There have been Black Lives Matter-related protests nearly every day since May 31 in Eugene in response to years of police brutality and the recent murder of George Floyd. These marches and rallies have been fueled by the sadness and anger over the loss of the lives of Black people killed by the police across the country.
The goal of The Official Juneteenth Celebration scheduled for Saturday, June 20, at Alton Baker Park is to have a celebration despite the anguish across the U.S. and the world. “This is a time to celebrate Black culture,” Vanessa Fuller says. “People in the Black community are stressed out; we are hurting. We have generational trauma;, we have a lot of things going on.”
Black performers and activists will celebrate black culture with music, art, education and food at the Juneteenth celebration noon to 7 pm at Alton Baker Park. The event will be filled with artists, dancers, storytellers and more from the Black community, as well as food vendors and local nonprofit organizations who will be tabling.
Organized by Fuller, who identifies as biracial, and Drea Smith, who identifies as Black, this will be the first Juneteenth celebration in Eugene since the 1990s. Fuller and Smith both saw a lack of Black-centered celebrations in the city and decided to make one happen this year.
Juneteenth originated in Texas in honor of the date the Emancipation Proclamation enacted there, two years after it was signed in 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln. The holiday celebrates freedom from slavery, and now, people take the day to celebrate Black culture and to educate others about the history of African Americans in the U.S. Fuller tells Eugene Weekly the celebration will be “acknowledging where we’ve been and how far we’ve come.”
“Something that’s really cool about African American people,” she says, “is that in times of struggle, we make art. The whole event is really centered around that.”
The Juneteenth celebration will be highlighting local Black performers, including Sage Crow, Xcape Dance Company, The Atmospheres, Yansae, the Darlene Jackson Band and more.
Another goal of the event is to provide education and to show Black culture in a positive light. “We need to educate the community, now’s a great time for that,” Fuller says. “We need to bring Black culture to the community in a way that’s positive.”
“It’s an amazing opportunity to bring people together in a time where turmoil is happening everywhere,” Smith says.
At noon on Saturday, the event kicks off with a presentation on the history of Juneteenth. Then, a singer will be singing the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice.” Smith and Fuller urge participants to come at the start of the event to see these two parts.
The Juneteenth celebration is on behalf of BLAC (Black Led Action Coalition), HONEY (Honoring Our New Ethnic Youth), Xcape Dance Company and Studio 541. The event is free and family-friendly, and anyone is welcome to attend. The organizers encourage people to practice social distancing and wear face masks, and masks will be available for those who don’t have one.
As Eugene Weekly goes to press, another Juneteenth event is being organized by Black Unity from 2 -9 pm Friday June, 19, at Skinner Butte Park, beginning with the Black National Anthem and wrapping up with a memorial service. This event will also feature music, booths, speakers and food. Search Juneteenth Eugene to find both events.