The Black Cultural Festival Story
Event producer Talicia Brown-Crowell has lived in the Eugene area since 2000. While growing her Black woman-owned business and creating a family, she became very connected to the festival culture for which Oregon is nationally recognized, including the Oregon Country Fair, Beloved Festival, Willamette Valley Folk Festival, and String Cheese Incident — all of which celebrate community.
Talicia enjoyed these festivals with wild abandon, but that easeful play eroded as she began to see how white these festivals were — there was no diversity. These were places white people could feel comfortable, but not her own people.
The final year of Beloved Festival in 2019, a BIPOC Sanctuary was erected as a safe space where Black and Indigenous & People of Color could visit throughout the festival and take refuge. Talicia dropped into the BIPOC Sanctuary from time to time, and it was the first time her daughter, then 16 years old, had been in an all-POC space in Oregon.
Talicia says, “I felt comfortable for the first time in Oregon. I could just rest.” In the Sanctuary, folks relaxed and reclined and laughed and cried and organized — all outside of the white gaze. This experience changed Talicia. Back home in Eugene, growing discontent was building in Talicia. “Where are all the Black people?” she thought.
A PLACE AND SPACE TO CELEBRATE
It became clear that the absence of a cohesive Black community was beginning to weigh more heavily on her soul, and she realized she wasn’t alone in feeling isolated due to the lack of a Black community and spaces for people to gather — Black people require coherent and robust Black communities for the development of a healthy Black identity.
Through her studies of the racist history of Oregon and the face of white nationalism, Talicia began to craft creative ways to combat and push back against the lasting legacy of the KKK, which still predominates her local area.
TAKING ACTION TO MAKE CHANGE HAPPEN
In response to a 2019 incident in which white supremacists graffitied Nazi swastikas from downtown Eugene to the Whiteaker Neighborhood, Talicia quickly organized a community picnic in Monroe Park. Her family threw a BBQ pit in the back of their truck and served hamburgers and hotdogs to 100 people. People from diverse walks of life showed up in solidarity, bringing along their picnic blankets, hula hoops and potato salad.
After the world witnessed the atrocious murder of George Floyd in May 2020, Talicia knew she needed to bring the community together, and the time to organize was now.
A few months later, Talicia and her dear friends Lela Ross and Kokayi Nosakhere, a Black author, scholar and historian, organized a Pacific Northwest lecture and book signing event at Alton Baker Park. Even at the height of the pandemic, 75 people — half of which were Black! — showed up for Kokayi’s lecture on the “History of Black Nationalism.” The energy at the event was amazing! Talicia saw that Black people in her community were ready to gather, and she knew she needed to create a place of belonging, connection, pride and joy within the community, which would promote healing and wellness.
Talicia got to work, putting a lifetime of grassroots community organizing experience into action. She worked with a production team of three people who shared a similar vision to present the 1st Annual Black Cultural Festival, held on Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. What was unique about this cultural event is that all the marketing and community outreach was directed to Black folks only and 80% of attendees were Black people. A turnout like this is almost unheard of in Lane County, which has a little over 1% Black population!
FORMING A FESTIVAL FROM THE GROUND UP
The secret to successful promotion to the Black community is not to use regular broadcast advertising. If these traditional advertising methods had been used, the Black Cultural Festival could have turned out fewer Black people. Black attendees might have shown up and asked, “Where are all the Black people?” then never shown up again, which is a common scenario.
Instead, to promote the cultural festival from the ground up, Talicia needed to employ creative organizing strategies in a variety of social community networks to bring people together. It is a slow and tedious method of organizing an event, but Talicia has found that it’s a highly effective strategy for working within marginalized communities. The family-friendly Black Cultural Festival welcomes all ages and is “like a BBQ picnic, with a festival vibe,” she says.
JOIN US FOR A DAY OF CELEBRATION
Talicia and her production team will host the Black Cultural Festival on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022, at Alton Baker Park in Eugene, from 1pm to 6pm. We hope you can join us!