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.

Group Aims To Put Homeless Families In Churches

Sep 8, 2017
Frank Franklin II / AP

The other day a dozen people crowded around a ring of tables in a Macungie church community room, one of those mostly featureless spaces crowded with beige folding chairs where, so often, the call of faith turns quietly and efficiently into action.

PIOTRUS / Wikimedia Commons

The City of Pittsburgh’s Art Commission is moving forward with its process of reviewing a controversial statue of the composer Stephen Foster.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

Among Pittsburgh DREAMers who benefited from the Deferred Action for Children Arrivals program – also called DACA – the Trump administration's decision to end the program elicited reactions ranging from distress to resignation on Wednesday.

Some were at a loss, saying they have no way to ensure they can stay in the U.S. if DACA expires in six months without a replacement from Congress.

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

About 100 protesters gathered outside the Mt. Lebanon office of Rep. Tim Murphy Wednesday afternoon to protest President Donald Trump's decision to end the Deferred Action for Children's Arrivals program, commonly known as DACA.

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Racist business cards bearing an image of a noose and a swastika have been found in a Pittsburgh neighborhood that is a hub of the city's Jewish community.

The cards have the swastika on one side with the message, "It's not illegal to be white ... yet" on the back next to an image of a noose.

The FBI says neo-Nazi and white supremacist literature and stickers have been showing up for more than two weeks in Squirrel Hill.

Jeff Roberson / AP

After riots erupted Ferguson, Mo. following the 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown, investigations revealed that the entire criminal justice system in St. Louis County – not just the police department – levied massive amounts of fines and fees on its poorest citizens in order to fund itself.

It was a wake-up call for the nation, and one organization had already been in place working on these issues for five years.

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Federal officials say their discrimination lawsuit against a Pennsylvania township over construction of a long-delayed mosque has been settled and the project can now move forward.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced Tuesday that the Bensalem Masjid can build a mosque in Bensalem Township, which had denied it a construction permit in 2014. That led federal authorities to sue the township for religious discrimination.

Min Xian / WPSU

A judge has dropped all involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault charges for the 18 Penn State fraternity members charged in the death of pledge Timothy Piazza. Some defendants are going to trial for lesser charges. 

Lawyer: Penn State Fraternity Leaders Were Unaware Pledge Who Died Was In Danger

Aug 30, 2017
Bebeto Matthews / AP

The lawyer for a Penn State fraternity president accused in the death of a pledge after a night of drinking and hazing argued Wednesday that his client didn't see anything to make him think the pledge was at risk of dying.

Defense attorney Frank Fina said during a preliminary hearing that there was no evidence that former Beta Theta Pi president Brendan Young acted maliciously the night 19-year-old Tim Piazza, of Lebanon, New Jersey, was fatally injured.

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

Animal abusers in Pennsylvania could face fines of at least $500 and felony charges under a new law that went into effect this week.

Libre's Law increases penalties even for first-time offenders. It's named for the once-abused Boston Terrier-turned representative for animal rights, who co-signed the bill with his paw print alongside Governor Wolf back in June

Carolyn Kaster / AP

Pennsylvania prison officials say a pilot program designed to lower the re-arrest rate for nonviolent drug offenders is showing promise in its second year.

 

The Corrections Department said Tuesday the program known as SIP-HOPE is cutting recidivism by 13 percent, and participants are spending fewer days behind bars.

 

The program was developed with researchers at Drexel University, and put it in place at two halfway houses.

 

After Marrying U.S. Citizens, Undocumented Immigrants Attract ICE Scrutiny

Aug 22, 2017
Laura Benshoff / WHYY

Marriage tests couples in any number of ways.

Lillie Williams and Jonatan Palacios, both 27, have just spent about an hour being quizzed — literally — on their relationship.

Seth Perlman / AP

One local social service agency has launched a new program to house Pittsburgh's homeless youth ages 18-24.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

About 300 people marched from Homewood to North Point Breeze Saturday afternoon led by black activists and followed by white allies. 

The peaceful march organized by a group of black women and femmes intentionally prioritized the needs and voices of black attendees. All intersections of the black community including physical ability and sexual orientation and identity were welcomed as well as white allies. Organizer Deaja Baker said it was a chance to uplift the black communities.

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

Hundreds gathered in front of the City-County Building on Friday afternoon as Mayor Bill Peduto and a diverse group of interfaith and community leaders joined to unite the community against bigotry and hatred.

Evan Vucci / AP

Pittsburgh government and faith leaders invited the public to events this weekend "to come together during a trying time," Mayor Bill Peduto said Wednesday.

The events are a reaction to violent protests in Charlottesville, Va., last Saturday when white supremacist groups rallied over the removal of a Confederate statue and fought with counter protesters, including Heather Heyer, who was killed when a car slammed into the crowd.

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

In the wake of the violent clash in Charlottesville, Va. last weekend, Governor Tom Wolf has urged Pennsylvania residents to unite against hatred and bigotry.

He also criticized President Donald Trump's remarks that there was "blame on both sides" during the event, which left one peaceful protestor dead and several injured.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Law enforcement officials are attempting another concerted effort to reduce gun crime in the city. The Pittsburgh Initiative to Reduce Crime, or PIRC, a joint city and federal project, began in 2010, but faded out within four years.

“[We] never had the buy in or the command staff, let alone the officers themselves. The difference is we have an entirely new command staff,” said Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, who was a member of City Council when PIRC was created.

Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

Five years ago, the Obama administration launched Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

The program, which temporarily allows young undocumented immigrants to study and work in the U.S.,  has helped nearly 30,000 people in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

A press conference — held by the Office of Immigrant Affairs and the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition — celebrated the fifth anniversary of DACA at City Hall in Philadelphia. 

Samey Jay

UPDATE: The March on Google, which was scheduled to take place outside of Google's Pittsburgh campus at Bakery Square Saturday, has been postponed. Organizers posted online early Wednesday that it was on hold due to "Alt Left Terrorist threats." 

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

Communities across the country are reacting to Saturday’s racist violence in Charlottesville, Va.

For some in Export, Westmoreland County, it's a reminder of the borough's own history with the Ku Klux Klan. Five years ago, the town made headlines when a regional KKK meeting was allegedly held there.

Kezee / Flickr

Last night Pittsburgh city officials said they were preparing public safety resources ahead of a planned right-wing protest Saturday at several Google sites across the country, including the company’s Bakery Square location. The "March on Google" has since been postponed.

Regina Garcia Cano / AP

After a painstaking exhumation in Cumberland County, the remains of two Native American boys who died in the 1880s have been returned to their next-of kin in Wyoming.  

But all did not go as planned.

Remains of a third boy were also supposed to make the journey back west, but couldn’t be uncovered due to a mismarked grave. 

Little Chief, Horse, and Little Plume arrived together at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School aged fourteen, eleven, and nine.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

A new website, Storyburgh, aims to highlight the stories and experiences that often go overlooked in traditional media, like those of immigrants, Asian-Americans and stay-at-home dads. Will Halim, Storyburgh’s founding director, happens to be all three. 90.5 WESA’s Virginia Alvino Young spoke with Halim about how he came up with the concept. 

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh was one of many cities across the country where anti-racism rallies were held Sunday. A candlelight vigil drew a few hundred people to Schenley Plaza in Oakland.

Matt Rourke / AP

A commission created by President Donald Trump asked him to declare a state of emergency over the nation’s opioid epidemic. Earlier this week, he declined. On Thursday, according to a White House pool report, he changed his mind.

The declaration would free the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to grant additional funding for resources, address leadership shortfalls and make changes to Medicaid coverage.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

The journey for refugees from their home countries to Pittsburgh often takes years and includes lots of stops along the way. As part of WESA’s five-part series sharing the stories of young refugees, native Iraqi Maryam Nader, 15, talks about her desire to continue her travels and experience other cultures.

Nader is from Iraq, but she’s Kurdish, not Arabic.

“I don’t think anybody knows what are Kurdish,” said Nader. “They just assume they’re the same thing as Turkish, but they’re not. Kurdish have a different language and kind of a different culture.”

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

Young refugees have to adapt quickly once they arrive in Pittsburgh. Although they often come from difficult circumstances, many are able to learn English and make friends quickly. As part of a five-part series from WESA, four young people from Iraq, Tanzania and Congo share their stories of transition.

Hussein Zangana, 15, now lives in Brookline. He said it’s very different from Iraq, where fighting forced his family to flee. “Something is wrong,” he said.

Carlisle Historical Society

A team of Army officials and anthropologists is working in Cumberland County to exhume the remains of three Native American boys from the Northern Arapaho Native American Tribe.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

Some young refugees in Pittsburgh resettled in the city when they were infants and have lived here most of their lives. Others arrived earlier this year. 

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