Pharrell has announced that his home state of Virginia will recognize Juneteenth – the day that celebrates the end of US slavery – as a paid-state holiday. Virginia’s decision could pave the way for other states to follow (Texas also recognizes the day as a paid holiday, celebrated as Emancipation Day).
Pharrell was joined by governor Ralph Northam to discuss the new state legislature, and in a moving speech opened up about his own ancestors, who were slaves, and how incredibly meaningful this holiday is to African-Americans. “This is a very special moment. This is a big display of progress and I’m grateful for Virginia and us leading the way.”
He continued, “From this moment on, when you look at the vastness of the night sky and you see those stars moving up there, know that those stars are our African ancestors dancing in celebration because their lives are finally being acknowledged. And I can’t say it too many times today… a paid holiday. It’s not the end of it, it’s merely just the beginning. Their lives matter. Their descendants’ lives matter. Black Lives Matter in the eyes of the Commonwealth. I can’t say that it always has but finally we recognize that Black lives absolutely matter. And that’s not political. They’re lives. They’re human beings.”
According to Billboard, several music companies are also taking steps to recognize Juneteenth as a holiday. Warner Music Group, Spotify, Sony, and BMG will be observing June 19 as a company holiday.
Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, marks the end of slavery in the US on June 19, 1865. However, it hasn’t been officially observed as a holiday until now. Pharrell expects Virginia “to lead by example” and for other states to follow suit. Watch his full speech below.