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Juneteenth Recognized as National Holiday Ahead of Eugene's 2021 Celebration

Melorie Begay

    This Saturday, Eugene celebrates Juneteenth, a day commemorating the June 19, 1865 announcement of the abolition of slavery and the emancipation of enslaved African American people.

Drea Smith is a dance instructor at Xscape Dance Academy in Eugene, an outreach director for a nonprofit calledDaisy CHAIN and an organizer of this year’s Juneteenth celebration.

The theme is “turning trauma to joy”, which is to bring intent to the celebration, Smith said.

“We have this issue as a society of focusing on the negative and the traumatic experiences that Black people, or Indigenous people or other people of color are enduring,” Smith said, “how about we come away from that, and we focus on the part that we know and that is the joy through breaking bread with our people.”

The event will feature several musical performances including Medusa the Gangsta Goddess with SageCrow the Flock, a DJ battle, and guest speakers, including Eugene-based podcaster Ayisha Elliot. Also featured is Xcape’s first dance performance since last Juneteenth.

Black-owned food trucks, arts and crafts organized by the Children’s Museum and inflatables by Destination Rentals will be part of the festivities, as well as an “Elder’s Lounge” Smith has planned as a way to respect the elders in the community.

“My hope is that the gap between the elders and the people who have been in this community, [have] been doing the work in this community, is bridged with us.”

Last year’s Juneteenth celebration was planned in under two weeks, Smith said, and they had several large donations from community members. This year is different, with months to plan, and less funding.

“People really wanted to feel ‘just’, and feel like they’re doing the right thing by supporting Black-owned businesses, and that’s great,” Smith said. “But now, as we come away from the political climate and that energy died down a little bit, we don’t see those same people showing up.”

This year, the Oregon legislature declared Juneteenth a state holiday, and Congress followed this week by making it a federal holiday.

On Thursday, President Biden signed the Juneteenth bill, making it a new federal holiday, effective immediately.

The event is being held at Alton Baker Park from 12-7 P.M. and features live music, food carts and other activities for all ages.


Jen is an intern for KLCC, through the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism. This is her first radio news job. She is Oregon-born and raised and loves writing, reading and recording. Her favorite things to write about are community and social justice issues, LGBTQIA+ news and history, and cultural deep-dives.