The fallout over Juneteenth continues…City of Pittsburgh applied to host Juneteenth at the Point, then backed out


In October 2023, the City of Pittsburgh submitted an application with the state of Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) to host a Juneteenth celebration at Point State Park, Downtown. The dates the city requested to reserve were Sunday, June 16, 2024, to Saturday, June 22, 2024, the New Pittsburgh Courier has learned.

However, the City of Pittsburgh then withdrew its application to host a Juneteenth celebration at Point State Park.

When exactly did the city withdraw its application?

Olga George, press secretary for Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey, told the Courier on Tuesday, May 7, that the city withdrew its application in “January 2024.”

The Courier asked the same question to the DCNR. Its spokesman, Wesley Robinson, told the Courier his records indicated the request by the city to withdraw the Juneteenth application was approved by DCNR on Feb. 29, 2024.

The Courier has also learned exclusively that B. Marshall, the primary promoter of the Stop The Violence Pittsburgh Juneteenth Celebration, which has occurred at Point State Park the last few years, wrote an email on Feb. 22, 2024, to numerous constituents including Mayor Ed Gainey about B. Marshall’s shock that the city had requested to hold its Juneteenth at the Point on and near the same dates as his Juneteenth celebration.

“Since 2013 our organization has supported you in every election and promotion you have advanced, we wanted to see you succeed. We are dumbfounded about this news,” B. Marshall wrote to Mayor Gainey, Feb. 22, 2024.

If the city hadn’t with­drawn its application, B. Marshall confirmed to the Courier that his Juneteenth celebration would not have been able to be held at Point State Park. With the dates reopening, the DCNR granted B. Mar­shall’s application to host his Juneteenth cel­ebration over three days, June 14-16.

When asked by the Courier why the City of Pittsburgh applied to re­serve June 16-22, 2024, at the Point in the first place, George respond­ed: “The City made a re­quest to hold Point State Park last year to ensure the Point would be avail­able for the Juneteenth celebration. The request was released in January not to force any event promoter to design or have to hold an event at the Point.”


Juneteenth, which is known throughout the country as a now-federal holiday that brings peo­ple together, seems to be dividing some of the African American com­munity in Pittsburgh, with the news that there could be two “large-scale” Juneteenth cele­brations in Pittsburgh; the city’s, and B. Mar­shall’s.

The talk has dominat­ed parts of social me­dia and email chains in Black Pittsburgh circles.


On Friday, May 3, two days after the Courier’s story was released in­forming the public about the city’s desire to host its own Juneteenth cel­ebration and B. Mar­shall’s Black Music Festival at Point State Park being canceled for 2024, George released a lengthy statement re­garding Juneteenth. It read, in full: “When May­or Ed Gainey came into office, he understood that his administration would be under greater scrutiny than any other administration. He ac­cepted that challenge of accountability and vis­ibility in every aspect since he would be bring­ing about change to the city that has not been experienced.

“In keeping to that ide­al, the administration worked hard to have the City fully embrace the Juneteenth celebration through financial and in-kind support. Howev­er, one of the challenges the City faced was hav­ing a clear, precise and transparent process of how public funds were being spent.

“So, in keeping with the City’s goals of transpar­ent use of city funds and accountability, the City did use the established procurement process.

“To that end, we es­tablished an RFP or Re­quest For Proposal to so­licit Juneteenth events and to ensure a visible, clear and open process to request proposals from private event pro­moters for City funding. This opens the door to all event promoters to provide opportunities to new artists and vendors, which we believe helps to keep a celebration fresh and equitable.

“This process was com­municated clearly and directly to all private event promoters last year, in hopes that the City will be able to have a robust Juneteenth cel­ebration.


“Juneteenth is an im­portant celebration equaled to the July 4th celebration. And as seen with the Fourth, multi­ple various celebrations are held. No one individ­ual or organization holds the exclusive license for the 4th Celebration.

“The City’s desire is to have additional, not dueling or competitive events for the June­teenth celebration. This is an opportunity to up­lift more people wanting to celebrate Juneteenth.

“Juneteenth is a cele­bration of the freedom of Black people from slav­ery. Let’s recall the joy that was felt that day to create a day of remem­brance, honor and cele­bration for all.”

The Courier has pressed the City of Pitts­burgh on exactly what date(s), what location(s) and what events will comprise its Juneteenth celebration. No clear an­swers have been given as of yet. What is clear is that the city’s June­teenth celebration won’t happen at Point State Park this year.

B. Marshall’s June­teenth celebration will be held at the Point this year, from June 14-16. He told the Courier he’s disappointed that the $125,000 the city said in 2023 that it would pro­vide Stop The Violence Pittsburgh for June­teenth in 2023 and again in 2024 was not honored by the city. While his or­ganization received the funding for Juneteenth from the city in 2023, for this year, 2024, the city has not provided the same financial support.

Is the more the mer­rier, though? While B. Marshall’s Juneteenth celebration is regarded as “Pittsburgh’s June­teenth Celebration,” there are other June­teenth events that occur throughout Allegheny, Beaver and Washington counties, though on a much smaller scale. For the last two years, the borough of Swissvale has held its own Juneteenth celebration, which usu­ally garners at least 600 people throughout the one-day Saturday event. Aliquippa has held its own Juneteenth for the past few years at Lefty Cepull Park. Last year, there was also a Juneteenth festival in Sewickley at the com­munity center, and Mt. Lebanon held a June­teenth Jubilee.

The City of Pittsburgh contends that it’s per­fectly normal for the city to have its own June­teenth celebration, like some other cities and municipalities. But for some reason, it’s not go­ing over that well with some in Pittsburgh’s Black community.

“It seems that such a positive series of events for Black Pittsburgh and all of Pittsburgh, should not have to con­tinuously run into road­blocks,” voiced Black Political Empowerment Project Chairman and CEO Tim Stevens, in an email chain obtained exclusively by the Cou­rier. “I am also encour­aging the city to accept B. Marshall’s organiza­tion as the city’s choice for the city’s Juneteenth operations based on his efforts…to bring June­teenth activities to Pitts­burgh, and his ability to produce great results.”

Stevens, in the email chain, added: “I don’t think that it’s a good look for the city’s first Black-led administration to appear to be in any con­flict with the person who brought Juneteenth cel­ebrations to Pittsburgh at a whole new level. I strongly feel that there should be honest and earnest efforts on BOTH the part of Mr. Marshall and the Gainey Admin­istration to make all of this work, seamlessly and in a cooperative, positive spirit.”

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