Glory screenshot

Bill Peduto was inaugurated as mayor of Pittsburgh on Wednesday, officially beginning his second term in office.


I don’t really have many thoughts about Peduto himself. He seems like he’s perpetually campaigning to be the mayor of a city that only exists in Nancy Meyers movies, but I guess that’s ambitious or something. I do, however, have thoughts and questions about his inauguration ceremony, which featured a group of young black men dressed as Union soldiers and playing the drums.

1. According to the program, they’re called the United States Colored Troops—a reference to the tens of thousands of black men who risked their lives and their freedom to volunteer to fight in the Civil War. These men were true American heroes, and should be remembered and honored as such. But who thought that a group of young black people dressed as them and playing the drums for the white mayor of one of America’s whitest major cities was a good idea?

This is awkward.

2. Was there a meeting or something during the inauguration planning—an inauguration planning committee, perhaps—where the agenda was discussed and agreed on until someone stood up and said, “You know what? I don’t think this is slave-y enough. Can we make it more slave-y?”


3. And then was someone else like, “Well, we can’t go full slave. We tried that in 1998 with the cotton and those chains, and it’s a damn shame what happened to those geese. But we could maybe do something slavish that, while not full slave, reminds people of that era. And black people’s place and status in Pittsburgh today. Do you have any ideas?”

4. And then someone No. 1 was like, “How about drummers dressed as Union soldiers? Which would be exactly like the movie Glory, but, like, if Glory took place in 2018?”


5. Was there hot food at this meeting, or was it like most planning-committee meetings I’ve been to where the committee chair expects to hold people captive for three hours with cantaloupe and flaccid Danishes?

6. Where did they get those uniforms?

7. Does the city have a secret stash of Civil War-re-enacting outfits specifically for events like this?


8. If I, for instance, wanted to borrow a purple blazer like Django’s for a Black Panther premiere party, which city department should I email?

9. Is there a special Parks and Recreation portal for these uniform rentals? Perhaps called Parks and Recreational Negroes?


10. I am the only one who’d totally watch a Parks and Rec spinoff called Parks and Recreational Negroes?

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a columnist for, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)

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