COURIER EXCLUSIVE REPORT: Juneteenth to occur at Point State Park, but Black Music Festival is canceled


Also, City of Pittsburgh is planning its own Juneteenth Celebration


The New Pittsburgh Courier has learned exclu­sively that B. Marshall’s “Stop The Violence Pitts­burgh” organization that hosts Juneteenth at Point State Park will host June­teenth once again as per usual. This year, the dates are Friday, June 14 to Sunday, June 16. Howev­er, the organization’s an­nual “Black Music Festi­val,” usually held at Point State Park in mid-July, has been canceled.

The Courier has also learned that the City of Pittsburgh is planning its own Juneteenth Cele­bration, though the exact details of the celebration have not been made pub­lic.

“The City is ensuring that the Juneteenth Cel­ebration is treated as the July 4th Celebration,” Olga George, Mayor Ed Gainey’s Press Secretary, told the Courier in an email on Tuesday after­noon, April 30. “This is not a dueling or compe­tition for the Juneteenth Celebration. There are lot of various celebrations during July 4th and we’re working towards hav­ing that same energy for Juneteenth.”

The City of Pittsburgh’s July 4 celebration always includes a 25-minute fire­works display at Point State Park as night falls. However, the City of Pitts­burgh did not explicitly state for fact that “ensur­ing that the Juneteenth Celebration is treated as the July 4th Celebra­tion” means that the City of Pittsburgh will have a fireworks display on Wednesday, June 19, at the Point for Juneteenth.

B. Marshall, who has been the leader of June­teenth in Pittsburgh for the past several years and who is credited with giv­ing Pittsburgh such a siz­able Juneteenth celebra­tion year after year, told the Courier he hopes the city puts on fireworks on June 19, a tradition that he started in 2023 when a 25-minute fireworks display was presented to thousands on Monday, June 19, following his four-day Juneteenth cele­bration.

“We’re looking forward for the city to do fireworks similar to the way they do 4th of July fireworks,” B. Marshall said. “We would expect that they would do the same thing for June­teenth that they do for the 4th of July.”

Now that there will be two “Juneteenth celebra­tions” of sorts in Pitts­burgh at least for this year — B. Marshall’s and the City of Pittsburgh’s — it’s important to differenti­ate the two. B. Marshall’s Juneteenth begins on May 17 with its annual Stop The Violence Pittsburgh Black Tie Honors Gala, at the Sheraton Pittsburgh Hotel Station Square, a salute to military veter­ans. Honorees include Judge Dwayne Woodruff, Dr. Margaret Larkins-Pet­tigrew, A.J. Jefferson (Homeless Children’s Ed­ucation Fund) and Brandi Fisher (Alliance for Police Accountability). A Youth Fest will occur on June 8-9 at Mellon Park, East Liberty, which includes a basketball tournament, baseball tournament, flag football, Damar Hamlin’s Chasing M’s CPR Tour, bounce houses, and a Playstation tournament, among other festivities.

The main event on Fri­day, June 14, at Point State Park is “Hip-Hop Night,” with featured art­ists Freeway, Beanie Sigel and Arrested Develop­ment. Saturday, June 15 is “Ladies Night,” with fea­tured artists Keke Wyatt, Elle Varner and Brown­stone on the Point State Park Stage. And Sunday, June 16 will feature Kelly Price and Stokely at the Point. B. Marshall said it’s best for people to get to the Point by 6 p.m. each day to ensure they see all the featured performers.

A stage will be set up at Market Square through­out the weekend, too, fo­cused on the older gener­ation. Artists include The Blackbyrds, Klymaxx, and Adam Hawley, a jazz gui­tarist.

The annual Grand Ju­bilee Parade will be held, Saturday, June 15, at 11 a.m., starting at Free­dom Corner and head­ing through Downtown Pittsburgh. The grand marshals will be retired Tuskegee Airman James Harvey, and the rapper Master P. Following the parade, a “Juneteenth Big Money” event will be held at the Byham The­ater, Downtown, featuring Master P and Dame Dash. That event requires paid admission, while all other Juneteenth events, except for the Black Tie Affairs Gala, are free.

B. Marshall told the Courier that his June­teenth celebration at the Point was “this close” to being canceled this year. The reason, according to B. Marshall? He said he was going “back and forth” with the Pennsyl­vania Department of Con­servation and Natural Re­sources, which runs Point State Park, over “bills” that B. Marshall said the state wanted him to pay, which totaled roughly $140,000. B. Marshall told the Courier the unpaid bills were for electrician services, security services and Port-A-John rental services for the June­teenth celebration in 2023 at the Point, services B. Marshall claims the state negotiated for without his consent or approval.

“In October (2023), after everything was done, they (DCNR) ended up sending me a bill for $140,000 tell­ing me that we had to pay this bill, so we protested that because we didn’t ne­gotiate those bills nor did we give them approval to do that,” B. Marshall told the Courier exclusively. “So we went through six or seven months of argu­ing with them about that, and the conclusion was that they’ve rescinded the bills and we’re proceeding with Juneteenth (at the DCNR-run Point State Park).”

The Courier reached out to the media relations de­partment at the DCNR for comment, but had not received a response as of Tuesday evening, April 30.

The Courier confirmed that the security compa­ny the state (DCNR) con­tracted with to handle some parts of security, especially for the Monday, June 19, 2023, fireworks night, was Next Level Se­curity, owned by a Black woman, Marcia Hunter. The company is based in Philadelphia.

Hunter, who was reached by the Courier on Tuesday afternoon, April 30, claims she has yet to be paid by the state for her compa­ny’s services for the 2023 Juneteenth at the Point. However, she did confirm to the Courier that her company was hired by B. Marshall to provide se­curity for the 2023 Black Music Festival, which occurred the following month, July 2023. Her company was paid $7,000 for the services. She said Next Level Security has been hired by B. Marshall, not the state, to provide some security services for the upcoming Juneteenth 2024 at the Point. The price tag? The same as the 2023 Black Music Fes­tival, $7,000.

As for the 2024 Black Music Festival, there will be none. B. Marshall usu­ally holds the Black Music Festival in mid-July over a weekend at Point State Park, but he claims he was unable to get clear­ance for his July 11-13 dates due to the City of Pittsburgh extending its hold on Point State Park until July 8, four days af­ter the city’s usual 4th of July celebration. B. Mar­shall claims the DCNR wants at least seven days in between events of that magnitude, knocking B. Marshall out of the July 11-13 spot. When he tried for an alternative date in late August, that, too, was already booked by a third party.

However, in an email chain obtained exclusive­ly by the Courier, Mayor Gainey’s Chief of Staff, Jake Wheatley, said B. Marshall’s claims were not true.

“For clarity, we are not preventing the Common­wealth from making any arrangements around the usage of the Park (Point State) for either of your events,” Wheatley wrote to B. Marshall, dated Feb. 25, 2024. The email sent by Wheatley was also sent to the email addresses of the likes of B-PEP Chair­man and CEO Tim Ste­vens, numerous members of Pittsburgh City Coun­cil, and the Afro-Ameri­can Music Institute’s Dr. James Johnson.

The Black Music Festi­val in Pittsburgh in recent years has brought art­ists like Rose Royce, Will Downing, Rakim, Karen Clark Sheard, Dorinda Clark-Cole, and Musiq Soulchild. This year, B. Marshall told the Courier he was looking to bring in R&B singer Donell Jones, the legendary group Con Funk Shun, and the rap­per Scarface.

B. Marshall did con­firm that his annual Soul Food Festival, tradition­ally held over Labor Day Weekend, is still on as planned along and near the Boulevard of the Al­lies and PPG Plaza.

Still, he calls the loss of the Black Music Festival wholly unfortunate.

“Last year, with the Black Music Festival, we generated $2 million for the city in economic devel­opment, over 22,000 peo­ple (Downtown), and now all those people are being affected by us not having the Black Music Festival,” B. Marshall told the Cou­rier exclusively, April 30. “And it seems like the city and public officials don’t care about what we bring to the Black community or what we do for the Black community

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