By Matt Petras
“People need to know more about what Juneteenth is,” said Marshall. “We have a big mistake in the black community [by] believing the Fourth of July is [a celebration for black people], when in actuality during the Fourth of July, black people were held in slavery.”
Juneteenth marks the During a trip to the Heinz History Center back in 2015, including a look at the “From Slavery to Freedom” exhibit, William Marshall learned a lot about Pittsburgh’s African-American history and Juneteenth, a commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States with little recognition compared to other American holidays.
end of slavery in America. June 19, 1865 is the date the state of Texas, the last holdout against the Emancipation Proclamation, finally outlawed slavery in America for good.
This year’s Juneteenth Celebration and Black Music Fest begins Friday and runs through Sunday. The size of the celebration has grown over the years, so organizers moved it from its 2017 site in Market Square to Point State Park .
Marshall’s group Stop the Violence Pittsburgh will host a wide variety of events. Many will feature Jennifer Pinckney, who survived the white supremacist attack on a Charleston, SC church that headlined national news in 2015 .
“It was very important to us that we try to show some unity with Ms. Pinckney and the people in South Carolina,” Marshall said. “It was really heart-wrenching for that whole situation to come about.”
Here’s a rundown of the events planned to commemorate Juneteenth:
On Friday from 6-10 p.m., the Heinz History Center will host the Fourth Annual Celebration of Life Black Tie Gala, will honor Rev. Rockwell Dillaman of Allegheny Center Alliance Church and Charlene Foggie-Barnett of the Carnegie Museum of Ar, among othest. Tickets are $50 to $75.
“We call this gala the Celebration of Life because we all, a majority of the time, we’re concentrating on death,” Marshall said. “So we wanna try to celebrate life and the people who are [working] in the community to make positive changes.”
The Juneteenth Freedom Parade will kick off Saturday at 11 a.m. at Freedom Corner in the Hill District. The free parade is modeled after the 1870 “Jubilee of Freemen” parade that marked the passage of the 15th Amendment, which granted African American men the right to vote.
At 1 p.m. Saturday, the festival will commence in Point State Park. It will feature speakers, food, live music and more (including a crack at the Guinness Book of World Records distinction for the longest soul train dance).
The Juneteenth Justice Forum will be held at the August Wilson Center from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday. Topics of discussion will include violence at the hands of police and white-supremacy terrorism.
On Sunday the Black Music Festival at Point State Park will get underway at 11 a.m. and include R&B, jazz and more.
“It’s generational, it’s multicultural, that’s the thing about Juneteenth,” Marshall said. “Juneteenth is really not just an African-American celebration, it’s an American celebration. America ended slavery, not black people.”