Durango residents celebrated freedom Sunday afternoon at the Durango Community Recreation Center. About 50 people came together at the city’s first Juneteenth event to combat hate and share African culture.
Juneteenth is a nationwide holiday commemorating the June 19, 1865, announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas and the emancipation of African-American slaves throughout the south.
The event was free and organized by the Durango Peace and Justice coalition, along with several other local organizations.
“Juneteenth is important because Durango is growing into a small city and we need to be encompassing of all races, ethnicities and sexualities. In going about this, if we become more inclusive, we will by default have more people come to this town as tourists and people who live here and settle here,” said Anthony Nocella, a Fort Lewis College professor and Durango Peace and Justice board member.
Social advocacy groups such as Save the Kids and the FLC Black Student Union had informational booths at the event, and food was provided by Marianna’s Restaurant, Fran’s Dessert and New Mexico Restaurant.
Attendees took turns sharing stories, songs, dance and poetry during an open-mic session. One performer was Brenda Hollingsworth-Marley, an artist and educator from Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Marley traveled from Albuquerque with her daughter, Neema Kamaria, who had a booth for her business, Kamaria Creations. Kamaria sold an assortment of teas, soaps, clothing and jewelry.
During open-mic, Marley performed a song, worked with puppets and told an interactive story about a greedy spider from African folklore.
“Freedom has not been free,” Marley said. “When we do not honor our differences, we can forget why it’s important to work together.”
Marley said there is “a sickness in this country and this world,” referring to hate crimes and the multiple killings of unarmed black men by police over recent years.
“We need to combat it (the sickness) or this vicious cycle of hatred will continue. This will help to change the world. We can all do a little bit to help,” she said.
The celebration concluded with an awards ceremony recognizing outstanding members of the black community.