The popular artist and Virginia Beach native has been at the forefront of proposing Juneteenth, the day which celebrates the end of slavery in the United States, as a national holiday.
“Juneteenth deserves the same level of recognition and celebration,” said Pharrell at a press conference. “July 4, 1776, not everybody was free and celebrating their Independence Day. So here’s our day. And if you love us, it will be your day too.”
During the announcement, Northam said the holiday is just “one step toward reconciliation.”
“It’s time we elevate this,” said Northam,” not just a celebration by and for some Virginians, but one acknowledged and celebrated by all of us.”
Added Pharrell: “This is about observation and it’s about celebration. This is a chance for our government, our corporations and our citizens to all stand in solidarity with their African-American brothers and sisters. This year, Juneteenth will look like no other Juneteenth before. People of all ages and races — our advocates and allies as well included — will come together in solidarity for black people like never before.”
Although the holiday, which is this Friday, will be for executive branch employees, Northam said he would stand by legislation to make it an official legal holiday that would apply to schools, courts and local governments.
This marks the governor’s latest move in reckoning with the history of Virginia as a Confederate State. Back in April, Northam signed a bill into law that removed the Lee-Jackson Day holiday, which honored Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, and opted in favor of making Election Day a holiday. He also announced he would be removing the Confederate monument honoring Robert E. Lee, but the effort has since been temporarily blocked by a lawsuit.
The announcement comes after nationwide protests have continued to take place against racial injustices seen across the United States. The death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed on memorial day while in Minneapolis police custody after an officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes, is what initially sparked the protests that now have the public demanding police and criminal justice reform.