episode titled “Juneteenth: The Musical.” For the planned stage musical, Barris will write the libretto with Peter Saji (Black-ish), while Williams will write and compose the music and produce under his company i am OTHER with partner Mimi Valdés. Saji will also produce.
“The acknowledgement and celebration of Juneteenth as an American and possibly international holiday is something that I would put in the life goals column for me,” said Barris in a statement. “For Peter and me to be able to team up with Pharrell on such an important project like this is something that neither of us in a billion years would have thought possible.
“For us, this project isn’t about numbers; it’s about humanity,” Barris continued. “Slavery is America’s recessive gene and it’s time we all dealt with it and what better way to have an audience swallow this dose of medicine than with amazing music and raw, honest, jaw dropping comedy?”
Said Williams, “I dream about projects like this. Kenya and Peter are geniuses and Juneteenth will change culture and change history. We couldn’t sign up fast enough. We are thrilled to collaborate with them.”
Plot details were not disclosed, but the musical is expected to focus on two different African American families, one in contemporary times and the other during the Civil War era.
Juneteenth marks the day – June 19, 1865 – that U.S. Army ships forced Texas landowners to free the last of their slaves, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Today’s Barris-Williams announcement noted that, following the airing of the “Juneteenth” Black-ish episode, the date has become recognized by Apple’s iCalendar program, with a “movement afoot to make it a national holiday.”
Barris is represented by CAA, Artists First and Morris Yorn. Williams is represented by WME, Ron Laffitte of Patriot Management and Caron Veazy. Saji is represented by UTA and Hansen Jacobson.