PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — All state executive branch employees in Virginia will get Friday, June 19 off, in honor of Juneteenth, Gov. Ralph Northam announced Tuesday.

Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. Governor Northam is working with the General Assembly to make it permanent.

In the press conference Tuesday, Northam was joined by State Senator Louise Lucas, State Senator Mamie Locke and Virginia Beach native Pharrell Williams.

From now on, Virginia will celebrate June 19. On that day in 1865, news of the Emancipation Proclamation reached African Americans in Texas. President Abraham Lincoln issued the order freeing slaves in Confederate states two years earlier. However, it wasn’t until Union soldiers arrived in Galveston that former slaves celebrated freedom.

Northam said this day matters now because it says to Black communities, “Black history is American history.”

“Some might say changing a state holiday is merely a symbolic action, but symbols matter, Northam said. “If they didn’t, people wouldn’t be fighting so hard to keep Confederate flags and statues up. Symbols show what we value. This symbol, this holiday is one step toward reconciliation.”

The move comes several months after legislators voted to end Lee-Jackson Day as a state holiday. Northam states Virginia is the second state to celebrate Juneteenth, after Texas.

Virginia Beach native Pharrell Williams spoke at the announcement, saying this is a big display of progress.

“Black lives matter in the eyes of the commonwealth. I can’t say that is always has, but finally we realize that. Black lives absolutely matter. That is not political, they are lives. They are human beings.”

This Friday, Northam is challenging Virginians to learn about the holiday and understand what it means.

Here is a list of events in Hampton Roads:

Friday

Hampton

The Hampton Branch NAACP has organized & partnered with the Urban League of Hampton Roads, Hampton University, Sentara, and the Va. Department of Health to host a Juneteenth “your health is your wealth” free coronavirus drive-thru testing event on Friday, June 19 from 9 a.m.- noon at the Emancipation Oak parking lot on HU’s campus. Emancipation Drive is down the street from the Hampton University Convocation Center. Free masks will be distributed and more.

Hampton City Hall

A prayer walk organized by pastors and congregation from the Virginia Peninsula’s faith community is being held Friday, June 19 at 6 p.m. The walk will begin at Hampton City Hall and will end at the Emancipation Oak on the campus of Hampton University following a brief program.

Fort Monroe

Black Lives Matter 757 is having a Juneteenth celebration Friday, June 19 from 3 p.m. until 10 p.m. at Oozelfinch Beers & Blending. Organizers say it will be family-friendly and ask participants to “bring your drums, trumpets, signs, and positive vibes.”

York County

York County is partnering with the Virginia State Unit of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to hold a Juneteenth celebration in “one of its facilities.”

The SCLC released the information in a news release Thursday night, but details of the event weren’t clear.

The event “will allow County officials, business and community leaders the opportunity to promote civic engagement in this historic event.”

Norfolk Waterside

The owner of The Dirty Buffalo, Russell Gilbert, is closing all of its Hampton Roads locations Friday in observance of Juneteenth and has partnered with Park Place Elementary School and local non-profit Humanities Behind Bars for a peaceful rally Friday. The walk is beginning at Town Point Park at 11 a.m. Pastor Mike Harris will address the crowd then participants will march through the streets of Downtown Norfolk. It will end at the Dirty Buffalo Colley Avenue location.


Online via Old Dominion University

The ODU office of Community Engagement will host a live virtual tour of the 400th Commemoration art exhibit at the Goode Theatre. The online tour will be guided by Ted Ellis, starting at 4 p.m. in observance of Juneteenth.

It is free, but registration is required. https://www.odu.edu/univevents/calendar/2020/6/art_odu_ted_ellis_vi

Online via Virginia Humanites

The Virginia African American Cultural Resources (VAACR) Task Force will host a Juneteenth online conversation on the state of Black historic preservation in Virginia on June 19 from noon- 1 p.m.

It is free, but registration is required. https://virginiahumanities.org/events/2020/06/self-preservation/

Saturday

Newport News

Peninsula Community leaders are hosting a Juneteenth event on Saturday, June 20.

The Juneteenth Walk for Justice will begin at Newport News police headquarters at 9710 Jefferson Ave. at 10 a.m. and end at the Plaza at Newmarket at approximately noon.


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