Identity & Justice

The identity and justice desk explores how the makeup of the Pittsburgh community is changing, and digs into issues of diversity and equity.

Making Child Abuse Easier to Define in Pennsylvania

Dec 9, 2013
90.5 WESA

The Pennsylvania Senate could be voting on legislation this week to overhaul the state's child abuse laws.

Three Senate committees have advanced six bills, the most important of which would change the definition of what constitutes child abuse, making it tougher and bringing it into line with the standards used in many other states.

The new wording would include, “intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury to a child.” It also lists a number of acts that would constitute abuse, such as kicking, burning or forcefully shaking or striking a child less than one year old.

The Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare has announced the 2013 grantees of Children’s Trust Fund grants. $1.5 million dollars will be divvied up to 13 organizations across the state.

“These are grants that are awarded to organizations to focus on strengthening families and building protective factors and resiliency within parents, caregivers and children in order to prevent child abuse and neglect,” said Theresa Campisi, family support program manager with DPW.

“Muslims for Life” is holding a blood drive in Wilkinsburg Monday as part of a national campaign to collect 12,000 pints of blood and save an estimated 36,000 lives.

Adnan Ahmed, an organizer for the event, said the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community launched the campaign in 2011, on the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks.

“On that particular day, not only those planes, but also the religion of Islam we believe was hijacked by painting a wrong and militant picture of the religion,” said Ahmed. “And the terrorist extremists have created suspicion of all Muslims.”

Pittsburghers Pay Tribute to Nelson Mandela

Dec 6, 2013
Art Baldwin

As the world pays tribute to former South Afican President Nelson Mandela, two Pittsburghers share their personal remembrances with us. Brenda Berrian from the University of Pittsburgh Africana studies department met Mandela on December 6, 1991 when he visited Pittsburgh. She called him "South Africa’s greatest son."

“He was always a family oriented man. A plain man, wanting to be with his children, his grandchildren, all of his friends. He said, ‘I did what I did on behalf of myself and the future of my family and other generations.’ But he basically just wanted to be in his house surrounded by his loved ones. So he would not want to be on a pedestal.”

Pittsburgh area resident, Arthur Baldwin, was a senior level official for the National Energy and Technology Laboratory and the chair of the continent of Africa for fossil energy for the US Department of Energy. He worked with Mandela in South Africa on reconstruction and development of the nation's energy plan.

Ending Street Harassment in Pittsburgh

Dec 6, 2013
Hollaback! Pittsburgh / http://pittsburgh.ihollaback.org/

Street harassment is a public form of sexual harassment that many people have witnessed, experienced, or engaged in.

For the most part, women are told to ignore cat calls and lewd behavior when walking down the street, but what if it happens on a daily basis?

Hollaback is an online initiative that was created in New York City to give people a place to vent or talk about their experiences with public harassment.

Now four Pittsburgh women have formed a local chapter of Hollaback.

Robby Green / flickr

Off-road riding on ATVs, and dirt bikes can be a great form of recreation for people of all ages.

But with recent reports of these vehicles being driven through Pittsburgh neighborhoods illegally, some residents are looking for tighter restrictions.

Tom Mershimer is an ATV and off-road motorcycle instructor Mines and Meadows  ATV/RV Resort who has been riding and racing off-road vehicles for most of his life. He's an enthusiastic rider, but he's seen some of the problems when it comes to the rules of the road, and off-road.

Joey Kennedy / Handmade Arcade

Shoppers will spend the next few weeks looking for the perfect holiday gifts for the special people in their lives.

For the 10th year in a row, the Handmade Arcade is offering Pittsburghers the opportunity to purchase one-of-a-kind, handmade gifts at their annual event on Saturday.

Jennifer Baron is one of the co-organizers of the craft fair, and said the Handmade Arcade can provide shoppers a respite from the fatigue of Black Friday.

Haldan Kirsch / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh’s biggest New Year’s party is celebrating its twentieth anniversary in a big way with a variety of musical and visual attractions.

First Night Pittsburgh will be ringing in the New Year with more than 150 art-focused and family-friendly attractions to commemorate two decades of festivities. The attractions will be spread throughout the Cultural District, starting at 6 p.m. Dec. 31 until a fireworks celebration and the raising of the “Future of Pittsburgh” ball at midnight.

Heather Dougherty was new to Pittsburgh and without a car, so she’d walk everywhere in and around Lawrenceville.

“And I experienced street harassment almost every time I stepped outside my office,” Dougherty said. “Men would shout at me you know, ‘Hey baby; nice hips,’ stuff like that. They would honk their horn as I crossed the street.”

Dougherty said she did as she’d always been told — ignored it — but it began to happen more frequently.

Remembering Dr. Rex Crawley

Dec 2, 2013
Robert Morris University

Dr. Rex Crawley was a longtime professor at Robert Morris University and founder and co-director of the Black Male Leadership and Development Institute.

He died last week of complications of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He was 49.

We spoke with him in June, as the institute’s week-long workshops were getting underway and talked about the need for such an institution in Southwestern PA.

Dr. Crawley is survived by his wife, Daria and two sons, Xavier and Vaughan.

NYU School of Social Work

In the new book, Stuck in Place: Urban Neighborhoods and the End of Progress Toward Racial Equality, Dr. Patrick Sharkey, an associate professor of sociology at New York University, explores what he calls some of the most persistent forms of racial inequality.

From gaps in income to academic test scores, he looks at race and neighborhoods over multiple generations.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

    

When Danny Chew does something, he does it all the way. The cyclist's goal is to ride a million miles over the course of his lifetime.

The 51-year-old Pittsburgh native has won the Race Across America twice, riding 3,000 miles in eight days on three hours of sleep each night. So it’s only natural he’s the guy responsible for what many consider to be the most grueling bike race in Pittsburgh: the Dirty Dozen.

If you’re looking to work off some of Thursday’s turkey and pumpkin pie with a nice walk, you might consider adding in a healthy dose of history as well. Historic Harmony is offering a series of hikes along the Connoquenessing Creek Saturday with none other than George Washington leading the way.

The focus of the hike will be to commemorate the 260th anniversary of Major Washington’s mission to Fort Duquesne to ask the French to leave the area. It comes on the exact date that the 21-year-old George Washington stayed on the north shore of the creek at a Delaware Indian Village.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

One of Pittsburgh’s most popular bicycling events turns 30 years old this Saturday.

The Dirty Dozen bike race challenges cyclists to climb the 13 steepest hills in the city. The 50-mile route takes riders from Highland Park, through the North Hills and the North side, across the Roberto Clemente and Smithfield Street bridges, through the South Hills and the South Side, ending in Hazelwood.

Winter weather advisories and storm warnings have been posted for much of Pennsylvania as a storm bearing a wintry mix of precipitation rolls into the commonwealth.

The National Weather Service says snow, sleet and areas of freezing rain and ice are expected later Tuesday in areas from western to northeastern Pennsylvania.

Jessica Nath / 90.5 WESA

When 260 local families answered their doors Monday afternoon, they were greeted with brightly colored laundry baskets filled with their Thanksgiving dinner.

An assembly line of volunteers from the Light of Life Mission and 10 local non-profits filled and delivered the baskets to local families who would not be able to purchase food for the holiday.

Flickr user Corey.Cousins

While it may not officially be winter yet, winter driving conditions may be experienced as temperatures drop and snow begins to fall. AAA is recommending drivers take precautions for winter driving.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Visitors to the Allegheny County Courthouse this holiday season will see a few new festive embellishments. 

Along with the colorful globes that normally adorn the county’s official tree, nearly 100 ornaments created by local school districts have been added to the boughs. 

Every district in the county was invited to use recycled scrap material to create an ornament representing the district itself and one for each of the communities within its borders.

2011 photo courtesy Flickr user jiuguangw

The winter season in Pittsburgh offers plenty of opportunities to discover the city — or, for you native Pittsburghers — to remember why you love your city. Here’s our rundown of seasonal festivities to get you out the door and fill you with holiday spirit.

Flickr user rwoan

Nearly 200 couples from as far away as California will be renewing their wedding vows at Heinz Chapel’s 75th anniversary celebration on Saturday.

Pat Gibbons is the director of Heinz Chapel, located on the University of Pittsburgh campus. She said the response to this weekend’s festivities has far exceeded her expectations. Including 196 married couples, she is anticipating around 560 guests for the vow-renewal ceremony.

Caring Place Celebrates Special Day With New Tree

Nov 21, 2013

When the Highmark Caring Place marks its annual Children’s Grief Awareness Day Thursday, it will be looking back as much as it is looking forward.

The Caring Place is a peer support group for kids dealing with the loss of a loved one, but that grief is just the beginning of what the 700 volunteers and staff at four locations help the children overcome.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

The ACLU of Pennsylvania has filed a federal lawsuit against Pittsburgh police officer Jonathan Gromek, who last summer arrested a black teacher after a community meeting on police/community relations in Homewood.

All charges against Dennis Henderson were withdrawn by the district attorney, but Henderson said that the damage that was done can’t be undone.

Google's traveling "Good to Know Roadshow" program presented at an assembly Monday at Pittsburgh Obama Academy to teach middle school students about the importance of using the Internet safely.

Google spokeswoman Jamie Hill said it was their first time making the presentation in Pennsylvania. Google has an office at Bakery Square in the Larimer section of Pittsburgh. Hill said research shows 93 percent of teenagers are using the Internet.

Pittsburgh Nonprofits Ready to Take Seat at Main Table

Nov 18, 2013

Pittsburgh Mayor-elect Bill Peduto says he wants to give nonprofits a seat at the main table in his administration. 

He made the comments Monday before about 500 Pittsburgh area nonprofit organizations gathered for the annual Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership meeting. 

Allegheny County District Judge James A. Motznik is calling on Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala to investigate two issues relating to incidents at Pittsburgh Brashear High School.

One of the incidents, an assault and robbery at the school, is believed to be related to this week’s shooting of three students outside of the school. Motznik said he believes a new policy in place is preventing school police officers from issuing citations as they would have in the past.

Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

Update: 7:39 a.m. Thursday

Pittsburgh police have charged a 16-year-old student with shooting three others outside a high school, allegedly in retaliation for a drug-related robbery inside the school last month.

None of the students wounded minutes after Brashear High School dismissed classes Wednesday has life-threatening injuries. Police say two were grazed by bullets, while one was shot in the arm and foot. Police say a fourth was targeted but not hurt.

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala said in a news conference Tuesday that the Monroeville police officer who struck and killed a pedestrian in early October will likely not be charged with a crime.

According to the DA’s office, Michael Barnes, 49, was struck by a police car driven by Sgt. Edward Lewkowicz at around 7:23 p.m. on Oct. 3. Zappala said Barnes was crossing Monroeville Boulevard, a four-lane road under the jurisdiction of Allegheny County.

The turkey hasn’t yet been served, but an iconic sign of Christmas will start popping up outside of stores and other locations – the Salvation Army’s red kettles.

“The goal for Western Pennsylvania is $2.7 million and the goal for Allegheny County is $687,500,” said Major Mark Mackneer, general secretary of Salvation Army in Western Pennsylvania.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Thousands of people converged on downtown Pittsburgh Monday for the annual Veterans Day parade. Many of them were watching, and even more were marching.

Dozens of high school bands provided entertainment while veterans from every generation marched down the length of Smithfield Street.

Onlookers greeted the vets with cheers and applause, shouting “Thank you!”

Paul Kennedy, western vice commander for the Pennsylvania American Legion, lives in the North Hills and said it was great to see so many people come out for the parade.

The city of Pittsburgh will hold its 94th annual Veterans Day parade on Monday.

Tony Filardi of Overbrook served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War and has been the chair of the Veterans Day parade committee since 1990.

Filardi said the parade is an important tradition that pays tribute both to veterans and to active duty military.

“It’s to honor all the veterans who served in the service and also the military people who are serving currently,” Filardi said. “After all, without them, our nation would not be free, because freedom is not free.”

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