Denver, CO

Denver considers making Juneteenth a paid holiday

David Heitz

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By David Heitz / NewsBreak Denver

(Denver, Colo.) Denver will consider making Juneteenth, commemorating the end of slavery, a paid holiday.

The Denver City Council will discuss the issue Tuesday at the Finance and Governance Committee meeting. The public can speak at a 1:30 p.m. public hearing. If approved, the full council still needs to vote on the bill to make it law.

Although Juneteenth is right around the corner, June 19 won't become a paid holiday until next year.

Mayor Michael Hancock and Councilmember Chris Herndon sponsored a bill in 2021 to make Juneteenth a commemorative holiday, but not a paid day off.

Learning from history

"I'm proud to have worked with Councilman Herndon and community leader, Norman Harris to help make Juneteenth a citywide, commemorative holiday to elevate the experience of African Americans in our city and across the country," Mayor Hancock said in a news release.

"This long overdue recognition honors African American freedom, history and achievement; renews Denver's commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion; and opens the door for residents, especially our young people, to be educated about this moment in American history, learn from its lessons, and embrace and understand its impacts on modern culture."

Added Herndon, "Denver has a proud, longstanding tradition of celebrating Juneteenth in the community. "This is an opportunity to shine a light on Black history and officially recognize and celebrate our freedom, heritage, and achievement."

Juneteenth a paid holiday for federal, state, Aurora

According to a staff report, since Denver designated Juneteenth a commemorative holiday, the federal government, the state, the City of Aurora, and other nearby cities have made Juneteenth a paid holiday.

"As required by charter, the Office of Human Resources determined the 'generally prevailing' practice around city holidays through a survey and have recommended the addition of this holiday," the report reads. "The bill also repeals the designation of Juneteenth as a commemorative holiday to make clear the holiday is now formal."

Denver started celebrating Juneteenth in 1953 when the first events were held in Denver's historic Five Points neighborhood. Juneteenth would round out a dozen paid holidays for city employees.

When the council added Juneteenth as a paid holiday in Aurora, it stopped offering the day after Thanksgiving as a paid holiday.

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I have been in the news business more than 30 years, spending much of my career at some of the best local newspapers in the country. Today, I report on Denver City Hall, homelessness and other topics for NewsBreak, much like I did in my twenties covering Newport Beach, Calif. for the Daily Pilot. I consider myself a lucky guy to still be doing what I love after so many years.

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