They’re eating good!
The new “Soulful Taste” festival is celebrating the rich history of Pittsburgh’s Black owned food eateries, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
A Soulful Taste of the Burgh food and music festival is set to take place in Market Square on Third and Fourth avenues in downtown Pittsburgh this week. The event is celebrating entrepreneurship, particularly as it pertains to food in Pittsburgh. Organized by Stop the Violence Pittsburgh, the festival will feature soul food vendors, and musical acts including legendary DJ, Kid Capri.
“In our estimation, Third Avenue was like Pittsburgh’s Black Wall Street,” said William “B” Marshall, a festival organizer.
Historical records back up Marshall’s claims, like a notice posted in the October 26, 1838 edition of the Pittsburgh Gazette by Rev. John C Peck, announcing a new downtown oyster house after the success of his summer ice cream parlor, “where parties of Ladies and Gentlemen will be served oysters in the various modes at short notice.” The notice would be a mundane blip in history if it weren’t for the fact that Rev. Peck was a Black abolitionist whose son would go on to become the first Black man to graduate from an American medical school in 1847.
Marshall also notes the accomplishments of men like Benjamin Richards, owner and operator of the city’s first Black butcher shop on Third Avenue in the 1790s. Mr. Richards was one of the signers of the 1787 petition to make Allegheny a county and went on to become one of the wealthiest men in the area. But the history doesn’t stop there. Charles Richard was the owner of the first Black tavern and restaurant, opened in 1795 at the intersection of Third Avenue and Ferry (now Stanwix) Street and Rev. Peck would go on to assist the Underground Railroad before his death in 1875. There are countless stories like these, stories of thriving Black businesses near Market Square before the Civil War.
The aim of Marshall’s festival is to revive that spirit and shine light on that history, a history that’s gone virtually uncovered. Marshall first held the event in 2019, earning a proclamation from the City of Pittsburgh. Now, they’re back post-pandemic to bring even more culture to the Burgh. Vendors will offer Caribbean food, seafood, baked goods and there will be a barbecue competition. The 2019 champs, Cuddy’s Soul Food Restaurant are returning to defend their title.
Marshall says that it is as much about the food as it is the true history and he hopes that the festival serves as a learning experience for attendees.
“The [soul] food processes came from slavery as a survival mechanism and came up from the South to the North. That’s how we got our cuisines - the majority of Black people in America grew up on this,” said Marshall.
A Soulful Taste of the Burgh festival kicked off at 4pm EST Thursday. It will continue at 11am Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, ending each night at 9pm. To learn more about the festival, click here.
Photo Courtesy of New Pittsburgh Courier