Legendary Funk, Soul Band “WAR”
This year marks the second year recognizing Juneteenth as a national holiday. It’s a day to commemorate African American freedom and culture while remembering the painful history of getting there. Pittsburgh is a city with cultural diversity and its own unique history and progress. Come together and celebrate Juneteenth at these local events!
Why Celebrate Juneteenth?
The Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 freed slaves in Confederate states. But it took two more years for that news—and the freedom associated with it—to reach Texas. On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, to enforce the proclamation. Juneteenth has been celebrated every year since. Last year, on June 17, 2021, it became a national holiday.
Sometimes called “Freedom Day” or “Emancipation Day,” celebrations across the country include family gatherings, parades, rallies, and festivals. In Martin Luther King Jr.’s words, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” On Juneteenth, we can also reflect on how far we have come as a nation while acknowledging there is still progress to be made.
“The City of Pittsburgh is proud to celebrate this important national holiday,” said Mayor Ed Gainey in a recent news release. “African-American history is indeed American history and deserves to be treated as such. Juneteenth is a reminder that service never stops. We must always ensure that change is realized in our cities and streets after it is enshrined into our laws. Even when we pause to celebrate a milestone, our work continues the very next day.”
How to Celebrate
Kick off festivities with a traditional Juneteeth menu. The color red symbolizes sacrifice and is often highlighted during Juneteenth celebrations. Typical red foods served at gatherings include red velvet cake, watermelon, hibiscus tea, red beans, and barbequed meats. Foods such as cornbread, collard greens, and black-eyed peas are also common due to their Southern roots and because they symbolize prosperity and luck.
Another way to recognize the holiday is by making donations to or volunteering with local causes that fight for equality and justice. The local YWCA hosts conversations on race, provides racial justice education in the community, and advocates for issues, including equal wages and voter engagement. The Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP) empowers local African-Americans through civic and policy engagement efforts. The Black Women’s Policy Center publicizes a yearly report on the status of Black women and girls in the Greater Pittsburg area and advocates for their rights and priorities.
Black-owned businesses have made tremendous impacts on and contributions to our city. Yet, those accomplishments are often hard-fought due to systematic racism in financial and real estate systems. This Juneteenth, show your support for wealth equality by shopping at local Black-owned businesses.
Pittsburgh’s Juneteenth Events
Join the city-wide Juneteenth events to learn more about and participate in the holiday, its history, and its traditions.
Friday, June 10, 5-6 p.m (Tour); 6-8 p.m.(Concert).
Frick Environmental Center
2005 Beechwood Blvd., Pittsburgh
Kick off Juneteenth with this educational and celebratory event. The garden is an outdoor extension of the Heinz History Center’s From Slavery to Freedom exhibit and a space to explore the connection between freedom seekers and the land. Join the guided tour on June 10. The concert that follows features local artists Sierra Sellars and Chandra Rhyme. The event is free, but registration is recommended.
Saturday, June 11, and Sunday, June 12, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
1047 Shady Ave., Shadyside
The two-day event celebrates the game of basketball along with future stars who will demonstrate their skills through a combination of games, contests, and skill challenges.
Wednesday, June 15. 8 p.m.
The August Wilson African American Cultural Center
980 Liberty Ave.
This event is an NYC-style night of music, spoken word, and activism with award-winning artists. Tickets are required, and the event is best for adults 18 and over.
Friday, June 17-Sunday, June 19. 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Point State Park
601 Commonwealth Place, Downtown Pittsburgh
Hosted by the city of Pittsburgh in partnership with Stop the Violence Pittsburgh, the weekend event is free and open to the public, featuring vendors, musical performances, and activities.
Legendary Funk, Soul Band “WAR”
Music includes funk-soul band War, Arrested Development, DJ Holiday, among others. This year, the festival also includes a Juneteenth Minority Vendor Plaza with dozens of minority-owned small businesses, artisans, and vendors. Don’t miss the Grand Jubilee Juneteenth Parade at 10 a.m. followed by a voting rights forum at 1 p.m.
Sunday, June 19, 5-9:30 p.m.
Schenley Park Outdoor Skating Rink
10341 Overlook Drive, Oakland
Juneteenth with Pittsburgh’s 1st Annual Freedom Skate is for adults 21 and older and includes free food, raffles, and prizes. Tickets are $25 in advance or $30 at the door.
Sunday, June 19. 9 p.m.-1 a.m.
Gateway Clipper. Boarding at Allegheny Wharf
350 West Station Square Drive.
This after-party is the perfect way to end your Juneteenth celebrations. The event stars DJ Spinderella and includes food, a cash bar, and special celebrity guest. Tickets are $60, and the event is for adults ages 21 and over.
Find time for quiet reflections, local or national activism, family gatherings, or joining in Juneteenth celebrations these next few weeks. K.C. James wrote in What is Juneteenth and Why Should Every American Want to Celebrate It: “Every nation has scars from its past, but we can use Juneteenth as a way to acknowledge our past faults, help heal current divisions, and move toward a future as a nation more united.”