Juneteenth, the day that celebrates the emancipation of African-American slaves, will now be a paid city holiday for Aurora employees, thanks to a city council vote.
The holiday, which is celebrated annually on June 19, has received renewed national interest following a movement from Congressional Democrats to establish Juneteenth as a federal holiday.
Colorado has recognized Juneteenth as a ceremonial holiday since 2004, but it is not designated as a state paid holiday.
The proposal to adopt Juneteenth as a city holiday barely passed, with Mayor Mike Coffman breaking the tie. However, it only passed with the compromise of cutting the Friday after Thanksgiving to keep Aurora’s number of paid holidays at 10.
Ryan Lantz, Aurora’s director of human resources, said observing the holiday would be important in recognizing the city’s diverse communities.
“Our consent decree does have focus on diversity, equity and inclusion,” he said.
Juneteenth already has a major presence in the Denver metro area. Last year, thousands of people attended a Juneteenth festival in the Five Points neighborhood, which activists hope can be a blueprint for cities across the country. And those crowds have been partying on Juneteenth for decades.
Aurora joins 35 other Colorado cities and counties to observe Juneteenth as a paid holiday, including Lakewood, Littleton and Golden.