The People of Tucson: Tucson Juneteenth Festival Committee President, Valerie Stanley

The People of Tucson put their spin on places to visit.

By Stacey Gregory

Air Force brat Valerie Stanley moved around quite a bit before landing in Tucson, Arizona, in 1986. Stanley is a nail technician at Great Waves Salon and the Tucson Juneteenth Festival committee president when she’s not painting and polishing nails to perfection.

Juneteenth is held on the third Saturday in June every year to honor and observe June 19, 1865, the official emancipation from slavery in the US. Stanley had never heard of this holiday before relocating out west and joining the committee about 25 years ago. Since moving to the Old Pueblo, she has fallen in love with the city.

A black woman wearing a red and black top stands in front of a wall of nail polish.
Photography by Evan Zavitz

Valerie Takes a Hike

Tucson offers many places to hike, and Stanley couldn’t get enough of this outdoor activity. So much so that she joined a women’s hiking group called GirlTrek and finds herself hiking every Sunday. While she enjoys Saguaro National Park East, she recommends Sanctuary Cove, an easy trail on the west side of town. It’s a private property open to the public and managed by a nonprofit corporation.

“It’s a mile-long trail with 12 affirmations you’ll find as you go. When you get to the bottom, there’s a really neat labyrinth that’s very spiritual. They also have an outdoor chapel and amphitheater,” said Stanley.

Valerie’s Tastes of Tucson

Lucky for Stanley, her friend recently opened a Jamaican restaurant, Janet & Ray’s, serving Jamaican and Caribbean soul food. Jerk chicken is always on the menu, and on special days you’ll find seafood macaroni and cheese.

“Her jerk chicken is spicy. I don’t do spicy, but I will die to have her spicy jerk chicken. The mac ‘n’ cheese is out of this world,” she said.

Valerie’s Black Business & Adventures

You can support local Tucson Black businesses by searching blaxfriday.com, a site created by a community organization that spotlights Black-owned businesses in Arizona. For an event, consider traveling up to Scottsdale, Arizona, for the Arizona Black Rodeo held annually in the spring, featuring national African-American rodeo competitors. “It’s so cool to see Black cowboys from all over the United States compete. It’s something to be proud of for our community,” she says.

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