In Denver, the event used to be a week-long affair, complete with a carnival, that beckoned friends and families across the nation to Five Points for a festive reunion.
Juneteenth celebrates the final emancipation of slaves after the American Civil War. In June 1865, Union Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and notified hundreds of thousands of slaves that they’d been freed two years prior by the Emancipation Proclamation.
For more than a century, the occasion has been celebrated across the country with a focus on African-American community empowerment. In Denver, the event used to be a week-long affair, complete with a carnival, that beckoned friends and families across the nation to Five Points for a festive reunion.
According to Five Points documentarian and activist Brother Jeff Fard, Juneteenth festivities faded in the 90s at the mercy of neighborhood violence and economic pressures. He, for one, is delighted that organizer Norman Harris III and a “new generation” of leadership has re-established the festivities. This is Harris’ sixth year at the helm, and the first that he’s presented awards to community members, including Fard, for their leadership and advancement of Denver’s African-American community.
“That there’s a little bit of fierce in everyone,” DragOn’s writer Jessica Austgen said, “you just need to be true to yourself and let it shine.”
Both genre and gender-bending, “DragOn: May The Fierce Be With You” is the superhero’s-journey-meets-drag-show extravaganza, currently nestled in at the Garner Galleria Theatre. It’s the latest spectacle put on by Off-Center, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts’ experimental contingent who’s mission is to bring audiences a taste of the unique.
“It’s for everyone,” Hanzon said, “All religions, all faiths, all colors, all shapes.”
Lonnie Hanzon’s backyard and home studio is filled to the brim with odds and ends that wind up in his artistic creations. This week, amid the pool filled with giant orbs and an informal mannequin community, one could find a rainbow altar, shimmering in all its partially constructed glory.
This is the “Shrine to Humanity,” produced, in part, from supplies in Hanzon’s found-object collection. It is to become a symbol of spirituality that he and collaborator Paolo Wellman hope will bring balance to Denver PrideFest.
On Saturday the tradition continues, beginning with the annual parade that will leave Manual High School at 11 a.m. Organizers expect 20,000 people to attend.
It was two years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation that General Robert E. Lee surrendered to the Union army in April, 1865. Though slavery had been abolished on paper, the deep south was still under Confederate control and slavery persisted across the landscape until their army fell.
When the news made it down to Texas, former slaves had much reason to celebrate. Juneteenth, as the emancipation holiday became known, is rooted in these 19th century celebrations that centered around communal bar-b-cue pits, community service and self-improvement. The tradition continues this Saturday, beginning with the annual parade that will leave Manual High School at 11 a.m. Organizers expect 20,000 people to attend.