Denver’s Juneteenth parade took a break in 2020 – like a lot of things – but the emancipation celebration was back in Five Points and Whittier this weekend. While the Juneteenth Music Festival is the latest iteration of the event, the celebration is a tradition that dates back to the 1950s.
The celebration has long been a way to drive business toward Denver’s Black economy. Rapid Gentrification in Five Points means there aren’t a whole lot of Black-owned businesses left on Welton Street, and those that have persisted felt even more pressure during the pandemic. A lot of folks here were happy that vaccines rolled out in time to make the gathering safe to attend this year.
There was also a new vibe attached to the events this year. President Joe Biden had just two days earlier signed a bill into law making Juneteenth an official federal holiday. Denver’s Black leaders hoped for decades that the day would become a staple of the nation’s collective consciousness. While the holiday designation was a symbolic win, many people still want to see the country take more substantive action towards racial justice.
“We need tangibles along with symbolic things. So I appreciate the effort,” Butterfly White, who marched with members of the Colorado Democratic Party, told Denverite. “But we need more.”
This story has been updated to clarify that Juneteenth celebrations began in Denver in the 1950s.