For as long as I can remember there is always a big celebration of Juneteenth in Denver.
Juneteenth in Denver will be celebrated this year in Five Points over the whole weekend of June 18-19. Last year over 50,000 people were in attendance.
There will be a big music festival, poetry readings, tons of fantastic food, and of course, tons of Black entrepreneurs/vendors. Go hungry, you won’t be disappointed and wear comfortable shoes, you might want to dance after eating and shopping.
The Juneteenth Parade is Sunday from 9:30 – 11:30 a.m. and starts at Manual High School – 1700 E 28th Ave Denver.
Don’t forget – since this is an observed Holiday – many businesses will be closed on Monday the 20th.
What is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth (officially Juneteenth National Independence Day and also known as Jubilee Day, Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, and Black Independence Day) is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the emancipation of enslaved Black Americans. It is also often observed for celebrating African-American culture. Originating in Galveston, Texas, it has been celebrated annually on June 19 in various parts of the United States since 1865. The day was recognized as a federal holiday on June 17, 2021, when President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law. Juneteenth’s commemoration is on the anniversary date of the June 19, 1865, announcement of General Order No. 3 by Union Army General Gordon Granger, proclaiming freedom for enslaved people in Texas, which was the last state of the Confederacy with institutional slavery.
The holiday is considered the “longest-running African-American holiday” and has been called “America’s second Independence Day”. Juneteenth is celebrated on the third Saturday in June. Historian Mitch Kachun considers that celebrations of the end of slavery have three goals: “to celebrate, to educate, and to agitate”. Early celebrations consisted of baseball, fishing, and rodeos. Celebrations were also characterized by elaborate large meals and people wearing their best clothing. It was common for formerly enslaved people and their descendants to make a pilgrimage to Galveston. As early festivals received news coverage, Janice Hume and Noah Arceneaux consider that they “served to assimilate African-American memories within the dominant ‘American story’.
Observance today is primarily in local celebrations. In many places, Juneteenth has become a multicultural holiday. Traditions include public readings of the Emancipation Proclamation, singing traditional songs such as “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, and reading of works by noted African-American writers, such as Ralph Ellison and Maya Angelou. Celebrations include picnics, rodeos, street fairs, cookouts, family reunions, park parties, historical reenactments, blues festivals, and Miss Juneteenth contests. Red food and drinks are traditional during the celebrations, including red velvet cake and strawberry soda.
Juneteenth celebrations often include lectures and exhibitions on African-American culture. The modern holiday places much emphasis upon teaching about African-American heritage. Karen M. Thomas wrote in Emerge that “community leaders have latched on to [Juneteenth] to help instill a sense of heritage and pride in black youth.” Celebrations are commonly accompanied by voter registration efforts, the performing of plays, and retelling stories. The holiday is also a celebration of soul food and other food with African-American influences. In Tourism Review International, Anne Donovan and Karen DeBres write that “Barbecue is the centerpiece of most Juneteenth celebrations”
Juneteenth became a state holiday in Texas in 1980, and a number of other states subsequently followed suit. In 2021 Juneteenth was made a federal holiday. The day is also celebrated outside the United States, being used by organizations in a number of countries to recognize the end of slavery and to honor the culture and achievements of African Americans.
If you aren’t from Denver – things to do on Juneteenth:
Find an event in your neighborhood
Host your own backyard party
Cook some traditional foods
Support Black-owned businesses
Listen to Black artistS
Watch Black TV shows and movies
Read books written by Black authors and poets