My older sister Lorna matches the color of her shoes with her handbag. Along with my aunt Gigi and my mother Yvonne, she can sew anything. Their skills included making tutus and capes for Halloween costumes, as well as ruffles and ball skirts for wedding gowns. That was my introduction to Black Pittsburgh Style.
Consider how Black Pittsburgh style floats across eras — from the mills and the Negro League baseball fields of the Hill District to the board rooms, bars, and ballrooms of Homestead and Downtown. There is a consistent unbroken legacy of Black Pittsburgh showing up and showing out — saying who we are with our work, art, and our clothing.
Despite, or possibly in defiance of, what feels like an erasure of Black Pittsburgh spaces, places, and people, there is a strong desire to present Blackness, Black Joy and a Black Future here.
While we look back during Black History Month at where we have been, we see the style, vibrancy, and joy of Black Pittsburgh in the photos of Teenie Harris on view at the Carnegie Museum of Pittsburgh. We also acknowledge that contemporary artists like multimedia producer Njaimeh Njie are furthering that legacy in her work representing our present and future.
With that in mind, I asked some stylish Pittsburghers to offer a few words or more on how they would describe Black Pittsburgh style.
Corrine Jasmin, artist and writer
“It is entirely its own, just as Pittsburgh is. It’s richly loaded with history, layered with the now, and frosted with what has yet to become. Black Pittsburghers are futurists who have others taking notes on what could never truly be carbon copied. It’s not necessarily one thing or shape because the Black Individual is all things.”
Sean Beauford, arts enthusiast
“My favorite thing about Black Pittsburgh Style is the language and how there's a big distinction between how Black Pittsburgh speaks vs. the stereotypical Pittsburgh accent.
Black Pittsburgh's language is stylish and carries history with it, sometimes specific to neighborhoods Black people populate ... Black Pittsburgh is aware of the city's political and racial histories that still have ramifications today but they walk tall and take the high road, showing love to everybody, embracing everybody. They wear their neighborhood on their sleeve with pride.
Black Pittsburgh art, and I'm including stuff made here by Black people that weren't from here but found inspiration here, is remarkable. From visual to performing arts, so many have produced significant works here, including Billy Strayhorn, Lena Horne, Romare Bearden, Thaddeus Mosley, August Wilson, Kerry James Marshall, Renee Stout, Vanessa German, Shikeith, Alisha B. Wormsley, the list goes on and on.”
Khari Mosley, political strategist and activist
“Nowadays, Pittsburgh Black style is a much more of hybrid of current trends. I see classic Pittsburgh Black style as ‘understated fly,’ not so much in your face but fly nevertheless.”
Damon Young, co-founder of Very Smart Brothas and author of upcoming book What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker
“Four words: comfortable, consistent, (occasionally) confused”
Livefromthecity, hip-hop artist
“Black Pittsburgh Style is raw, real, and heavy. I think it sets the tone for the creative climate of our city. We set the trends, everyone else follows. We're the Joneses; everyone else is just keeping up.”
Jamillia Kamara, Philly native/Pittsburgh adoptee
“Our style is eclectic, multifaceted, and ever evolving. There is immense variety in how our community expresses itself, from our grassroots advocacy efforts to recreational Black joy convenings, fashion and music. At our very best, Black Pittsburgh is Art.”