Pittsburgh celebrates Juneteenth with parade, focus on voting rights

Hundreds marched through Downtown Pittsburgh on Saturday to celebrate Juneteenth, the holiday commemorating the freedom of enslaved people in the United States following emancipation.

Juneteenth, officially celebrated on June 19, became an official holiday in the city of Pittsburgh and nationally in 2021.

Groups ranging from advocacy organizations, health-care companies, politicians, community members, and even professional sports teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Pittsburgh Pirates marched and drove floats on a milelong route.

The Juneteenth-Voting Rights Parade started at 11 a.m. at Freedom Corner in the Hills District and finished at Point State Park in Downtown. Officials addressed the importance of voting at an event following the parade.

Bobbie Edison, a Forest Hills resident who grew up in the Hill District, brought her family to the parade and said it is important for people to remember what Juneteenth stands for, and the freedom that came to Black people.

The holiday recognizes June 19, 1865, the day Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, and informed Texans that the Civil War had ended and enslaved people had been freed.


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Edison said that all groups of people should recognize the significance of Juneteenth.

“It’s not just about African Americans, it is for everyone,” said Edison.

Keith Maghan II, of Pittsburgh’s Manchester neighborhood, brought his young son to the parade and said it was important to showcase a celebration of Black culture and history, and not to only dwell on gun violence that had proliferated recently in the city. He said this is a day to celebrate.

“Why not be here?” said Maghan. “People who aren’t here should be here.”

Hundreds came out to watch the parade, with people lining up along the parade route, particularly on Fifth and Liberty avenues in Downtown. The parade also attracted the views of visitors and Downtown workers, who watched the drum lines, dancers, and floats slowly move down the streets.

Sheila Petite, of the Hill District, set up a chair on Centre Avenue to watch the parade. She was motivated to watch the parade after reading a recent Tribune-Review article that highlighted Western Pennsylvania’s deep roots in Juneteenth celebrations. Pittsburgh has held annual Juneteenth events since the 1890s.

“It is time to right some wrongs,” said Petite. “It made me feel good to learn about Pittsburgh’s role in Juneteenth. That is why I came out.”

Following the parade, leaders and organizers set up in Point State Park, with musical performances, including a signing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which is known as the Black national anthem.

Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey marched in the parade and attended the event afterward. This was the first Juneteenth celebration as mayor for Gainey, who became the first Black person to serve as the city’s mayor when he won his election last year.

Gainey spoke to the crowd about the preservation of voting rights for Black Americans.

He also addressed the gun violence that has been plaguing Pittsburgh. Gainey highlighted his efforts to pass gun reform laws when he served as a state legislator, and highlighted the importance of voting to try to make change.

“This gun violence is taking away so many people’s lives. I don’t believe we need military-style weapons in our streets,” said Gainey. “We need to vote at record numbers so we can make the change that needs to be changed.”

Ryan Deto is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Ryan by email at rdeto@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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