RICHMOND, Va. - Governor Ralph Northam was joined by Virginia Beach native Pharrell Williams Tuesday to announce that he will be proposing legislation making Juneteenth a state holiday.
Northam said Virginia has acknowledged Juneteenth (June 19) with a written proclamation. He added that it is time we elevate that so it is celebrated by everyone.
Juneteenth is the oldest known commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States. It marks the day in 1865 that enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, the last of the former Confederate states to abolish slavery, finally heard that the Civil War had ended, and learned that the Emancipation Proclamation had made them free nearly two years earlier.
Northam said while it does not end racism, black oppression or violence the day is an important symbol.
It marked the end of slavery then but now it says to black communities that it’s is everyone’s shared history and we recognize it together, Northam said.
The proposed legislation would make Juneteenth a state holiday and would make it a paid holiday for state employees.
The commemoration will start this Friday for a paid day off for executive branch state employees.
"This year Juneteenth will look like no other Juneteenth before," Pharrell said. He added, “Finally we recognize that black lives absolutely matter.”
Pharrell said Juneteenth needs the same amount of celebration as July 4. He urged business owners to give the paid day off so everyone can stand in solidarity.