Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Wake-Up Call: Juneteenth, round two

For decades, Denver could boast the largest Juneteenth festival in the country, an annual commemoration of the day that slaves in Texas finally learned they'd been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation -- celebrated in Five Points, the heart of the city's African-American community.

But over the years, Juneteenth in Denver dwindled, and in 2007, it disappeared altogether. Christopher Columbus was partly to blame: In order to cope with the inevitable, and ugly, competition for Columbus Day parade permits, several years ago Denver changed its permitting process to a lottery. And in 2006, the Five Points Business Association -- which had organized the Juneteenth parade along Welton Street for more than forty years -- discovered that a nearby church had won the Juneteenth parade permit that day. The competition wound up killing off both.

Last year, though, with the help of Wellington Webb and Elbra Wedgeworth, a group of Five Points boosters resurrected Juneteenth. And it will be back again this Saturday, still going -- and growing. As Five Points continues to gentrify and reshape itself for the future, it's more critical than ever that this city remember its past.

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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

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