At Cortez Veterans Park on Friday, about 40 people attended the Juneteenth holiday event that honors the end of slavery in the United States on June 19, 1865.
The commemoration is widely celebrated across the country and is the also known as Black Independence Day and Emancipation Day.
The peaceful Cortez event emphasized freedom and equal rights for all people, and included the movements of Black Lives Matter, Indigenous Rights Matter and LGBTQ rights.
“We are here to show our pride in the community, that we are all together, that we all matter,” said organizer Silverton House-Whitehorse. “We need to be strong together, rise together or we will fall together.”
In 1865, there was dancing in the streets celebrating the freedom that most people take for granted, he said.
“Now is the time to make it a federal holiday,” House-Whitehorse said.
Speeches called for compassion, racial equality and respect toward each other.
“Listen to each other, and not just hear one side of the story,” said Zoey Culpepper.
Accepting cultural and racial differences makes society stronger, she said.
“As a member of Gen Z, I can promise you change will be made. No longer will people look at someone based on the color of their skin, we notice their personality and their heart,” Culpepper said.
One woman spoke of a recent DNA test that showed her cultural diversity, including Cuban, English, Spanish, African and Native American.
“This tells you how connected we all are, despite what people think our differences are,” she said.
“It’s good you show your love for us Natives,” said Jeremy of the Ute Mountain Tribe to applause.
Juneteenth is a “heavy day, a heavy history. African-Americans are still fighting for their rights,” said one woman.
The momentum for equal rights and stopping racism needs to stay strong, House-Whitehorse said.
“Let’s leave the children a better world. Each life is important, have faith and hope, and vote. Our light cannot be diminished,” he said.
In 1863, the Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation that abolished slavery, but it was not until after the Civil War in 1865 that all slaves were freed.
June 19, 1865, is the date Union soldiers arrived at Galveston, Texas, and announced that the war was over and the enslaved were free.
Juneteenth is recognized as a holiday in 47 states, including by Colorado in 2004. This year is its 155th anniversary, and there is an effort to make it a federal holiday.
In June 2019, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution that designated June 19, 2019, as Juneteenth Independence Day to commemorate the end of slavery, but it has not been approved by the House.
Durango held its first Juneteenth celebration in 2017.