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Media Coverage | “Lives are on the line.” All-In anniversary event examines racial equity in Pittsburgh

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By:  Bill O’Toole | Next Pittsburgh | April 12, 2019 | Read the full article

Mayor Peduto speaks at All-In Pittsburgh’s second anniversary event. Photo by Bill O’Toole.

“Today marks an important milestone on a long journey,” said Janera Solomon, executive director of the Kelly Strayhorn Theater, speaking at the venue on Thursday morning.

Pittsburgh’s community and political leaders were gathered in East Liberty to celebrate the second anniversary of the All-In Pittsburgh Equitable Development Collaborative, a coalition of community organizations dedicated to racial and economic justice.

As dozens of activists and members of the media crowded into the lobby of the historic theater, they heard from speakers including the artist Jasiri X of 1Hood Media, Neighborhood Allies President Presley Gillespie, Pittsburgh Foundation President and CEO Maxwell King, Pittsburgh City Council member Ricky Burgess and Mayor Bill Peduto.

“This is a transformative moment for our region, and we are moving forward unified, with a diverse, cross-sector collaborative that truly reflects the wisdom, voice and lived experience of the people we serve,” said Gillespie, who went on to note that every one of All-In’s projects and interventions are led by black and Latino Pittsburghers.

The speakers highlighted a number of accomplishments for the organization over the past two years, including:

  • Securing $225,000 of Neighborhood Allies’ Catalytic Grant investments program.
  • Successfully advocating in support of House Bill 163, which eliminated driver’s license suspension for non-driving related convictions, a penalty that disproportionately targeted black motorists.
  • Helping to get $2.5 million restored to the budget of the Urban Redevelopment Authority.
  • Partnering with the Housing Alliance of PA to identify best practices for protecting tenant rights.
  • Assisting Pittsburgh‘s Department of City Planning in launching a public comment period for the committee’s coming Neighborhood Plan Guide.

And yet the recent not guilty verdict for East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld for the fatal shooting of Antwon Rose II loomed large over the event. It was referenced repeatedly by the assembled speakers.

“Clearly,” said King, “there is so much work left to be done.”

Speaking near the beginning of the event, Jasiri X cited a 2015 study from the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., that found “staggering” levels of racial inequity in Pittsburgh.

In the struggle for social justice, “I want us to come with a sense of urgency,” he said. “Literally, lives are on the line if we do not get it right.”

Speaking to NEXTpittsburgh after the event, Gillespie said Pittsburghers can support All-In simply by staying updated on the organization’s work online and helping to spread the word. In a broader sense, he said true racial equity will depend on citizens changing their minds as well as their habits.

“These problems have occurred over the decades. It’s going to take courage, patience and a new way of thinking to deal with them,” Gillespie said. “This is not just about grants for good things, this is about transformation.”

In his remarks at the event, Mayor Peduto connected the goals of All-In to several of his administration’s broader policy efforts, such as OnePGH and the recently signed gun control legislation. Along with the other speakers, the Mayor called for broad public participation in social and criminal justice reform efforts.

“It can’t just be the people in this room, ministers and activists,” said Peduto. “It has to be Pittsburgh’s corporate leaders, it has to be organized labor, it has to be everyone saying these laws are unjust.”

The Mayor added: “If they’re saying it’s not their issue, then they’re not a part of Pittsburgh. It’s quite simple.”

Find more information on All-In, and ways to get involved, go here.

Founded in 2016, the All-In Pittsburgh coalition is an offshoot of the All-In Cities Initiative, which provides expert analysis and assistance to cities looking to spur inclusive policy and growth.

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