Eugene hasn’t had a large-scale Juneteenth celebration in decades, but this weekend there are two.
Juneteenth commemorates June 19th, 1865 when the last slaves in Texas were told they were free. Isiah Wagoner of Black Unity says Friday’s Festival will have opportunities to learn how to help. “We want to inform people that this is a time that Americans really all kind of gained their freedom by having people of color freed,” says Wagoner.
He says they’re petitioning Lane County to follow Multnomah County's lead and declare June 19th a paid holiday. The event at Skinner’s Butte Park includes speeches, music, food, and play areas for kids.
Saturday’s “Official Juneteenth Celebration” at Alton Baker Park is also family friendly, with performances from black artists, vendors, art and food. Spencer Smith and his sister Madeliene are co-founders of BLAC (Black-Led Action Coalition) Eugene. “This is a way to not only let go, for people of color, let go, be free, get loose, have fun, but we have this need to have love and passion and peace, and we want to share it with the world,” says Spencer Smith.
“Even though the black community in Eugene is small,"says Madeliene Smith, "the population has been growing, and so I think that this is the perfect event, especially for this time.”
Isiah Wagoner encourages people to attend both days, saying people should treat it like a community holiday weekend.