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Longtime organizer of Juneteenth celebration in Pittsburgh raises concerns about city-sponsored Juneteenth

Organizer of Juneteenth event in Pittsburgh raises concerns about city-sponded celebration
Organizer of Juneteenth event in Pittsburgh raises concerns about city-sponsored celebration 02:31

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Pittsburgh has picked the organizer it wants to run this year's city-sponsored Juneteenth celebration.

That organizer is not the person who's done it for the last 11 years. B. Marshall, the longtime organizer of the celebration, said they still plan to put on their Juneteenth celebration. But without government funding, it won't be as big.

"They are affecting our community by disrupting our Juneteenth celebration," Marshall said. 

Marshall said their celebration has been nothing short of successful.

"We have the largest Juneteenth in Pennsylvania," Marshall said. "We brought in 50,000 people. We generated $4.2 million for the city. And for the city to want to support that, it's a reflection on the city." 

Pittsburgh Deputy Mayor Jake Pawlak said the city is submitting a plan to Pittsburgh City Council. They want to give $125,000 to Bounce Marketing and Events to put on a city-sponsored celebration.

"We're excited about the prospect of numerous celebrations of the Juneteenth holiday happening in Pittsburgh this year," Pawlak said. 

However, Marshall has a problem with the process that choose Bounce.

"It was a sham process in this instance," Marshall said. 

He said the pot of federal money the city wants to pull from shouldn't go to Juneteenth at all.

"The funding was designated for local artists or for musical events," Marshall said. "It wasn't designated for a city to produce its own event."

"His categorization there is not accurate," Pawlak said. "We have used the same source of funds for events like this in the past."

Pawlak said this use is not improper, saying a committee chose Bounce, in part, because of the emphasis it places on arts, which fits the funding criteria.

"Their proposal is a combination of performance art and art in other mediums showcasing the historic nature and meaning of the holiday," Pawlak said. 

"We want to let the community know that we are having our Juneteenth celebration," Marshall said. "Don't be discouraged by a lot of stuff you see going on in the background." 

Bounce also organized the events for Mayor Gainey's inauguration and gala. The city says its past relationships with Bounce didn't impact this decision.

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