The social justice advocate reflects on Colorado’s latest official holiday – Low Calorie Diets Tips

Darlene Sampson’s first June 16 celebration as a sophomore in 1976 felt different from other, more “lowered” commemorations of Black history on campus.

“It was uncompromising, robust and affirming,” the longtime Metropolitan State University of Denver educator said of the holiday, which her classmates then called “Liberation Day.”

“I remember thinking, ‘What do I not know about the cultural brilliance, history and resilience of my people?'” she said.

Prior to that time, Sampson, an equity analyst at MSU Denver’s Western Educational Equity Assistance Center, had not heard of June 16, which marked the emancipation of black Texans on June 19, 1865—2½ years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. who freed slaves nationwide.

There is some speculation as to why the message took so long to reach Texas, including the fact that the messenger was killed. June 19 has since become a day of historic reckoning, celebrating hope and looking forward to continued efforts to address racial injustice and injustice.


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Last June, President Joe Biden signed legislation designating June 19 as a national holiday. And just last month, Gov. Jared Polis signed legislation making June 16 an official holiday for the state of Colorado.

Sampson provides training in culturally appropriate K-12 teaching methods. RED asked her to think about June 16 as the official holiday and how she plans to celebrate this year.

How has the June 16 celebration in Denver and across the US changed over the years?

I have attended Juneteenth since its inception in Denver and in other states since the 1980’s. I asked my son, who is now 35, when he remembers the first June 16 celebration he attended. He thinks he was 6 or 7 years old. Every year Denver seems to get better, and the basics of the holiday are more widely known. I have experienced a more multicultural aspect in recent years. However, when surveying young people to celebrate June 16, 2019, not everyone was aware of the importance of the holiday. Many came just to enjoy the food and the celebration. We failed to root history when this happens. In my family, celebration is ingrained in our culture and is more than just a holiday. I have taught my grandchildren the meaning of June 16 and asked for their continued commitment as individuals and bearers of the torch. We must see June 16 as a representation of authentic history, pride and resilience. Juneteenth is a beacon of reminders to never give up.

How did you react when June 16, 2021 became a state holiday and last May an official Colorado state holiday?

I’m in awe of (State) Reps. (Janet) Buckner, (Leslie) Herod and (James) Coleman, who campaigned for the bill almost 70 years after June 16, 1953 was first celebrated in Five Points. They are the epitome of the resilience, grace and perseverance rooted in the meaning of the holiday. How brilliant that given the current division in our country, our representatives steadfastly proposed the bill and successfully pushed the holiday forward.

94-year-old activist and retired educator Opal Lee (left), known as the Grandmother of June 16, speaks with US President Joe Biden after he signed the June 12 National Independence Day bill into law, making him June 12. public holiday – the first new one since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was signed in 1983. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

What would you like more people to know about Juneteenth and the people like Opal Lee who fought so hard for his recognition?

Opal Lee is described as “Juneteenth’s grandmother”. Can you imagine what Ms. Opal has experienced in her 95 years as an educator and social justice activist? She is the hope of our ancestors. She pushed for many years at the federal level, resulting in President Biden signing Juneteenth into law on June 17, 2021. Unknown to many, Ms. Opal had pledged to walk 1,400 miles from her Texas home to Washington, DC to draw attention to her commitment to the importance of Juneteenth. Her family expressed concern about such a long walk. Ms. Opal agreed to walk just 300 miles, symbolic of the struggles of these free men, women and children in Texas. This is so amazing! Ms. Opal says she’s not done yet. Neither can we stop our path of equality and justice for all. Her goal of fighting for people affected by homelessness, unemployment and police brutality aligns with Juneteenth’s emancipatory consciousness.


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Are you planning to celebrate this year and if so, what are you most looking forward to?

I’ve always celebrated June 16th beyond parades, great food, and beautiful artifacts. I have often thought of enslaved people who did not know of their freedom for more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. I asked myself: where did they get hope, what did they worry about, and what would they endure? This year, on the weekend of June 16th, I will be attending the Washington, DC Poor’s Campaign sponsored by Rev. William Barber. Social justice advocates from across the country will gather in Washington, DC to highlight poverty in this country.

I believe we should all use this new national holiday as a vehicle for caring and practicing empathy in all areas. We should do this every day, but especially when we know the meaning of the June 16 holiday. Find your own sense of integrity and do something! This is a “day on, not a day off,” as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said so eloquently.

What opportunities does Denver have for improving future June 16 celebrations, and what changes would you like to see beyond recognizing the holiday?

Expanding the reach and anchoring Juneteenth year-round is an initial goal; Maintaining funds and a space to house artifacts and history of Juneteenth in Denver would be an ongoing goal. This is not a black holiday but a historical holiday telling the truth about the history of this country. Juneteenth tells the story of enslaved black people in Texas and is also guided by the principles of justice and social justice. Now we must create recognition along with specific behaviors that will solidify the foundations of justice for our most vulnerable and marginalized populations and finally show that Black lives matter. Our learning spaces should teach the inherent beauty of vacation while creating specific goals to address injustices.

In such turbulent times there is so much to do. This is not the time for retreat. This is the time to move forward, each of us taking individual and collective action.

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