Jun 17, 2022 - News

Colorado celebrates Juneteenth with new laws and a large festival

Illustration of a Black fist wearing a kente cloth bandana.
Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Colorado is preparing to celebrate Juneteenth this weekend, the country's youngest federal holiday.

Why it matters: June 19, 1865, was the day enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, received news that former President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation two years earlier.

Flash-forward: President Biden signed legislation last June in response to a summer of protests following George Floyd's murder.

Zoom in: Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed a law this past May recognizing June 19 as a paid holiday. A Juneteenth flag is now flying at the State Capitol.

  • Denver is also considering making Juneteenth a paid holiday beginning in 2023. Council members introduced the ordinance last month and are expected to approve the measure this coming Monday.

What they're saying: Laquan Austion, founder of The Juneteenth Foundation in Washington, D.C., says people of all races should view June 19 as an American holiday — not one just for Black people.

  • "Think about July 4th," Austion tells Axios. "We celebrate that day for American independence. Juneteenth represents our independence from ourselves. Now we all have the ability to pursue the Founding Fathers' vision."

🥳 How to celebrate: Head to Five Points this Saturday and Sunday for Denver's iconic Juneteenth Music Festival, featuring a parade, live music, food trucks and more.

What else you can do: The new federal holiday should be viewed as more than another day off from work, Austion says. Instead, people can recognize Juneteenth by:

  • Learning: This is a moment to be introspective and ask "Why were people still enslaved in 1865? Why didn't they get the information in Galveston?" he says.
  • Celebrate: Austion says it's important to recognize that for some people, this is a "moment of solace and mourning." But still, people should get out in their communities, go to events and use this as an "opportunity to learn and hear."

The bottom line: "Definitely go out, be an ally, be an asset," Austion says. "But don't be tone deaf and try to hijack it as your own. Don't try to commercialize it. Go out there and enjoy the festivities and learn and celebrate this as Americans."

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