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Larry June to Headline Stanford's Free Blackfest

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Larry June raps into the microphone on a big festival stage. He's wearing a bucket hat, designer sunglasses and a bandana and is smiling.
Larry June performs at 2023 Rolling Loud Los Angeles at Hollywood Park Grounds on March 4, 2023, in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Timothy Norris/WireImage)

San Francisco rapper Larry June will headline Stanford University’s Blackfest, a completely free annual event organized by students and open to the general public, on May 4 at the university’s Frost Amphitheater.

In addition to the orange juice–drinking game spitter from the City, the afternoon features performances by Oakland’s youth troupe of MCs Young Gifted and Black, along with a set from Washington D.C.’s up-and-coming, high-energy MC redveil.

Attendees of Stanford's Blackfest 2022 pose for a photo.
Attendees of Stanford’s Blackfest 2022 pose for a photo. (Vanessa Onuoha)

Presented by Stanford’s Black Family Gathering Committee and Stanford Live, the event is hosted by KMEL’s Shay Diddy and will showcase a full Divine Nine step show.

Event organizers say their goal in 2024 is similar to previous years: showcase top-tier talent and cultivate community, both on campus and throughout the Bay Area. But this time around, they’re putting extra emphasis on the history of the event, and creating an installation to teach others about its roots.

The history of Blackfest dates back to the early ’70s, when separate groups of Black students living on opposite sides of campus decided to come together for one day. Led by the Black Community Services Center and the Black Student Union, students organized a picnic-style meet-up at Roble Field. They played sports and card games, passed along family recipes and made meals. Most importantly, they got to know one another.


Over the years, the event evolved. At the turn of the millennium, the first live performances were incorporated. Blackfest has since grown from a picnic to a one-day festival — with some of the biggest names in music rocking the stage, such as Kendrick Lamar, Big Sean, 2 Chainz, Lil Yachty, Metro Boomin, E-40 and Future.

“They are bringing globally and nationally recognized talent to the Bay Area for free,” says Kamel Jacot-Bell, co-founder of Ankh Marketing, during a conference call.

“We’re choosing people who feel relevant to the community,” adds Catherine Harbour.

A 21 year-old senior from East Brunswick, New Jersey, Harbour is the co-president of the Black Family Gathering Committee and the lead organizer of Blackfest. She notes that the aforementioned artists performed at Blackfest before they were superstars.

“A lot of those names were chosen when they were on the way up,” says Harbour, adding that their music speaks to the audience the event organizers are aiming for. “We’re looking for talent that will bring people together.”

A few flicks from Stanford's Blackfest in 1979.
A few images from Stanford’s Blackfest in 1979. (Richard Craven)

Ever evolving, Blackfest has grown since the pandemic. It’s now located at Frost Amphitheater, which can hold up to 8,000 people. “We now have a full professional-grade concert happening each year,” says Harbour. “It’s incredible to have those resources given to us by the school.”

Those resources help achieve the goal of an awesome experience for Stanford students and the broader Bay Area, says Harbour. She also wants the entire Bay Area Black community to be aware of people at Stanford who are working hard to put resources toward the celebration of Black culture and community.

And it’s been that way for decades.

“For us to be throwing an event as large-scale as it is today,” says Harbour, “it took so many people before us to mobilize — people with even less resources, less funding and less name recognition.”

Preserving Black culture is an often difficult task, Harbour adds, but it’s important work — not just for today, but for generations to come.

Larry June headlines Stanford’s Blackfest on Saturday, May 4, at 3:30 p.m. For tickets and more information, visit the Stanford Live site.

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