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.

Standing Your Ground in Pennsylvania

May 31, 2013
University of Pittsburgh Law School

The killing of Florida teen Trayvon Martin brought attention to stand your ground laws last year. A number of states have laws which dramatically expand the definition of self defense, often including personal property. So what do the self defense laws look like here in Pennsylvania? University of Pittsburgh Law Professor David Harris is currently part of an American Bar Association National Task Force on stand your ground laws, looking into their overall impact on society.

Michael Lynch / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny County held a pep rally in the courtyard of the County Courthouse Friday in anticipation of the Penguins facing off against the Boston Bruins Saturday in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The rally had a carnival-like atmosphere with games, prizes, face paintings, Penguins-themed sugar cookies and performances from Pittsburgh musicians Freddie Nelson and the Kardasz Brothers. WDVE’s Val Porter hosted the event and pulled people on stage to participate in contests for best-dressed Penguins fan, best Penguins cheer, best Penguins sign and best player look-alike.

Pets are usually thought of in terms of cats or dogs, but one woman is hoping to bring chickens into the mix here in Pittsburgh.

Jody Noble feeds six chickens in her Highland Park backyard — Gregory Peck, Buffy the Worm-Slayer, Attila the Hen, Mother Clucker, Hillary Rodham Chicken and Margaret Hatcher. Noble is hoping to spread the joy of chicken ownership by organizing the 3rd Annual Chicks-in-the-Hood: Pittsburgh Urban Chicken Coop Tour.

An asthmatic child in Latin American village gasps for air, struggling to breath. The mother has gotten her son to a medical clinic where she knows the life saving medicine is stored, but she has to endure an agonizing wait as another child gets treatment from the only nebulizer machine in the district.

In the meantime, thousands of the machines that aspirate the liquid medication for inhalation sit on shelves in southwestern Pennsylvania, gathering dust never to be used again. 

90.5 WESA Weekend Watch 6/1 & 6/2

May 31, 2013

The Mattress Factory presents "Art Lab: Sculpting with Light." Stop by for a hands-on show dedicated to showing how artist James Turrell  “sculpts with light.” Participants will create their own slides to project and explore the process of making art with a fabulously elusive material. The Art Lab runs this Saturday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Mattress Factory lobby on Pittsburgh’s North Side.

Albert Lynn / WESA

Since the repeal of Pennsylvania's helmet law there has been an increase in motorcycle deaths. There has also been a doubling of motorcycle registrations. Rep. Dan Frankel has introduced legislation that would again require motorcyclists to wear helmets. Charles Umbenhauer, lobbyist for the group Alliance of Bikers Aimed Toward Education of Pennsylvania feels helmets should be a choice.

Should vacant buildings in Homewood be renovated or demolished? How about other Pittsburgh neighborhoods with blight? Tim Stevens, CEO and chairman of the Black Political Empowerment Project, has called for many of the buildings to be refurbished by workers enrolled in training programs rather than continuing with demolition.  They're now gathering community input on what to do with vacant buildings. C. Matthew Hawkins, adjunct faculty member in the School of Social Work at the University of Pittsburgh, recently wrote about the idea of a moratorium in Homewood and the Hill District.

What do you think of the potential moratorium on demolition in poor communities requested of Pittsburgh city council?

Touring Historic Homes in Observatory Hill

May 30, 2013
observatoryhill.net

Observatory Hill is a neighborhood just past Pittsburgh’s North Shore, on the eastern rim of Riverview Park. It’s named for its most prominent landmark, the Allegheny Observatory, part of the University of Pittsburgh. Like many Pittsburgh neighborhoods, the area boasts a range of architectural home styles from the first half of the 20th century. Many have been beautifully restored. Each year, members of the Observatory Hill community open their homes for a historic house tour. It's one of several in the city of Pittsburgh and serves as part community fundraiser, part history lesson and part renovation inspiration.

United Way of Allegheny County Breaks $33 Million

May 29, 2013

The United Way of Allegheny County filled a ballroom in a downtown hotel Wednesday with supporters and then announced it exceeded its 2012 fundraising goal. The total from the campaign hit $33,211,190, which is 2.7 percent more than last year’s total.

“Our record over the last five years prior to this year is that our community, the Pittsburgh community, has out raised the rest of the nation,” said local United Way President Bob Nelkin. “During that period of time we went up 12.7 percent. The rest of the big United Ways in the nation were down 4.4 percent.”

Two very different Pittsburgh icons are finding common ground in an insect.

The Carnegie Science Center and Phipps Conservatory are teaming up to host Butterfly Weekend, a two-day event that will give the public a chance to learn about the butterfly’s life cycle and natural habitat.

Susan Zimecki, director of marketing and community affairs at the Carnegie Science Center, points to a film as the inspiration behind the event.

The third year of the Pittsburgh Youth Civic Leadership Academy (YCLA) is now accepting applications. The three-week program allows city high school students to get an immersion experience in city government.

“I’m very excited; it’s what I wanted and I’m getting it,” said Clara Prom Burns, reacting to news that the 31st Bridge in Pittsburgh will be renamed to honor her brother.

Gov. Tom Corbett signed legislation Thursday to designate that span over the Allegheny River as the “William Raymond Prom Memorial Bridge,” the first bridge in Pittsburgh named for a Vietnam War hero.

The parents of a 2-year-old boy who was fatally mauled after falling into a wild African dogs exhibit last fall have sued the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, claiming officials had ample warning that parents routinely lifted children onto a rail overlooking the exhibit so they could see better.

The lawsuit filed Thursday on behalf of Jason and Elizabeth Derkosh seeks unspecified damages in the Nov. 4 death of their son, Maddox. The boy fell from a wooden railing after his mother lifted him up to get a better look at the painted dogs.

B-PEP, the Black Political Empowerment Project, held a news conference Wednesday morning in Homewood to announce that the group has asked the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County for a moratorium on the demolition of structures in black communities. 

B-PEP member William Anderson said the rapid demolition of properties that could easily be rehabbed is the beginning of gentrification that will force Homewood residents out.   

Pittsburgh-Based Charity Helps in Oklahoma

May 21, 2013

A Pittsburgh-based charity better known for working in Third World countries is lending a hand in Oklahoma in the wake of Monday's devastating tornado.

“Because of the magnitude, Brother’s Brother really felt a need to respond,” said Liam Carstens, Brother’s Brother Foundation Vice President for Medical Programs.  

Heather McClain / WESA

Two weeks ago Hofbrauhaus in the South Side agreed to pay $15.6 million in a settlement after one of their patrons consumed copious amounts of alcohol and proceeded to kill a seven year old girl while driving drunk down Carson Street. When a bar patron has too much to drink resulting in an accident who is ultimately at fault? And when it comes to serving drinks, how do you know when a patron has had too much. How do you handle the situation?

Farmers markets are opening all over the region with fresh, wholesome and affordable produce, and there are efforts to make sure everyone is able to share in the bounty.  

Ken Regal, Executive Director of Just Harvest, said the 160,000 residents of Allegheny County on Food Stamps have often been unable to use them at farmers markets because vendors usually only accept cash. 

This year, however, Just Harvest will staff kiosks at two Citiparks farmers markets where Food Stamps, as well as commercial debit and credit cards, can be used to buy tokens.  

A federal grand jury has indicted a former Pittsburgh-area priest on a charge of possessing child pornography.

The one-count indictment against David Dzermejko of Braddock for “possession of material depicting the sexual exploitation of a minor” was unsealed Friday.

The indictment alleges that “on or about January 11, 2013, Dzermejko possessed visual depictions, namely, still images in computer graphics files, the production of which involved the use of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct.”

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

For the next few weeks, law enforcement officials throughout the commonwealth will be stepping up enforcement of the state’s seat belt law. It’s an effort to get more people to buckle up.

90.5 WESA

The Pennsylvania Associated Press Broadcasters Association has announced the winning stations in the 2012 Pennsylvania Associated Press News Awards contest.

The awards, which were presented at a PAPBA banquet over the weekend in Harrisburg, recognize outstanding broadcast journalism efforts by AP member radio and television stations, cable television and networks in Pennsylvania.

An empty lot in the Wilson neighborhood of Clairton will be transformed into a playground this weekend.

More than 200 volunteers will gather in Clairton Saturday to build a playground designed entirely by local children.

Volunteers from the Clairton Fire Department, the Unity Group of Clairton, local residents and organizers from KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit, are getting together to build the playground in just one day.

Wayde Killmeyer, superintendent of the Clairton City School District, said the new playground is long overdue.

100 Years of Meeting Under the Kaufmann's Clock

May 17, 2013

"Meet me under Kaufmann's Clock" has been said for decades — 10 to be exact — by friends, families and lovers as a rendezvous in downtown Pittsburgh.

This week marks the 100th anniversary of the installation of the clock on the department store at Fifth and Smithfield.

While Kaufmann's is gone, Macy's made sure it kept the Pittsburgh icon when it acquired the department store chain. On Friday dozens of people with special memories of "meeting under the clock" gathered to mark the centennial.

A Dialogue On The Death Penalty With Sister Helen Prejean

May 16, 2013
Irish Jesuits / Flickr

  Sister Helen Prejean, has been an advocate for the abolishment of the death penalty, and a spiritual advisor for death row inmates and their families for decades.

Her bestselling book, Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States inspired an Oscar nominated film of the same name. This week, Sister Helen comes to Pittsburgh's Rodef Shalom Congregation to speak about capital punishment and the nation's criminal justice system.

The Western Pennsylvania Humane Society has landed a $30,000 grant to save more cats'  lives.

The WPHS is the second shelter in the nation to be a part of the Purina Cat Chow “50 Years. 50 Shelters.” program. The shelter will use the grant from the pet food company to improve its cat adoption room and establish a “Cat Crisis Center” to treat mild to moderately ill animals.

Gretchen Fieser, director of public relations for the WPHS, said the creation of the Cat Crisis Center will not only save animals lives, but also will help increase the number of adoptions.

Homewood Cemetery Trees Get a Second Chance at Life

May 14, 2013
Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

On a recent Saturday morning, artists from around the region gathered at Homewood Cemetery to turn chopped-down trees into mushrooms.

State College artist Ed Crow and his wife Janise sculpted a small morel mushroom and transformed a large three-pronged piece of wood into three morel mushrooms. This was one of several public events surrounding the so-called reGenerations project.

“ReGenerations is really the cemetery engaging with the arts community here in Pittsburgh to make arts and crafts from the trees we’re salvaging,” said project director Kenn Thomas. 

Laurence Leamer / Leamer.com

In April of 2010,  29 coal miners were killed in an explosion at Massey Energy's Upper Big branch Mine in West Virginia. It was the worst U.S. coal mining disaster since 1970.

In March of this year a former Massey Energy official accused Don Blankenship, the former CEO of Massey Energy, of conspiring and plotting to hide safety violations from federal safety inspectors. And that was just the tip

of the iceberg.

Perhaps you’ve heard of a gallery crawl, or even a bar crawl. Well, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is sponsoring a “sketch crawl” all throughout downtown Pittsburgh on Saturday. Just bring all the art supplies you need and show up at the Cultural Trust’s Education Center on 805 Liberty Avenue at 10:00 a.m. Accomplished sketch artist Rick Antolic will take participants to various locations throughout the Cultural District, helping with the sketches along the way.

On May 15, 1892, bookkeeper, amateur photographer and bicycle enthusiast Frank Lenz set off on his bike along rail lines in Pittsburgh. He was headed east to New York City on the first leg of his journey to cycle around the world.

More than a century later, cyclists in Pittsburgh will gather Saturday morning at the Pump House in Homestead. They are not headed for New York but rather Duquesne. And the supplies they will be carrying are food donations destined for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.  

Pittsburgh's bomb squad has been busy overnight responding to three reports of suspicious devices found along city streets that turned out to be loss-prevention devices, perhaps discarded as shoplifters drove away.

The first call came in just after 11 p.m. Thursday, and two more were reported Friday morning.

The plastic devices, which are equipped to beep and which hang from retail products by a small wire, were found wrapped in foil — which, at first, made them appear more suspicious.

Leaders hope a new commission will reduce violence and promote positive mental health in Allegheny County.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said he formed the Public Health Commission on Preventing Gun Violence and Promoting Community Mental Health upon request of state Rep. Ed Gainey of the 24th Legislative District.

“We’re going to be focused on making sure we look at the best practices, the best ideas, implement them in our community and doing all that we have to do to make sure that we reduce and eliminate the violence in our neighborhood,” Gainey said.  

Pages