With a focus on mental health, the second annual Black Cultural Festival is made to be an opportunity for people of Afro descent, their families and close friends to build and celebrate the local Black community together.
At this year's event from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday in Alton Baker Park, recipients will have access to a range of healing, healthy and fun experiences including musical performances, equine therapy, aerial silk demos, art therapy, a health pavilion, workshops and guided meditations.
The event’s creator and producer Talicia Brown-Crowell talked with The Register-Guard more about why she created this event and what she hopes it can be.
Register-Guard: What inspired this event?
Talicia Brown-Crowell: It started because my friend Kokayi (Nosakhere) wanted to do a book signing tour in 2020. I was like, ‘Hey, I'll arrange your event for you.’ It was in August at Alton Baker Park. It was in celebration of Marcus Garvey's birthday; the title of his lecture was the "Origins of Black Nationalism." We had 100 people max that could show up because it was lockdown and 50% were Black, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I've never been around 50 Black people in Eugene.’
It just felt like I was onto something. There was something new that was happening. We were all looking at each other like, ‘Wow, this was really fantastic.’
I've lived in the Eugene area for 22 years. When I want to experience Black culture, I will literally have to fly out of state. I have to go to the Bay Area, which is where I'm from, or I have to travel to Memphis or Chicago to get what I call 'my Black fix' on. Also in 2019, I went to the Colorado Black Arts Festival and that was another inspiration to me, as well as just being in Black-only healing spaces when I'm in Memphis. That's how it all came together — recognizing my need to have my Black identity celebrated. I had to leave the state to be Black, essentially. And I decided that that needed to change.
RG: Who are you hoping this event serves?
Brown-Crowell: It is a space for Black people to be together in community and that space has to involve our families, which are multiracial and also our close friends, who are also multiracial. Primarily, this is a space for Black community.
RG: Can you talk about this year's theme?
Brown-Crowell: The theme is Our Mental Health Matters. It's coming out of listening to our community's needs and hearing that we're really suffering in this local area and our babies’ mental health is really suffering in the schools. What they have to deal with on a daily basis in terms of microaggressions is absolutely atrocious. In employment, with organizations, or at the store, what we have to deal with in terms of racism being a public health crisis is really concerning.
I'm working really hard to provide many resources at the festival that help to create mental health and mental wellness. Honestly, it could be the theme for five to 10 years.
RG: Can you talk about the significance of having the event at Alton Baker Park?
Brown-Crowell: I like to have events be in important and significant places for Black people. Alton Baker Park would be one of those.
Alton Baker Park was the place where the original Black families could live. Eugene was a Sundown town, so Black folks could be in Eugene in the daytime and then when the sun went down, we would have to leave, and there were Sundown towns throughout the state of Oregon. That place was called Across the Bridge and that is the place where Black families could live.
(On July 16, 1949, Lane County commissioners made a demolition order for the area to make way for the Ferry Street Bridge. The county bulldozed the village and forced residents to relocate.)
RG: Are there any speakers or performers you’re really excited about?
Brown-Crowell: There's a lot. The whole lineup, of course, is really exciting. I'm really excited to see Madame GoLong. She's based in Portland right now, out of Atlanta, Georgia, and she's a phenom. She's got a fro that's like 5 feet tall and she's a woman drummer. She has performed with Bootsy Collins and the S.O.S. Band. She is a real unkept secret so I'm really glad to have her on board. She's wonderful to work with and she's really down for the cause.
There's also Nii Ardey Allotey who is an old school African drummer and a dance ensemble. They are amazing.
I'm also really excited to have a horse and pony and to have the kids be present with horses. Horses are such a great teacher and a mirror of energy. They really help us to relate to our nervous system.
RG: Anything else you want to share?
Brown-Crowell: We have some amazing food vendors. So, I'm excited – there’s Irie Jamaican Kitchen, Once Famous Grill, Makeda’s Ethiopian Cuisine, JustIce Shave Ice, and Stewart’s Soul Fusion. Food is at the heart and soul of everything that I do, so I wanted to give a shout out.
RG: This is only the second event, what are your hopes for the future?
Brown-Crowell: My hopes for the future are that our local Black community becomes a leadership-full community. I hope this event sparks our systems, our projects, leaders, activists and organizers — people who are willing and dedicated to be a part of the change — and those people do the work.
I'm really certain we need to have a Black cultural event on a monthly basis.
Black Cultural Festival
When: 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday in Alton Baker Park
Cost: Tickets are $30 online and onsite. Tickets are free for 18 and younger and 70 and older. A ticket includes the cost of admission, entertainment, activities, games and snacks. Nobody of Afro descent will be turned away for lack of funds, according to the event's website, www.blackculturalfestival.com.
Contact reporter Tatiana Parafiniuk-Talesnick at Tatiana@registerguard.com or 541-338-2454, and follow her on Twitter @TatianaSophiaPT.
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This article originally appeared on Register-Guard: Q&A with Black Cultural Festival creator ahead of this year's event