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Durango’s Juneteenth festival celebrates progress and struggles to overcome

Organizer hopes to connect people and ‘build a Black community’
Tracy Jones, with Southwest Movement for Black Lives, and co-organizer of every Juneteenth festival in Durango to date, reads the definition of what Juneteenth is to the crowd at a previous Juneteenth festival. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Durango’s annual Juneteenth festival will be held Wednesday in Buckley Park, marking four years since the holiday celebrating the ending of slavery in the United States became federally recognized.

Festivities kick off with speeches by event organizers, live music including West African drumming, dance performed by Guinea-native Etienne Tolno and free food provided by Chef Safari’s African Fusion.

If you go

The festival will be held from 4-6 p.m. Wednesday in Durango’s Buckley Park.

All of Durango’s Juneteenth festivals have been organized by the Southwest Movement for Black Lives, a volunteer organization formed in 2020 amid the Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd.

Tracy Jones, founder of the Southwest Movement for Black Lives, said she began organizing the annual Juneteenth festival for the same reasons she founded her organization: “Anytime we get Black people here in this community, they don’t last very long,” Jones said.

“It helps us to keep connecting with people and to try and build a Black community,” Jones said. “To let people know that this is a safe place for us and that we’re here to celebrate Blackness.”

Durango’s annual Juneteenth festival is sponsored by locally based vendors and nonprofits that will have booths at the event. Among them are local organizations dedicated to racial justice, including the La Plata County SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice) and Durango High School Black Student Alliance.

Angel Safari, a representative of the Black student Alliance, will deliver a singing performance. Safari spoke to the personal importance of celebrating Juneteenth.

“Juneteenth allows connection to anyone’s ancestors that struggled through historic events,” Safari said. “And by knowing that the past happened, we can make progress out of that. It fuels a constant motivation to continued fighting for justice.”


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