Monday on CNBC, Grammy award-winning musician Pharrell Williams discussed his effort to get Juneteenth declared a national holiday, which he argued should also be a paid holiday.
Williams said, “As Americans we love, and we appreciate Independence Day, but when July 4, 1776 took place, the only ones that were free from the British monarchy were our white brothers. The white sisters could not vote the Native Americans where we get this land from, they were not free and certainly the African-Americans, women, and men, we didn’t have our freedom either in fact if everyone that is listening at home or watching at home just imagined a day or what it feels like to wake up in a world where you don’t own the land, the air, you don’t own anything everything comes from the express permission of your white brothers some of them.”
“By the way, so when you think about you know June 19, and I’m giving you the background, you think about June 19 that marks a two-year period where we were supposed to be freed, but we had not been still,” he continued. “So when that information reached Galveston, Texas, oh, okay, now we’re free we were supposed to be free two years earlier. For us, we feel like the day that we were freed, everyone was freed. So why not make that a paid holiday? We deserve that, you know? There is a word that scares so many people. It is called reparations, and we deserve that, too. I think the first thing we should do is really, you know, we don’t want to take away the Independence Day that we have, we just also want a day that is inclusive of everyone.”
Williams added, “Our biggest issue as a nation is that we always feel like we know how to read the room, maybe because we own the room. But perhaps we have forgotten who actually did the labor. So the action points here, talking to corporations and legislatures, and leaders around the world is making Juneteenth a paid holiday for employees in the United States. Then we would like a day to recognize the emancipation of enslaved people.”
Host David Faber asked, “I’m curious what is your sense here, what will define success for you. MLK Day has been a national holiday for a long time. I think only about 40% of employers give it as a paid holiday still, and that is with many years of it being a national holiday — what are your hopes here and what are you hearing not just those that already support it, but perhaps those on the fence?”
Williams replied, “Well, we have to face our hubris. We have to face our privilege. And it is absolutely hubris and privilege for someone to not adhere to a state-regulated paid holiday. For me, I would love to just say yeah, around the world, we have acknowledged the emancipation of enslaved people, but that is not enough. Before you can get to that part, you have to start with your heart. You to start with your heart, and we have convenient blind spots in this nation, and we’re comfortable with being tone-deaf.”
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