For more than 20 years African-Americans have been coming together and marching as one in the city of Pittsburgh. And it is that time of year again. On Oct. 3, the African American Heritage Day Parade will take place. It will begin at 11 a.m. at Mellon Arena and end at the newly opened August Wilson Center.
|HARVEY ADAMS JR. AND DORIS CARSON WILLIAMS
With the recent passing of Harvey Adams Jr., parade founder and community activist, it is sure to be an emotional event.
“The African American Heritage Day Parade was started to give young people a sense of pride in their ethnicity,” said Doris Carson Williams, president and CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce of Western Pennsylvania and chairperson for the parade. “Parades build self-esteem. When I was younger there was a parade on which seemed to be every weekend (and then it changed). So in the absence of the parades, Harvey Adams decided that there needed to be one and he started (the Heritage Day Parade).”
In honor of Adams and the work he did, there will be a special tribute, with a moment of silence; a plaque presentation to his family; and a historical account of his work and how the parade has grown under his leadership.
Like Williams, many agree that the parade is an important event for the community, especially the Black community. “It’s great that the African-American community is being recognized. There are other ethnicities in the city of Pittsburgh and they have their parade and their days,” said Linda Imani Barrett, artistic director for the Legacy Arts Project. “Communities all over the tri-state are coming together. This is truly a symbol of unity. There are people from North Side, the Hill District and Wilkinsburg (for example, and that does not often happen).” The Legacy Arts Project is one of the featured entertainers in the parade.
There are more than 100 organizations scheduled to participate, some for the first time.
Marlene Banks, community liaison for the Sto-Rox School District, said this is the first time for her group, Reaching Our Potential, and it was an honor to be asked to participate in the parade, She said the children are excited to be carrying posters of famous African-American women.
Although there are several organizations participating for the first time, there are some that have experienced it several times. Pamela Johnson of the Afro-American Music Institute knows what it is like. Her organization has taken part before. She said there was a lack of participation from her organization, not because of interest, but because of scheduling, but this year she “had to get with it.” She added, “The parade is such an asset to the community.” There will be participation from the Music Institute’s Boys Choir, students, staff and parents. They will march and sing a cappella.”
Betty J. Tilman, a member of the South Western Pennsylvania Tribute Committee, said that parade is important because it is a way to befriend and invite those from the African community to participate in the activities. She said she has found there are several African refugees in Pittsburgh.
Tilman’s group will be marching in honor of the late Walter Worthington and Nancy H. Lee. Both were influential in leading efforts to build the African Heritage Classroom in the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh.
The parade will feature performances from the Legacy Arts Project, which will include a presentation from the project’s community arts dancer and the newly resurrected Black Theater Dance Ensemble; the Ujoma Arts Company and the Hip Hop on L.O.C.K. Project.
This year’s parade is supported by Pennsylvania Sen. Wayne Fontana. Even though there are many organizations participating, Williams said she would love to see the parade grow and see more support from the community.
“It is important to see positive images of our community and I think it’s a good thing and I hope it continues and gets the participation and support needed from the community to keep it going,” said Victoria Okere of the Survival Home of the Nigerian Charity and a five-year participant.
(For more information about the African American Heritage Day Parade, call 412-392-0610.)