Market Square turns global in celebration of Pittsburgh's culturally diverse communities

click to enlarge Market Square turns global in celebration of Pittsburgh's culturally diverse communities
Photo: Renee Rosensteel
World Square in 2020
Pittsburghers will soon see Market Square on a global scale when the Downtown plaza transforms into World Square.

Sponsored by the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, World Square - Welcoming All of Pittsburgh's Neighbors, will be held in Downtown’s Market Square from Fri., June 10-Sun., June 12. Since 2019, the event has showcased food, live music, dancing, and art from cultures all over the world, and this year's version promises the same. Visitors will be able to sample Cameroonian cupcakes, Turkish Gyros, Afghani Kebabs, and more. About 20 local international communities will be featured at this year’s World Square, but the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership does not want to stop there.

“By doing World Square, we introduce a lot of vendors who we might not have worked before to not only this event, but our other events as well,” says Tori Gone, senior manager of Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership.

Introducing new cultures is important, according to United Steelworkers member Maria Somma, because many Pittsburghers aren’t aware of the wide variety of international and immigrant communities that can be found in the city.

“Pittsburgh is full of all these cultures. You have the Bhutanese, Italians in Lawrenceville, Greeks, Serbs, Ukrainians, Koreans, the list goes on and on,” says Somma. “You have all these international churches and communities who have their own traditions and celebrations in their communities. The question is, ‘Does the city bring them all together?’”

World Square aims for inclusion and togetherness across Pittsburgh.

“In order to create a city where we feel safe, people thrive and feel welcomed, we need to acknowledge and make sure that opportunities and resources exist for the diverse communities in Pittsburgh to showcase their culture,” says Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey in a press release.

Saudi Arabian Painting, African Jewelry, and Mexican pottery are just some of the offerings that will be showcased at this year’s event.

“World Square aims to help build connections through an entertaining and immersive experience that highlights the diversity of the various communities that call Pittsburgh home,” says Feyisola Akintola, manager of immigrant and refugee affairs for the City of Pittsburgh in the release. “We have such a vibrant immigrant, refugee, and international community in Pittsburgh. It’s really exciting to have representation of these diverse cultures, different foods, cultural performances and musical acts, and bring them to increasingly engaged audiences in a positive and accurate way.”

One Downtown business owner is optimistic that Pittsburgh is becoming more culturally diverse.

“When I was in Boston, I noticed that Jamaicans live here, the Puerto Ricans live here, Black People live here,” says Bruce Thornton, co-owner of 1:11 Juice. “I feel like Pittsburgh is getting that way more to me every day. It would be nice for people to put their guards down and allow people from different cultures, races, and ethnicities to come into their lives to both learn and enjoy each other.”

Bruce’s wife, Emily, believes that diversity can make a strong union.

“I am Asian, my husband and his cousin Dwayne are African American, and his wife Cindy is from Costa Rica. We are all different from each other, yet we started a business together,” Emily says. “When we are together, we learn from each other, and we became a team and family that is in sync. If we could come together, I know that the city of Pittsburgh can, too.”
World Square - Welcoming All of Pittsburgh's Neighbors. Fri, June 10-Sun., June 12. Market Square, Downtown Pittsburgh. Free.