Juneteenth becomes a state holiday in Pennsylvania today. Here’s how to celebrate in Pittsburgh.

Celebrating Juneteenth in Pittsburgh 2018

Updated 8:40 a.m. 

Today — June 19 — is Juneteenth, aka Juneteenth Independence Day or Freedom Day. It’s a holiday commemorating the abolition of slavery in the United States, and while it isn’t technically a national holiday, it will be observed locally in at least 45 states, often with parties and parades.

In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf will make Juneteenth a state holiday for the first time today, per his office. (More on that below.)

And in Pittsburgh, there will be parties and a parade in the coming days and weeks.

But Pittsburgh’s Juneteenth celebrations also coincide this year with a solemn anniversary, that of the fatal police shooting of an unarmed African-American teenager named Antwon Rose II one year ago today.

At last year’s Juneteenth parade in Pittsburgh, Rose’s death was frequently invoked as an example of the strides and progress yet to be made in this country. And one year later, and mere months after the acquittal of the officer who shot him, Rose will again loom large over this year’s commemorations.

Here’s how Pittsburgh is recognizing both anniversaries — and more about what Juneteenth means and what it remembers.


What is Juneteenth?  

On June 19, 1865, two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, word reached Texas that slaves were now free. That coincided with the arrival of Union troops ready to enforce the policy for the first time.

What started as a local celebration of freedom arriving in Texas, a version of Emancipation Day, soon spread to other parts of the country, particularly during the civil rights era of the 1960s.

Read more about the origins of Juneteenth here, by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. via The Root.

A new state holiday

Earlier this month, Pennsylvania’s legislature passed a bill to make Juneteenth a state holiday in Pennsylvania, and J.J. Abbott, a spokesman with Gov. Tom Wolf’s office, said the governor will sign the bill into law today. Abbott said more information will be released following the signing.

How to mark the occasion in Pittsburgh this year:


🎉 Support local entrepreneurs, see a step exhibition by Divine 9, watch a dance team, check out art, listen to music, eat, play games, experience tributes by CCAC students and community members, and remember the legacy of slain LA rapper Nipsey Hussle, “who encouraged the creation of businesses in the African American community and the value of self-worth.” (Homewood)

🎨 Learn something new at a street art workshop hosted by artist D.S. Kinsel. (Garfield)


🌹 Reflect on the one-year anniversary of Antwon Rose’s death with activist and philosopher Dr. Cornel West in a conversation with 1Hood co-founder and CEO Jasiri X and special guest Bakari Kitwana. Donations and proceeds benefit the Antwon Rose II Birthday Celebration. Note: The event is sold out but a waitlist is available. (East Liberty)

Saturday, June 29

👟 Join the 6th annual Juneteenth Parade at Freedom Corner before it steps off at 11 a.m., headed for Point State Park where festivities continue throughout the day. (Hill District)  

🎤 Head to Point State Park for the Martin R. Delany Freedom Day Festival featuring motivational speakers, kids’ activities, raffles, live music, dance troupes, vendors, games, and historical acknowledgements. (Downtown)

🕯 After the parade, join an ecumenical service commemorating Juneteenth and the one-year anniversary of Antwon Rose II’s death. (Downtown)

🍴 Watch and eat at Pittsburgh’s Juneteenth Soulfood BBQ Competition, also at Point State Park. (Downtown)

Sunday, June 30

🎹 Celebrate with a day of music at Pittsburgh’s Black Music Fest, including a 3 p.m. Sean Jones Jazz Day Tribute.  (Downtown)

What events did we miss? Tell us at hello@theincline.com, so we can update the list.