The Denverites are happy because after a long year the Juneteenth is finally around the corner. In remembrance of the late emancipation of Texas slaves more than two years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19th each year, is a festival of freedom. Every year in mid-June, the Five Points neighborhood organizes the Juneteenth Music Festival. With food, music, activities, and most importantly, education and self-improvement, the festival aims to honor a shining moment in African American history and celebrate black art. Though it’s a different format from previous years due to COVID-19, the Denver Juneteeth celebrations are actually moving forward this weekend.
Unlike 2020, which saw a completely virtual June 10th, Coloradans will be happy to know that this year’s celebrations will be a mix of in-person and live broadcasts. Last year’s COVID-friendly online festival reached more than 200,000 people and allowed organizers to reimagine what celebrating June 10th would be like. Now that the basics are in place, they can refocus and realign their efforts to fulfill plans for a safe outdoor celebration this year.
In addition, this year’s celebrations will not only follow last summer’s historic Black Lives Matter protests, but for the first time since its inception, the Juneteenth will be considered an official memorial day recognized by the City of Denver.
“This long overdue recognition honors the freedom, history and achievement of African Americans, renews Denver’s commitment to justice, diversity and inclusion and opens the door for residents, especially our young people, to be enlightened about this moment in American history – to learn from its teachings and to accept and understand its impact on modern culture,“Remarked Mayor Hancock as he declared Juneteenth a Memorial Day.
Its influence on modern culture is due to the long and rich history of Juneteenth in Denver. It started with the great migration of blacks from Texas to Denver, but details of the celebration can be traced back to a notable Coloradan – Otha P. Rice Sr. In 1953, the Five Points entrepreneur opened his Rice’s Tap Room and Oven restaurant to bring the community together and celebrate their legacy. In doing so, he united the community and established many of the traditions that you will find today in the celebrations of the 18th century.
Check out the past, present, and future of Denver’s iconic Juneteenth Music Festival
At Rice’s get-togethers there was soul food, red kool-aid and passionate music. In modern celebrations, the participants find a lot in common. Guests can indulge themselves at local black owned and “cookout” style restaurants while pampering their ears with talented local musicians including Danae Simone and DJ Jazzy Jeff, among others.
“Justice and opportunity are at the heart of our supplier and music selection process. We want to make sure that as many people from our community as possible can showcase their products and services to tens of thousands of people, ”said Erica Wright, Creative Director of the Juneteenth Music Festival. “And, We would like to give the performers the opportunity to present their art on the Juneteenth platform and at the same time be compensated for their talent. “
The careful review process that was taken into account when selecting the artists and vendors will make the three day festival full of fun activities for guests to enjoy. This year, the large-scale music celebration usually held at the heart of Five Points will instead be held at the Levitt Pavilion and will feature alongside Rachel Bailey, the Grand Alliance and KDJ Above 112.
Denver Pride and Juneteenth have coincided with the same weekend for many years. But for the first time, the PrideFest planners at the Colfax Center cleared the way for the June celebrations, postponed Denver Pride for a weekend and introduced Black Pride – a celebration of the Black LGBTQ + community.
A common goal of the LGBTQ + and Black community is to accommodate, create and maintain safe spaces. As Pride and Juneteenth work together this year, the organizations are helping the community come together and connect.
“The LGBTQ + community and the black community have worked together from the start. It is important to recognize people of color. The BOur goal this year is to support colored communities, especially queer blacks, transsexuals, non-binary and indigenous people, ”said Dr. Tara Jae from Youthseen “We’re not seen often, so it’s important to be seen and heard – to really be heard. It’s part of our healing process. “
Denver Pride also helps identify queer color communities in its entertainment. In particular, the Gospel Drag Brunch on June 20th in the X-Bar features prominent Black Queens, Krystal Towers and Felony Misdemeanor. Musician Marcy Smith will also open the weekend with a moving performance by Black Anthem at The Strange Fruit Of Black Excellence Gala on June 17th at the Denver Botanic Gardens.
President Barack Obama said it best when he described Juneteenth: “[Juneteenth] was never a celebration of victory or an acceptance of things as they are. It is a festival of progress. It is an affirmation that in spite of the most painful parts of our history, change is possible – and so much still remains to be done Keep the back of your mind, and it’s more important than ever to celebrate and involve more community in this historic holiday.
See the full lineup below:
15th June: Support the Juneteenth Music Festival by having lunch or dinner at one of 14 Colorado Cheba Hut locations for Juneteenth Eats.
Stream the Juniteenth Music Festival, starting 18th of June, In the Juniteenth Music Festival Website Festival or the # IamJuneteenth website. Sign the petition on make Juneteenth a National holiday.
All photos courtesy of the Juneteenth Music Festival official website.