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Statement by Bureau of Neighborhood Empowerment on Black History Month

As we look ahead to Black History month one must reflect on why we as a nation observe the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. The observance of such a man challenges us to live a life of personal reflection and examine the role that we individually play in making our neighborhoods, communities, and this City an equitable place to live, work, play, and do business.   

We live in a country that has far too often forgotten what it was founded upon; and we as a city will endeavor to remember the sacrifices, the persecutions, and the victories that has brought us this far. We must understand that our growth is determinant on each resident investing in building our knowledge of those that have helped build this country and those that have helped build this city. The City of Pittsburgh has been selected to participate in the inaugural Cities for Racial Equity and Racial Healing Technical Assistance Initiative. This initiative will help us to advance strategies and build the internal infrastructure for racial equity.   

In 2014 the Bureau of Neighborhood Empowerment (BNE) was formed as a key bureau within the Mayor’s Office to build our city’s low and moderate income neighborhoods from the ground up by addressing issues surrounding affordable and mixed income housing, education and youth development, immigrant, veteran, LGBTQIA+ and challenged populations, nonprofit and faith-based community initiatives, small business development, economic opportunity, and equity and inclusion in the City of Pittsburgh.    

"It is incumbent upon all governmental officials to not just celebrate Black History Month but, more importunately take real action to ensure equality that is needed for African Americans and all those underserved. Black History Month is an continuous endeavor."said Chief Urban Affairs Officers Valerie McDonald-Roberts.  

Coming out of the Obama administration, Michelle Obama gave us all words of wisdom, "when they go low, we go high." These words were to encapsulate the fact that we must not stoop to the level of our aggressor, but we must aim to be greater than our biggest hero. Martin Luther King Jr. is a symbol of just that. Being the best we can be, despite of opposition on almost all fronts. We are still in an age that has a glimpse of darkness, but as Dr. King Jr. said, "darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."    

We must remember that the observance of Martin Luther King Jr. was not just another federal holiday, or a day that we celebrated the life and legacy of a man. It was a day that represented years of civil unrest, years of demonstration, and years of pain and suffering on the backs of a group of people. While we understand that this pain has not been completely subdued, it is important that we recognize the pain and the importance of healing in a community that has had to fight tooth and nail to sit at the table. As we enter Black History Month, we will hear, read, and learn stories of men and women who in the past and present demonstrate(d) great courage in a time that did not welcome that courage, and sometimes still doesn’t. It is this same courage that each of us should glean from, to take the first step in addressing our personal biases, and ways we do not advocate for people of co lor, and for equal opportunities for all. You might ask, "What role can I play?" We must acknowledge that there is still racial division that exists, and think of ways you and your circle of influence can positively impact other members of your community in your work, home, school or business. Take advantage of the great events and opportunities to learn from workshops, speaker series that different organizations, and institutions will be holding during Black History Month and throughout the year. These are just a couple of steps that each resident can take, it will take all of us to make our city an equitable place for all.   


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