LOOK: Juneteenth celebrates African-American dreams and achievements on Welton Street

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.

Danny Perkins gets airborn as the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity crosses Welton Street. The Juneteenth parade in Five Points, June 17, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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Danny Perkins gets airborn as the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity crosses Welton Street. The Juneteenth parade in Five Points, June 17, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) juneteenth; five points; black history; kevinjbeaty; denver; colorado; denverite; street fair; festival; welton street;
Danny Perkins gets airborne as the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity crosses Welton Street during the Juneteenth parade in Five Points, June 17, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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.

Norman Harris III watches Mayor Hancock address the crowd on stage for the first annual "dream big" awards. Juneteenth in Five Points, June 17, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) juneteenth; five points; black history; kevinjbeaty; denver; colorado; denverite; street fair; festival; welton street;
Norman Harris III watches Mayor Hancock address the crowd on stage for the first annual “dream big” awards. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

In all, Harris recognized 10 people, both absent and in attendance. His keynote speaker, social justice attorney and Manual high school alumni Ryan Haygood, was one honoree who traveled across the country and home to Denver like so many used to when the event was a week long.

Much of the event looked like a normal parade and street fair. People wandered through a sea of vendors with beer and large turkey legs. But Haygood’s speech revealed the deeper social imperative that’s central to Juneteenth celebrations.

Candidate for Denver School Board Tay Anderson speaks with fellow Manual High School alumni, social justice attorney Ryan Haygood. Juneteenth in Five Points, June 17, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) juneteenth; five points; black history; kevinjbeaty; denver; colorado; denverite; street fair; festival; welton street;
Candidate for Denver School Board Tay Anderson speaks with fellow Manual High School alumni, social justice attorney Ryan Haygood. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

“I think for us, Juneteenth is really a visual symbol that you can be free at law, but it’s meaningless if your freedom is not enforced,” he said, referencing the slavery that persisted in the Confederacy despite Abraham Lincoln’s Proclamation.

Then, linking that 19th Century struggle to the present, he said, “If we want to fight police brutality, if we want to interrupt systems that deny us human dignity and respect…that’s gonna have to happen from the ground up in our communities.”

And it seems that groundswell that Haygood called for is, in part, being answered by the mere resurrection of Juneteenth celebrations on Welton Street. Brother Jeff Fard said he has “nothing but praise” for organizer Norman Harris for bringing back what he said is an important tradition. He hopes the seeds Harris has planted might grow into another multi-day event.

Michael Walker, AKA DJ Cavem, is presented with an honorary doctorate degree from the Denver Institute of Urban Studies and Adult College for his work on healthy living and social justice. Juneteenth in Five Points, June 17, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) juneteenth; five points; black history; kevinjbeaty; denver; colorado; denverite; street fair; festival; welton street;
Michael Walker, AKA DJ Cavem, is presented with an honorary doctorate degree from the Denver Institute of Urban Studies and Adult College for his work on healthy living and social justice. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

There’s plenty of work to be done to keep the tradition alive, but Harris is optimistic.

“We all have to work together,” he said. “We pride ourselves on bringing the people together to have something like this.”

Azatiy and Teaionna ride in a pink Escallade. The Juneteenth parade in Five Points, June 17, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) juneteenth; five points; black history; kevinjbeaty; denver; colorado; denverite; street fair; festival; welton street;
Azatiy and Teaionna ride in a pink toy car. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Dazzling Diamonds Coach Amber Adams feeds water to 5 year old Jahnayla so she doesn't mess up her makeup. The Juneteenth parade in Five Points, June 17, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) juneteenth; five points; black history; kevinjbeaty; denver; colorado; denverite; street fair; festival; welton street;
Dazzling Diamonds coach Amber Adams feeds water to 5-year-old Jahnayla so she doesn’t mess up her makeup. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
The Juneteenth parade in Five Points, June 17, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) juneteenth; five points; black history; kevinjbeaty; denver; colorado; denverite; street fair; festival; welton street;
The Juneteenth parade in Five Points. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
A dog named bella rides on her girl, Mikell's, shoulders. The Juneteenth parade in Five Points, June 17, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) juneteenth; five points; black history; kevinjbeaty; denver; colorado; denverite; street fair; festival; welton street;
A dog named Bella rides on her girl, Mikell’s, shoulders. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Juneteenth in Five Points, June 17, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) juneteenth; five points; black history; kevinjbeaty; denver; colorado; denverite; street fair; festival; welton street;
Juneteenth on Welton Street. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Gubernatorial candidate Mike Johnston says hi to in-bag dog Suki alongside Katherine Marulanda and Darrick Barnes. The Juneteenth parade in Five Points, June 17, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) juneteenth; five points; black history; kevinjbeaty; denver; colorado; denverite; street fair; festival; welton street;
Gubernatorial candidate Mike Johnston says hi to in-bag dog Suki alongside Katherine Marulanda and Darrick Barnes. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Denver Sheriff Patrick Firman among his mounted deputies. The Juneteenth parade in Five Points, June 17, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) juneteenth; five points; black history; kevinjbeaty; denver; colorado; denverite; street fair; festival; welton street;
Denver Sheriff Patrick Firman among his mounted deputies. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Kam'ryn dances in a line of fluttering pom poms. The Juneteenth parade in Five Points, June 17, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) juneteenth; five points; black history; kevinjbeaty; denver; colorado; denverite; street fair; festival; welton street;
Kam’ryn dances in a line of fluttering pom poms. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Norman Harris III beckons audiences to watch "dream big" honorees accept awards. Juneteenth in Five Points, June 17, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) juneteenth; five points; black history; kevinjbeaty; denver; colorado; denverite; street fair; festival; welton street;
Norman Harris III beckons audiences to watch “dream big” honorees accept awards. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Norman Harris III presents Brother Jeff Fard with a "dream big" award. Juneteenth in Five Points, June 17, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) juneteenth; five points; black history; kevinjbeaty; denver; colorado; denverite; street fair; festival; welton street;
Norman Harris III presents Brother Jeff Fard with a “dream big” award. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Kevin Beaty

Author: Kevin Beaty

Kevin Beaty is a media producer with experience in a variety of settings spanning Hollywood film sets to international backpack journalism expeditions. He is on a never-ending quest to meld artful imagery, functional design and intimate storytelling. His biggest struggle in any given moment is whether to shoot stills or video. Find him on Twitter and Instagram at @kevinjbeaty.