By Jacqueline Quynh

DENVER (CBS4) – Juneteenth is often known as the other Independence Day, and now a push to make it a federal holiday is gaining momentum. Yet many haven’t heard of the day until recently.

It’s celebrated by many in the African American community because it marks the day Union soldiers, accompanied by federal troops, came into Galveston, Texas to announce that the last group of enslaved people in America were freed. It came months after the Civil War ended and two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Because Galveston was in the far western point of the Confederacy, it was still a confederate stronghold.

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While this day is not new, it’s seeing renewed interest because of events such as the deaths of George Floyd and, more recently, Rayshard Brooks. These incidents have also opened a lot of wounds and hurt within members of the Black community.

CBS4 talked with Shante Porter, CEO and founder of Designed to Inspire. It’s a non-profit aimed at empowering young women. Porter also happens to be a black mother who has had to have difficult conversations with her daughter about images of black people being killed on camera. She says this Juneteenth is one to remember, even if people cannot come out to celebrate as they have in past years.

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(credit: CBS)

“The message of hope is that we’re still here. We’re mourning the loss of a brother from the community but he lived his life and here’s my thing, if you’re here that means that you’re here another day to make change. And so the hope and the change starts with us. You can use your voice in a positive manner. If you want to protest peacefully, you can protest peacefully. Us, we’re in solidarity with our community, but we will use our voice to spread hope and inspiration and motivation that you still have another day here,” Porter said.

In light of heated discussions over police brutality and racism, she hopes there will be an opportunity for some to have a dialogue, if not a chance to learn history that is not always taught in schools.

“What I’m telling young women is that, if they’ve never celebrated before, even if they just went to the parade downtown, this is a year you need to let your voice be heard and celebrate your freedom because even if they say we’re free, your freedom starts in your mind. Your freedom starts in your heart, you can use your voice in a positive manner to spread hope, inspiration and motivation to other women, so use your voice, celebrate this time,” Porter added.

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Denver’s annual Juneteenth Music Festival had to go virtual because of the pandemic, but can be viewed here:

Jacqueline Quynh