By Associated Press - Tuesday, February 23, 2021

DENVER (AP) - The Denver City Council declared Juneteenth an official commemorative holiday in the city, elevating the commemoration of the end of slavery in the U.S. from the status of a ceremonial holiday.

The council on Monday unanimously passed a bill to set an annual official observance of Juneteenth on the Saturday closest to June 19, The Denver Post reported.

Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery in the United States and the delivery of a message on June 19, 1865, telling slaves in Galveston, Texas, that they were free.

The message delivered by Union soldiers followed the cessation of the Civil War, but came more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

The holiday began in Texas and has expanded to the majority of U.S. states and Washington, D.C.

Colorado began recognizing Juneteenth as a ceremonial holiday in 2004.

Mayor Michael Hancock and council member Chris Herndon proposed the holiday recognition earlier this month.

Denver’s Juneteenth celebration in the Five Points area dates to 1953 and often includes a large parade, musical acts, food and booths.

Much of the annual event was conducted virtually last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, while some people held a silent march to call attention to police brutality.

Council member Candi CdeBaca said the proclamation “is a notable symbolic gesture,” but she wants to see the event “accompanied by real action that dismantles the oppression of Black people.”

“If we pass yet another proclamation about race and racism or Black freedom without action - such as saving legacy businesses that are rapidly disappearing from Five Points - I suspect we are only maintaining an illusion of freedom just to say we have done something noteworthy for Black History Month, especially for a celebration that has already been part of Denver’s history for generations,” CdeBaca said.

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