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Rejoice! It’s Juneteenth Eugene

Performers from past years' Juneteenth events
Juneteenth Eugene
Performers from past years' Juneteenth events

The theme of this year’s Juneteenth Eugene celebration is “Rejoice.”

Drea Smith is co-founder of Juneteenth Eugene. She said the event enters its third year Sunday with lots of good energy, adding, “We have keynote speakers this year who are returning from last year, Dr. Johnny Lake and Kokayi Nosakhere. It’s Father’s Day so it’s really awesome that we get to have these two black fathers taking their time out to come and speak and educate everybody.”

Smith said the headline dance company is Xscape, the only black-owned dance company in town. There will be several bands, drag artists and spoken word performers. It's a family event, and will feature six food trucks, and arts and inflatables areas for kids. At the elders' lounge, longstanding members of the community will be honored.

Juneteenth commemorates the day that Texas declared emancipation for slaves. It was the last state to do so, in 1865.

President Biden made June 19th a federal holiday in mid-June last year. Smith told KLCC she has mixed feelings about that. “Federalizing something that should be preserved for black culture takes us into the commercialization and capitalism of exploiting it," she said. "I appreciate the acknowledgement on a national platform, but it creates different energy for me, personally.” She emphasized she was speaking for herself, not the black community.

The free event is from noon to 6:00pm at Alton Baker Park.

Karen Richards joined KLCC as a volunteer reporter in 2012, and became a freelance reporter at the station in 2015. In addition to news reporting, she’s contributed to several feature series for the station, earning multiple awards for her reporting.