Today is Juneteenth, and Pharrell Williams is working to make it an official paid holiday across the nation.
The 47-year-old artist appeared on Thursday's episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live! and spoke about his recent trip to his home state of Virginia to advocate for change.
"I just think it's high time that, if we're going to think about what independence and what freedom really looks like, ours was never really acknowledged," he told Jimmy Kimmel. "I mean, yeah, there's 47 states that observe it, but that's not a paid holiday. We deserve a paid holiday."
Earlier this week, the "Happy" singer—who shares four kids with wife Helen Lasichanh—spoke at a press conference in which Governor of Virginia Ralph Northam announced he will propose legislation to make Juneteenth a paid state holiday.
"I called him and I just said, 'Man, I just feel like this is important—not only for your own legacy but for the legacy of Virginia. And if you would be willing to officiate this and make this a paid holiday, I will travel for the first time out of my house. Because my wife is not playing no games with this COVID-19. She's not playing no games. I mean, as you know, we have 600 children. So, we can't afford to play any games,'" Williams recalled. "But this is serious because this is for not only me, but this is for, like, my ancestors that absolutely came through on the hull of a ship in Virginia, you know, 400 years ago—over 401 years ago. So, for me, this was incredibly symbolic and it's necessary."
Virginia would be the second state to make Juneteenth a paid holiday. Texas was the first. Williams is calling on other states to follow suit.
Kimmel also asked Williams if there are any traditions when it comes to celebrating Juneteenth. "It just depends on where you are," the Grammy winner replied. "I mean, they definitely sing, 'Lift Every Voice and Sing.' You know, that's going to happen a couple of times that day in a really strong and momentous way. Obviously, we cook out. We barbecue."
He then recalled how he was in a youth chapter of the NAACP as a kid and how the chapter's leader would celebrate Juneteenth. However, Williams said he "never really knew what it was."
"I didn't really put the pieces together until, you know, you get in school and you realize July 4, 1776—really only our white male brother was free from the British monarchy," Williams said, "but his wife was not; African Americans certainly were not and Native Americans absolutely were not. So, this is long overdue. And my only thing is: Listen, man. If you love us, then this holiday is for you, too. It's American history."
Juneteenth, which takes place on June 19, observes the end of slavery in the United States. On this day in 1865, General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas and announced the end of the Civil War—putting into effect the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been signed by President Abraham Lincoln over two and a half years before, and declaring the freedom of enslaved Black people.
Watch the video to see Williams' interview.