DENVER, Colorado — On Saturday, hundreds gathered outside Manual High School in Denver for the Juneteenth Parade.
The celebration commemorates June 19, 1865, when Major General Gordon Granger landed in Galveston, Texas with news the war was over and the enslaved were free.
The Union General read the order more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation took effect.
"This is our Independence Day," Denver School Board Director Tay Anderson told 9NEWS.
In addition to the celebration, Saturday's parade provided an opportunity to support black-owned businesses in the area.
This year's Juneteenth comes as Coloradans have spent the previous weeks protesting the killing of George Floyd and other African Americans like Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.
"We may not be in physical chains but I still don’t believe that we’re free or that we’ve reached the mountaintop Martin Luther King dreamed about," Anderson said ahead of the parade.
This year, Norman Harris, Executive Director of the Juneteenth Music Festival, wanted to broaden the celebration's reach.
"We are making a push to be more inclusive so more folks can understand why it’s important that we celebrate this as a holiday," Harris told 9NEWS.
Lyric Davis performed in the Juneteenth Parade with the Queens of Dynasty Dance team.
Like Harris, Davis believes broad community support is "what we need, this is what we’ve been wanting."
The slogan this year is "I am Juneteenth. It means if you're not free then I'm not free," Harris explained.
Justin Claiborne, who plays Pops on Netflix's #blackaf, also joined the parade.
A native of Colorado Springs, Claiborne told 9NEWS this was his first Juneteenth parade.
"This is actually my first one. I’m super excited about it. I love the community that’s here and this amazing, big group," he said.
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In the midst of a pandemic, large gatherings require extra consideration from organizers of Saturday's parade and the Juneteenth Music Festival to be held on June 18.
"We’re still going to stay connected. We’re now connecting ourselves through our devices," Harris told 9NEWS.
For the first time, the festival will be held virtually with a live stream of programming available from 8 AM to 10 PM.
"We’re pretty excited about what people are going to see next week," Harris said.
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