Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Michael Hancock will get hands-off treatment at this weekend's Juneteenth celebration

As a teenager, Michael Hancock told Channel 4 that one day he wanted to be Denver's first black mayor. Wellington Webb beat him to that title, but still, Hancock made history with one of the strangest-ever starts to a mayoral term. He was elected to the office by a huge margin that showed he was the clear choice of voters, regardless of their race -- and regardless of the Denver Players prostitution rumors that put his honeymoon on hold.

"Hands off Hancock!," says Brother Jeff , who has a cultural center on Welton Street, the historic heart of Denver's black community. "Mayor-elect Michael Hancock, his family and supporters did not have an opportunity to celebrate his/our tremendous victory before Hancock's character and values came under attack."

But they will this weekend. After some rocky times, including an outright cancellation in 2007, Juneteenth -- the holiday that marks the day when slaves in Texas finally learned that they'd been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation -- has again taken hold in Five Points. This year's Juneteenth event, which has grown into a celebration of freedoms everywhere and is presented by the Friends of Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library, starts at 10 a.m. tomorrow with a march that leaves Manual High School and heads into the heart of Five Points. The party continues until 6 p.m., with entertainers filling a stage at 1700 East 28th Avenue.

But first, Brother Jeff has also reestablished the Juneteenth Senior Luncheon, which will be held today. "Our seniors deserve to be included in all aspects of community," he says. ""Without these pioneers, we would have no traditions to celebrate."

Those pioneers also gave reason for would-be politicos like a young Michael Hancock to aim high. Without them, we might not have had Denver's second black mayor.

More from our Calhoun: Wake-Up Call archive: "Michael Hancock, Denver's new mayor, had a good campaign -- and a lucky office."

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun