Community leaders and local officials on Tuesday outlined plans for Pittsburgh’s annual Juneteenth celebration, which this year will include a parade, sports, a music festival and 100 minority-owned business vendors.
The city’s Juneteenth celebration is organized by Stop the Violence Pittsburgh and the organization’s founder and CEO, B. Marshall, in partnership with the city and several community groups, companies and other sponsors.
“On Juneteenth, we will come together as one city, one community,” said Melvin Hubbard El, community advisor to Mayor Ed Gainey.
El said the celebration brings the community together and “deserves the same level of respect and honor as the Fourth of July.” Events that bring people together, he said, help the city reach its goal of stopping the violence.
“I’m a firm believer that the principle of love is how we stop the violence, because it is the key to connection, it is the key to life, it is the key to peace,” he said.
Celebrated on June 19, Juneteenth commemorates the date in 1865 when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, to tell slaves there that the Civil War had ended and they were free. Juneteenth was declared an official holiday in Pittsburgh in 2020, and it also is recognized on the state and federal level.
This year, Pittsburgh’s commemoration of the holiday will kick off with the Stop the Violence Pittsburgh Black Tie Honors Gala at the Omni William Penn Hotel. The event will recognize Pittsburgh media pioneers and is slated to feature actor Pooch Hall and a performance from Bill Henry Band.
On June 11 and 12, the Juneteenth Youth Festival and African American Heritage Day at Mellon Park will include dek hockey, a flag football tournament, PlayStation gaming, a basketball tournament and other activities for the city’s youth. The event is sponsored by the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Pittsburgh Pirates and I Love Life Basketball Group.
A Juneteenth festival will be held at Point State Park and Market Square from June 17 through 19, complete with the Minority Vendors Plaza on Penn and Liberty Avenue. The celebration will include vendors, dance performances and live bands.
The Juneteenth Minority Vendor Plaza is slated to include more than 100 small, minority-owned local businesses, said Paul Spradley, vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion for Dollar Bank, one of the event’s sponsors.
“This idea that there will be 100 small businesses, 100 minority businesses is incredible,” he said. “This is an opportunity for the entire city to come together and invest in the community.”
On June 18, a voting rights parade starting at Freedom Square will highlight the importance of voting rights.
Council President Theresa Kail-Smith said she remembered when Marshall first approached her about hosting the event. While she was supportive of the idea, Kail-Smith said, she never would’ve imagined the celebration would grow into the event it is today.
Marshall has organized a celebration of Juneteenth in Pittsburgh since 2013.
The Juneteenth celebration will include musical performances from artists like DJ Fatman Scoop, Sons of Mystro, DJ Holiday, Rose Royce Band, Talib Kweli, Sunshine Anderson, Klymaxx, Arrested Development, The Dazz Band and WAR.
“Events like these help build safe, thriving communities,” said Denise Graham-Shealey, vice president of KeyBank, another sponsor of the event.
More information about the Juneteenth celebration is available on Stop the Violence Pittsburgh’s website.