On Tuesday (June 16), Governor Ralph Northam announced his proposal to make Juneteenth, a day that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, a paid state holiday in Virginia. Grammy award-winning artist and Virginia native Pharrell also joined the governor during the press conference.
“It’s time we elevate this – not just by and for some Virginians – but one acknowledged and celebrated by all of us, because that’s how important this event is,” said Northam. “It finally shut the door on the enslavement of African-American people. And while it did not end racism, black oppression or violence – it is an important symbol. By commemorating it, we push people to think about the significance of Juneteenth.”
“This is a very special moment. Very special. This is a big display of progress and I’m grateful for Virginia and us leading the way,” said the In My Mind MC.
The NFL recently announced that they will observe Juneteenth as a company holiday this year. “This year, as we work together as a family and in our communities to combat the racial injustices that remain deeply rooted into the fabric of our society, the NFL will observe Juneteenth on Friday, June 19 as a recognized holiday and our league offices will be closed,” NFL Commissioner Goodell said in a statement. “It is a day to reflect on our past, but more importantly, consider how each one of us can continue to show up and band together to work toward a better future.”
Other companies such as Nike, Twitter, Square and Target have also announced that Juneteenth will be a paid holiday for their employees annually. Additionally, Nike also launched a diversity education program. “From June 19 to July 4, we will offer programming and learning opportunities available to all employees on topics specific to racial inequality,” said Nike CEO John Donahoe in a memo sent to employees. “Our expectation is that each of us use this time to continue to educate ourselves and challenge our perspectives and learn. I know that is what I intend to do.”
Do you think more states will follow Virginia’s lead? Watch the full press conference below.