By Sophie Muller
Juneteenth, (short for June Nineteenth) is a federal holiday that celebrates the day when African Americans were legally proclaimed to be free from slavery. This commemoration of the Emancipation Proclamation celebrates the freedom that African Americans were finally given, and is a day that cherishes and remembers African American culture.
We’re also celebrating the one-year anniversary of the BLAC (Black Appalachian Coalition), who work to show how essential Black voices are in Appalachia. African Americans have shaped many parts of Appalachia’s culture, and it’s important to recognize, remember, and include their part in Appalachian history. Check out this webinar summary to learn more about BLAC.
Pittsburgh’s Juneteenth celebration begins on Friday, June 17th and stretches through the weekend. This festival will take place in Market Square and Point State Park, and is free for all! There are many events during the weekend, including live music, educational lectures, minority-owned vendors and businesses, and more. There are many bands, singers, and musicians lined up to perform, including Pittsburgh’s Juneteenth Gospel Choir, the funk-soul band War, Arrested Development, and more. And for the first time for Pittsburgh’s Juneteenth celebration, local, minority-owned small businesses and artisans are welcomed along Liberty and Penn Avenues. On Saturday, June 18th starting at 10am, the Grand Jubilee Juneteenth Parade will take place in Downtown Pittsburgh and travel through the city.
But although the Juneteenth celebration takes place June 17th, 18th, and 19th, there are some awesome events happening before and after the weekend. The week before, the Pittsburgh Park Conservancy is hosting four Juneteenth events in Frick Park. The August Wilson African American Culture Center is hosting educational lectures about Black culture on June 12th, 14th and 15th, and the Heinz History Center is extending its ‘From Slavery to Freedom” exhibition. The ‘From Slavery to Freedom’ is also hosting a garden tour throughout the park, and two local artists, Sierra Sellars and Chandra Rhyme, are featured in a Juneteenth concert.
And, a few weeks after Juneteenth weekend, Black culture and music is celebrated and appreciated again at Pittsburgh’s 2022 Pittsburgh Black Music Festival that takes place from July 14-17. This festival lasts four days and includes many different types and styles of music such as live jazz, RnB, blues and soul performances, among others.
West Virginia is hosting its fourth Juneteenth celebration in Charleston, WV, on Saturday, June 18th, from 5PM to 9PM. This will be their first in-person Juneteenth celebration since the pandemic, and it’s hosted and supported by the Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs. This free, family-friendly event is partnering with FestivALL Charleston and the Martin Luther King Jr. State Holiday Commission to bring games, crafts, vendors, and food to the North Plaza of the State Capitol complex.
Louisville, Kentucky, is hosting a week of fun and celebration leading up to Juneteenth and a weekend of history and commemoration for the Juneteenth Weekend. This is their second year celebrating Juneteenth, and they have a lot of great activities queued up! The first activity is the Miss Juneteenth pageant, which begins at 1pm on June 16th and runs until 5pm. It’s a free event that is hosted by Simmons College, and 30 contestants are competing for Miss Juneteenth! This event will also include live music.
On June 18th, from 10am to 3pm, Louisville will hold their Juneteenth Youth Jamboree, which is a family-friendly event where youths win prizes by correctly answering facts and questions about Juneteenth.
On June 19th, from 1pm to 2pm, there will be a drumming circle, libation ceremony and more to commemorate the enslaved peoples of the past. This ceremony, ‘On the Banks of Freedom’, is hosted by a group called the (Un)Known Project, and will also feature artwork of footprints along the bank of the river to show the path of enslaved people walking along the Ohio river towards possible freedom. This art event was created by Hannah Drake, who is a spoken-word poet, visual artist, author and an activist in Louisville. Hannah’s story and inspiration behind this art was explained in an article in the New York Times (click this link to check it out).
Finally, Louisville is hosting its official Juneteenth event, which is June 20th from 3pm to 6pm. This event will include local vendors, food, and local musical performances.
The Juneteenth celebration in Ohio takes place in Columbus on June 18th and June 19th. Ohio’s Juneteenth celebration is their 25th annual celebration, and has evolved into the 3rd largest celebration in the country. The celebration kicks off with local musicians and includes Columbus’s concert series, a Juneteenth talent show, puppet shows, and more. The food is local and honors African American culture, and centered in their ‘Soul Food Pavilion’. The celebration each night ends in a laser light show and a classic car show. Some other fun activities over the weekend include a cultural paradise marketplace, wellness pavilion, and a gospel concert.