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Ellen DeGeneres, Pharrell Williams call for paid holiday on Juneteenth



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To remember Juneteenth, USA TODAY staff members read an excerpt of the Emancipation Proclamation.

USA TODAY

Pharrell Williams, Ellen DeGeneres, “Black-ish” creator Kenya Barris and CNN host Van Jones are calling for Juneteenth to become a paid holiday in the United States. 

The stars, along with Global Citizen and CEO advisory firm TEneo, launched Monday The Juneteenth Pledge to persuade businesses around the country to acknowledge and celebrate the holiday, which marks the anniversary of the day enslaved people in Texas were read the Emancipation Proclamation, more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed emancipation into law.  

“I love America for its progression, but I’m really in love with the untapped potential of this country,” Williams said in a news release. “It was incredible to have powerful minds come together and really listen and be open to celebrating Juneteenth as a paid holiday. These companies influence which way the wind blows, they influence the economy and this was a very meaningful step in the right direction.”

Brands including Adidas, Airbnb, Starbucks and Under Armour have so far agreed to the pledge. In a tweet Monday morning, Williams called the “hundreds of CEOs and companies (who) stepped forward to publicly observe, honor and celebrate Juneteenth” a “step in the right direction” and called on companies to do more by signing and committing to the pledge. 

“This is a time to be on the right side of history,” DeGeneres added in a release. “As a white person I cannot do enough. My wish is for everyone to join together in this fight.”

In addition to making Juneteenth a paid holiday nationwide, the petition calls for the holiday to be spent as a day “to recognize the emancipation of enslaved people,” promote a workplace environment of “self-development and respect for all cultures” and for employers to encourage fellow business leaders to follow suit. 

More: ‘Miss Juneteenth’ is the American Dream deferred: The movie’s most poignant moments

“Slavery is the recessive scar that all of us share as Americans and we will continue to share in the effects of that scar if we don’t actively address the impact it’s had on our country and, most especially, on Black people in this country,” Barris added in a statement.

“Celebrating Juneteenth and all that it represents from an American standpoint not only acknowledges the wounds of our past but helps guide us towards healing. Right now, we’re part of a unified movement and there is so much we can accomplish in coming together. CEOs can serve as agents of change by helping to shift us forward. Honoring Juneteenth as a holiday is not only a way to unite companies in creating positive change, but also a way to unite employees, consumers, communities and hopefully our country in doing the same.”

More: 25 books for kids and adults to celebrate Juneteenth and reflect on history of slavery

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