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Black Artists Celebrate Juneteenth In Pittsburgh With An Art Fair

As the holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S., Juneteenth is most typically invested with civic and political meaning.

"Emerge" is a painting by Morgan Overton.
"Emerge" is a painting by Morgan Overton.

But some are marking the day with art. One example in Pittsburgh this year is “Art as Liberation: Celebrating Black Art in Pittsburgh,” which includes a group exhibit by 15 local Black artists. The event, which includes food, a DJ and live music, takes place 4-8 p.m. Fri., June 18, at City of Asylum’s tent on the North Side.

“Art As Liberation” was created by internationally exhibited artist Mikael Owunna, and facilitated by groups including 1Hood Media. 1Hood CEO Jasiri X said art meshes with the holiday’s theme.

“I’m an artist,” said Jasiri, who is also a rapper. “So I really feel like the key to our liberation, the key to our freedom is expressed through our art.”

Juneteenth falls on June 19 each year – the date in 1865 that the last enslaved Black people in the country, who lived in Texas, learned they were free. Long celebrated in the Black community, its profile has risen in recent years: This year, for instance, is the first since Juneteenth was declared an official City of Pittsburgh holiday.

“Art as Liberation” was curated by Owunna, and includes his work as well as pieces by: Lisa Brown, Maurice Butler, Naomi Chambers, Nick Daniels, Ashante Dujour, Paradise Gray, Jasmine Green, Tereneh Idia, Jessica Moss, Morgan Overton, Staycee Pearl, Marvin Toure, Marlana Adele Vassar, and sarah huny young.

All artwork will be for sale, Jasiri X said. The event is free, but he added that organizers will be accepting donations for the Antwon Rose II Foundation, which was created by Michelle Kenney in honor of her son, the youth shot and killed by an East Pittsburgh police officer three years ago this month.

For more information on the event, see the City of Asylum web page.

Bill is a long-time Pittsburgh-based journalist specializing in the arts and the environment. Previous to working at WESA, he spent 21 years at the weekly Pittsburgh City Paper, the last 14 as Arts & Entertainment editor. He is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and in 30-plus years as a journalist has freelanced for publications including In Pittsburgh, The Nation, E: The Environmental Magazine, American Theatre, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Bill has earned numerous Golden Quill awards from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania. He lives in the neighborhood of Manchester, and he once milked a goat. Email: