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.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

UPDATE: 9:47 a.m. Thursday

After heavy rain from storms Wednesday brought flash flooding across the Pittsburgh region, officials are advising that some roadways remain closed Thursday. More details here.

All weather warnings and watches for Allegheny County have expired, and the National Weather Service is forecasting a slight chance of showers for the Pittsburgh region before 11 a.m. Otherwise, Thursday is expected to be mostly cloudy with a high near 77.

A day before a scheduled preliminary hearing, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala announced he's dropping charges against a Pittsburgh teacher who was arrested outside a meeting about police/community relations.

Dennis Henderson, a 38-year-old teacher at the Manchester Academy Charter School, was arrested June 26 in Homewood after leaving a Community Empowerment Association meeting.  

Southwestern PA in Need of Blood Donations

Jul 9, 2013

The Red Cross says it needs your blood today.

The Greater Alleghenies Blood Services Region services 80 hospitals in 100 counties in six states, including nearly all of southwestern Pennsylvania. Spokeswoman Marianne Spampinato says they are starting to get a dangerously low levels.

Blood donations always drop in the summer, and Spampinato said with the Fourth of July falling in the middle of the week, donations were extremely slow all of last week.

The Greater Alleghenies Blood Services Region needs to collect 700 units of blood a day to keep up with demand.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Since 2006, furries, or people fascinated with anthropomorphics, have descended on Pittsburgh for Anthrocon. It's billed as the world's largest furry convention, and this year, organizers expected the event to attract more than 5,500 participants.

"Anthrocon has become so deeply entwined with Pittsburgh itself," said Anthrocon CEO Samuel Conway. "This is a magnificent city, and heck, if they want to keep having us, we'll keep coming back."

Thousands of people have been flocking to the visitor center at Gettysburg National Military Park for the 150th anniversary of the three day battle.

The facility displays about 1,300 historical items at any given time. But it barely scratches the surface of the entire collection.

Through the years, the park has acquired about one million artifacts, mostly by donation.

The National Park Service's Greg Goodell says each one helps to tell the comprehensive story of the Battle of Gettysburg.

The man who wrote probably the definitive book on the building of the Brooklyn Bridge will have a bridge named for him in his native Pittsburgh.

The 90-year-old Sixteenth Street Bridge, which links the Strip District and the North Side, will be rededicated Sunday as the David McCullough Bridge in honor of the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian.

McCullough will be joined Sunday — his 80th birthday — by family members, friends, fans and local officials for the unveiling of the plaque formally renaming the bridge.

Gettysburg Mayor William Troxell is busy welcoming hundreds of thousands of visitors to his hometown this week.

He calls the 150th anniversary of the largest battle ever fought on American soil a wonderful event for Gettysburg and the nation.

Troxell brings plenty of perspective to this week’s sesquicentennial events. His is one of the few faces in the crowd that was also here for the 100th anniversary in 1963.

In fact, Troxell was here for the 75th too. He was 11-years-old when President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the Eternal Light Peace Memorial in 1938.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Billed as the world's largest furry convention, Anthrocon is returning to Pittsburgh Thursday through Sunday. The much-anticipated Pittsburgh tradition is expected to attract more than 5,500 participants, some in costume, some not.

“We’re all furries,” said Anthrocon Inc. CEO Samuel Conway. “That’s the catch-all term for the fandom. We are furries. The people in the costume – we refer to the costumes, our own little lingo, they are fursuits. So they are fursuiters, the people who are wearing them.”

Cars are buzzing by faster than the posted speed limit.

Groups of children are dodging cars trying to make it to the other side of the street.

All of this going on over the shoulder of Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak.

The councilwoman, joined by representatives from Bike Pittsburgh and community residents, stressed the need for an upgraded traffic safety system Wednesday outside of the Carrick Regency High Rise along Brownsville Road.

The Lawrence County woman who lost custody of her child after testing positive for drugs after eating a poppy seed bagel has settled her suit against the county and the hospital where the test was preformed. 

The American Civil Liberties Union took the case of Elizabeth Mort in 2010 and announced the settlement with Jameson Hospital and Lawrence County Children and Youth Services Tuesday. The two entities will pay $143,500 to settle the suit. 

Matt Paul / witf

Ceremonies and re-enactments this week are marking the sesquicentennial of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Three days of fighting in July 1863 on the rolling hills of Gettysburg claimed the lives of 51,000 men in what many historians call the turning point of the Civil War.

Now, 150 years later, work is underway to ensure the hallowed ground looks nearly identical to how it was when Union and Confederate troops met on those fields. But Gettysburg National Military Park has undergone many changes since the famed battle.

With 150th Anniversary, Gettysburg Comes to Life

Jul 1, 2013

On this day 150 years ago the Battle of Gettysburg began. By the time the three-day battle was over, nearly 8,000 Americans were dead and another 40,000 were wounded or missing. But the battle changed the tide of the Civil War. 

This week, thousands of spectators will gather in Gettysburg to mark the anniversary, as Civil War re-enactors play out some of the key skirmishes that made the three-day battle so memorable. That means Gettysburg Chief Historian Scott Hartwig will be busy.

Pitt Chancellor Mark Nordenberg to Leave in 2014

Jun 28, 2013
University of Pittsburgh

The University of Pittsburgh will soon be looking for a new chancellor.  Mark Nordenberg told the University’s Board of Trustees Friday that he will leave the post in the summer of 2014.

90.5 WESA is excited to announce some upcoming programming changes and special broadcasts:

Hear more Here & Now starting July 1

Have 10Ks stopped challenging you, but you aren’t ready to take on a half-marathon yet? The Pittsburgh Marathon wants you to lace up your tennis shoes for its very first “Pittsburgh 10 Miler” this fall.

“The race will be for avid runners," Executive Director Patrice Matamoros said. "Some beginner runners will probably make this their goal, but we always advice to get on a training program. But it should be young and old. In this distance, you can see a wide array of different abilities and different ages.”

Pittsburgh Crowd Cheers Gay Marriage Decisions

Jun 26, 2013
Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

At least 250 people gathered on a downtown Pittsburgh street closed for the occasion were cheering U.S. Supreme Court decisions on gay marriage.

City Councilman Bruce Kraus told the crowd Wednesday morning, "To my fellow gay, lesbian, transsexual and queer friends, welcome to full equality."

City police have issued a permit for Wednesday's rally on Liberty Avenue, during which a portion of the busy downtown artery was to remain closed from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

The Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh organized the rally, which was called "Riot or Rejoice."

Flickr user Hannaford

Pittsburgh has been known as the Steel City and the City of Champions, but what about the smartest city?

According to David Cross, content editor for Movoto real estate, Pittsburgh is indeed the smartest city in the United States.

“I can say that, you know, I was a little shocked that Pittsburgh ranked that high," Cross said. "At the same time I was really happy, because I’m a Midwestern boy at heart."

As of earlier Tuesday afternoon, more than 300 people on Facebook said they are heading downtown Wednesday morning to catch live coverage of the Supreme Court’s rulings on DOMA and Prop 8 — two cases involving same-sex marriage.

Delta Foundation organizers are expecting an even larger crowd downtown.

“Liberty Avenue will be shut down to vehicle traffic between 9th and 10th because we’re expecting so many people,” said Christine Bryan with the Delta Foundation. “We’ll have a large television set up, and a stage and various speakers.”

Therese Mangham ended her 22 years of military service with a Purple Heart and a traumatic brain injury.  She received both of them after being hit by a blast from an improvised explosive device in 2008.

She spent three weeks that year in Germany in the warrior transition unit hoping to work her way back to her unit, but the wounds proved to be too much.

Burgess: Blight in Homewood Could Spread

Jun 24, 2013

More than 40 percent of land parcels and 30 percent of houses in Homewood are vacant. That’s according to research from the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Urban and Social Research.

A town hall meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday in Homewood at the Carnegie Library to address the issue of blight, demolition of housing and land banking in that neighborhood. Pittsburgh Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess is hosting the forum, and he said there has been talk for years about addressing the problem of vacant and abandoned properties, but there’s been little action.

Rapid Transit Tips from Cleveland

Jun 21, 2013
Center for Neighborhood Technology / Flickr

Last Thursday, Pittsburgh government and business officials took a trip to Cleveland to tour the Healthline—Cleveland’s rapid transit system—with the hopes of bringing back ideas for Pittsburgh’s own Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).

United Way of Allegheny County announced its funding allocations for children and youth programs this week, giving $2.4 million to more than 15 programs.

United Way focused its attention on after school programs, summer programs, future leaders programs, college preparation programs and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs.

Alicia Chatkin, United Way’s director of programs for children and youth, said the funding is meant to help children in two age groups.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Several years ago, a Family Dollar store was set to open on Frankstown Avenue in Homewood. The building was built, but the chain pulled out, deciding not to locate a store there.

The building has stood vacant since. The Homewood Renaissance Association (HRA) is hoping to breathe new life into it and the community by converting the space into a new community center.

Take a Ride with the Gateway Clipper Fleet

Jun 20, 2013
Haldan Kirsch / 90.5 WESA

The Gateway Clipper is celebrating its 55th year on Pittsburgh's three rivers. Going for a ride on any of the Clipper's six ships gives Pittsburghers a chance to travel under its famous bridges and listen to their voice echo against Pittsburgh steel. 

The Clipper offers one-hour sightseeing cruises, shuttle services to the North Shore for sporting events and specialty and theme cruises. The fleet is also available for event rentals. 

Training the Next Generation of African-American Leaders

Jun 17, 2013
Robert Morris University

Pittsburgh is one of the few major cities in the northeast that has not had an African American mayor. At present there are only two African Americans on its city council. Where will the next generation of community leaders come from?

On Sunday, 75 black high school students, mostly from the Pittsburgh area, began intensive training sessions to become community leaders.

The young men are taking part in the 7th annual Black Male Leadership Development Institute now through June 23 at Robert Morris University in partnership with the Urban League of Pittsburgh.  

A new study finds that hands-free devices in cars aren’t as safe as people think.

Research by AAA found that hands-free technology in cars gives drivers a false sense of security.

Bruce Hamilton, manager of research and communications with the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, said an increase in mental workload slows reaction time, causing drivers to scan the road less and miss visual cues.

A report released by the Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission shows that 80 percent of juveniles in Pennsylvania that recidivate, or continually commit crimes, come from families with unmarried parents.

The commission looked at juvenile cases closed in 2007 and tracked them for two years to see if the juveniles returned to crime.

The study found that 20 percent of juvenile offenders committed other crimes within two years after their original cases were closed.

Pittsburgh’s gay pride festival continues to grow, with organizers expecting more than 100,000 people to enjoy the celebration on Liberty Avenue.

When the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh took over the festival in 2007, about 3,000 people attended. Six years later, the organization is expecting to break the 100,000 mark.

Gary Van Horn, president of the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh, attended his first Pride festival in 1996. He said he never expected Pittsburgh Pride to get as large as it has.

Census: Pittsburgh Region Is Getting Younger

Jun 13, 2013
Haldan Kirsch / 90.5 WESA

The population of the youngest Allegheny County residents is growing, while nationally the number is dropping.

Between 2010 and 2012, the number of people five years of age and younger increased county-wide by 0.9 percent, while it decreased nationally by the same percentage.

“I think the Pittsburgh region’s been attracting people for the last few years, and most people moving into the region are going to be younger folks mostly coming for work, so I think that’s made us younger as we go ahead,” said Christopher Briem, regional economist at the University of Pittsburgh.

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