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Town of Erie celebrates Juneteenth with first Black mayor

The town of Erie is preparing to celebrate Juneteenth for a second time. This time as a state-paid holiday and with the town's first Black mayor.

ERIE, Colo. — Erie, Colorado is a town with a population of about 30,000 people. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, most people who live there are white.  

"Erie is actually 0.19% Black. So, it's a lot less concentrated than even Denver or Aurora,” said Mayor Justin Brooks.

Brooks is a part of that fraction becoming a transplant of Erie after moving from Houston, Texas 13 years ago. He and his family now call Erie home.

"Erie has really embraced my family and embraced us in their community. It really has been a great place for us to raise our children,” he said.

RELATED: Denver man will co-conduct the first all-Black symphony orchestra at Hollywood Bowl

As the first newly elected black mayor in Erie, he wants to create a more pleasant and welcoming place for those who look like him.

"Making people recognize there is a place for not only African-Americans to experience their culture in Erie. But it's also a way for us to share a piece of our culture with those who live among us,” Brooks said.

A big part of building a better community begins this weekend educating the town on black history in America that many don’t know about, Juneteenth. June 19, 1865, is the day slaves learned they were free after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Abraham Lincoln months prior.

"We're going to be teaching our community and those who visit us about the significance of Juneteenth. What it is means to the African American population not only in Colorado but in the country,” he said.

RELATED: Denver celebrates Juneteenth as state holiday for the first time

This weekend's Juneteenth Celebration is hosted by a local non-profit "Being Better Neighbors." It'll be held Saturday on Briggs Street from Noon until 4. There will be vendors, entertainment, and a chance to meet your black neighbors.

Nearly 5,000 people attended last year’s celebration. Mayor Brooks hopes to top that this year.

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