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Denver celebrates Juneteenth as state holiday for the first time

Governor Jared Polis signed Senate Bill 139 into law on May 2 declaring Juneteenth a paid state holiday.

DENVER — This weekend celebrates freedom for African Americans steeped in black history.

"I grew up here in Denver. I've been going to Juneteenth celebrations since I was a kid,” said District 33, State Senator James Coleman.

Those who are newer to the celebration are digging deeper to learn more about this special day known as Juneteenth.

"For those of you all who didn't know what Juneteenth was, I got to be honest with you, I didn't either. Until a few years ago when I moved to Denver,” said State Representative Leslie Herod.

Different experiences but both had one common goal in making progress for African Americans.

“To be part of the passage of Senate Bill 139 here at the state legislature for Juneteenth to be made a state holiday is everything,” Coleman said.

Senator James Coleman and State Representative Leslie Herod worked together to mark June 19 as a statewide holiday.

“As soon as that came out of our mouths we had support from both sides of the aisle we had the governor saying he would sign the bill. Very different atmosphere and I think that shows how far we've come,” Herod said.

It didn’t take much to get other lawmakers and key players to listen.

“It’s important to know while our struggle has changed, it’s not over. And while the slaves and black people have been liberated our fight for freedom is not done. And it’s not won. It’s not won until we can all come together and have the same opportunities as anybody else,” Herod said.

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

On Monday, May 2nd, Governor Jared Polis officially declared Juneteenth a state holiday. June 19, 1865, was the day the last slaves learned about the emancipation proclamation signed by President Abraham Lincoln earlier that year, embracing their freedom.

"It's about the emancipation of African Americans from slavery. But here in Colorado it's about everybody being free. Freedom to be able to live where you want, freedom to be able to work, freedom for education,” Coleman said.

True freedom – more than 150 years later that is finally, being celebrated in full for the first time.

“Colorado we do honor black folks, we do honor black lives, black liberation but we do it together. We do it in celebration. Not only democrats, but democrats, republicans, independents, black, white, brown, everything in between and around the rainbow, we will celebrate together. And I hope folks will join as we celebrate right here in my district in Five Points,” Herod said.

Denver's Juneteenth Celebration will be held Saturday and Sunday from 24th Street to 29th Street along Welton Street in Five Points. Every street will have food, vendors, entertainment, and education on Juneteenth and Denver’s Black community.

RELATED: Juneteenth an official state holiday in Colorado

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