Black Hair Matters. That is the theme of this year’s Eugene Juneteenth Celebration, organizer Drea Smith says. Juneteenth, which has been celebrated on June 19 in parts of the U.S. since 1865, commemorates the emancipation of African Americans from slavery and celebrates Black culture.
Eugene Juneteenth will be at Alton Baker Park on June 18, and Monday June 19 is the federal Juneteenth holiday. Smith says previous Eugene Juneteenths have had 1,500 to 2,000 attendees. She co-founded the event four years ago with Vanessa Fuller, who is also the performance coordinator.
This year, the celebration will have eight food trucks, a number of headliners, and that focus on Black hair as well as on Black businesses. The Black Hair Matters theme will be “showcasing any hair stylist that can style Black hair,” Smith says. Locally, she says there are two main salons styling Black hair — Blessings Hair Design and Hapi Hair Studio — but, she says, “People from all different background and walks of life are learning to style Black hair.”
Smith says Juneteenth’s Hair Zone will feature a huge art display with photographs of hair styles and variations on styles like cornrows, curls, Bantu knots and more. Smith points out that Black people face “little barriers that people don’t think about,” from helmets not designed for Black hair to Black ballet dancers being asked to wear pink tights that don’t come close to their flesh tones.
In addition to food trucks ranging from Ethiopian to Haitian cuisine, the event will feature Zimbabwean-born musician Munya Mambira as a headliner with full band and dance choreography, which Smith calls
“lively and upbeat Afro Beat.” Also on the roster will be Maya Francine Thomas singing the hits of Billie Holiday, and a number of local Black performers.