Juneteenth Festival in Colorado Springs to honor and raise awareness of historic event |

For Jennifer Smith, Juneteenth is synonymous with freedom.

Juneteenth (shortened from June 19), which became a federal holiday last year, marks the day in 1865 when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to free more than 250,000 enslaved black people. It came two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared enslaved people in the Confederate States to be free. Galveston was the last city in the country to receive the news.

“It was a time when we were free and people were still picking cotton – why are you doing this? Were free. Northerners hanging out, dancing,” said Smith, co-founder and director of OneBodyEnt, the Colorado Springs nonprofit behind the Southern Colorado Juneteenth Festival.

“It’s not a matter of color. This is about black freedom. Everyone celebrates together.

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The second annual free festival takes place from Friday to Sunday in America, the Beautiful Park. About 8,500 people attended last year’s inaugural event.

The weekend features a fashion show, ice rink, step dancers (a percussive dance form that uses the whole body), food trucks, vendors, farmers market, health fair, trade show cars, a story hour, performances by Poetry719, games, a Tribute to Father’s Day and educational booths. An emancipation from slavery ceremony takes place on Sunday afternoon.

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Several free concerts by local, regional and national musicians will also take place throughout the weekend. Female R&B duo Changing Faces will sing on Saturday and jazz saxophonist Tony Exum Jr. will perform on Sunday, as will a group of gospel singers including Stephanie Summers, who won Season 10 of Black Entertainment Television’s “Sunday Best,” a gospel music contest.

Smith credits her husband, DeAndre Smith, co-founder and executive director of OneBodyEnt, for dreaming up the festival, which news and media website Travel & Leisure included in a list of June 19 celebrations recommended to attend Last year.

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“He’s from Colorado Springs and thought we needed more culture here,” Jennifer said.

And that culture is improving, she says, “one day at a time. Slowly but surely.”

Contact the author: 636-0270

Contact the author: 636-0270

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