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Community Members Remember Antwon Rose On Juneteenth

Sarah Boden
90.5 WESA
A billboard commemorating the life of Antwon Rose.

This Juneteenth marks two years to the day that Antwon Rose Jr. was shot and killed by an East Pittsburgh Police officer.

Family, friends and community members gathered Friday to remember Rose, whom they described as smart, loving and sensitive. They also reflected on the current unrest around police brutality against black and brown people.

“They had the nerve to steal our son two years ago on a day that was marked for freedom,” said Tracey Jennings, who read a poem she wrote about Rose’s death.

Juneteenth commemorates the day in 1865 that enslaved blacks in the state of Texas learned of their emancipation. But many see Rose’s death and police brutality against Black Americans as an outgrowth of slavery.

“There’s still a whole lot of injustice,” said Andrea McNeill, of Homewood. “I like to say you’re free-ish. You’re free-ish. That’s what Juneteenth means to me right now.”

Rose’s death in 2018 sparked dozens of protests throughout Pittsburgh and other cities. Since then, Rose’s mother, Michelle Kenney, has become an advocate for policing reforms.

“I only know how to be a mom,” Kenney told the crowd in East Pittsburgh. “All I know is how to fight for my kids…my kids will always be my everything.”

Credit Sarah Boden / 90.5 WESA
90.5 WESA

Kenney, who used to work as an administrative assistant at the Wilkinsburg Police Department, said she knows the fight for reform will be difficult. Still, she vowed while speaking to marchers to continue to advocate for policy changes and talked about her recent trip to Washington, D.C., where she spoke with Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina.

“[He’s] a Republican, ya’ll. But guess what, he’s working on the same thing I’m working on,” Kenney said. “So, I ain’t got no problem with taking a seat at the table. Cause I sure told him a few things too.”

President Donald Trump later claimed he had met with Kenney during her trip, which she refuted on Facebook.

As protests against police brutality continue, state Rep. Ed Gainey said if enough people vote, change could happen.

“We have always beat the odds when the odds are put in front of us,” Gainey, a Democrat who represents many of the communities east of Pittsburgh, said. “My ancestors cry out to you.”

At the end of the event Rose’s family released balloons near a new billboard on Highway 30 that displays Rose’s smiling face and the words, “We will always miss and love him.”

Katie Blackley is a digital editor/producer for 90.5 WESA and 91.3 WYEP, where she writes, edits and generates both web and on-air content for features and daily broadcast. She's the producer and host of our Good Question! series and podcast. She also covers history and the LGBTQ community.
Sarah Boden covers health and science for 90.5 WESA. Before coming to Pittsburgh in November 2017, she was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio. As a contributor to the NPR-Kaiser Health News Member Station Reporting Project on Health Care in the States, Sarah's print and audio reporting frequently appears on NPR and KFF Health News.