Say it Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud!
Before the 1960s, when the first Freedom House ambulances hit the streets of Pittsburgh, prehospital medical care was almost nonexistent. Police with no medical training might race a patient to the hospital with no special equipment or care, and many avoided Black neighborhoods altogether.
From 1968-1975, Freedom House provided emergency medical services (EMS) training to individuals in the city’s Hill District, a primarily Black and economically disadvantaged part of the city.
John Moon was a member of Pittsburgh’s Freedom House from 1972 to 1975. "We left a legacy. I want that legacy that Freedom House left to always be remembered." Though he retired in 2010, he’s still working to do just that.
“You get out of this career what you put into it,” Moon recently told the first cohort of Freedom House 2.0, the spiritual sequel to the original program. “You have to have a mind or heart of compassion and empathy for people you’re taking care of. Sometimes, they won’t be the most enjoyable patients, but it’s a very awesome, difference-making responsibility.
The program is just one piece of a long history of revolutionary approaches to prehospital care. See how Pitt people paved the way for modern emergency medicine.
Freedom House 2.0, like its predecessor, is leveraging expertise from the University of Pittsburgh to train first responders from economically disadvantaged communities, many of which have been significantly impacted by COVID-19. Participants receive mentorship and financial support, as well as state-approved emergency medical technician (EMT) certification and community paramedic/health care worker training.
Faculty members from Pitt’s Emergency Medicine program are teaching and providing instructional resources. The training focuses on traditional emergency medical services and on equipping first responders to help address critical, non-emergency psychosocial needs—such as poorly managed chronic medical and behavioral health conditions and a lack of access to resources to address them—that comprise a significant portion of 911 calls.
Successful graduates will be guaranteed an interview with UPMC and other job placement support. They can also use their experience to continue their studies.
“Just to be able to learn more about the body and how it works, to give me the opportunity to be better for my community, going above and saving lives, it’s very inspiring,” said Elijah Sellers, a student in the first cohort of Freedom House 2.0, in an interview conducted by KDKA-TV, a CBS affiliate.
Transforming prehospital care and communities—again
Program leaders said successful graduates will become the future of EMS.
“EMS response solely to 9-1-1 emergencies will soon become a thing of the past. These folks are being trained to become community paramedics, or rather community health practitioners,” said Thomas Platt, associate professor and director of Pitt’s Emergency Medicine program. “These are folks who can now go into homes and do an assessment rather than just take people to hospitals. This in turn can help reduce hospital admissions and readmissions.”
Program leader Kenneth Hickey said Freedom House 2.0 was started as a way to increase diversity and spur workforce development during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“During the pandemic, we noticed a great need for first responders and local community advocates,” said Hickey, who is also a program manager for community services at UPMC Health Plan. “So far, it’s been really promising. We couldn’t go without the University of Pittsburgh and its Center for Emergency Medicine for offering the training opportunity. We’re truly trying to build them a pipeline to whatever they (students) want to be in the future.”
Hickey also said program leaders compared social justice issues experienced in 2020 to those experienced by the original Freedom House participants.
“This is one way we can give back to correct social injustice,” he said.
Program leaders and students have also been learning from the past through the mentorships of Moon and Philip Hallen, co-founder of the original Freedom House.
“This program is critical to the people in it and their life path. To the people running the program, it’s a good step in the right direction,” said Hallen, namesake of the Philip Hallen Chair in Community Health and Social Justice. “My hope is that the sustainability and longevity of this program is in place. The people doing the training are committed, but they need the institutional support and funding. This program can be used as a model for other communities.”
Moon said the program carries on the legacy of the original Freedom House, whose emblems can be seen on EMS vehicles today.
“Any mention of Freedom House makes my heart proud, because of all the struggles and tribulations the original Freedom House had to overcome. I want that legacy to always be remembered,” said Moon. “Despite the fact that Freedom House itself was near and dear to my heart, just to see a program such as this makes the students near and dear to my heart also. Programs like this are a crucial step toward diversifying hospital care options. There’s a great need for this program. Without programs like these, underserved communities’ needs would not be met.”
Freedom House 2.0 is grant-funded by Partner4Work, the public workforce investment board for Allegheny County, and builds upon UPMC’s Pathways to Work program to offer low-income individuals meaningful job training and support.
Source: University of Pittsburgh
Kenneth Hickey (center) is leading the charge for Freedom House 2.0.
A new augmented reality game provides a look into playwright August Wilson's inspirations...
In the early 20th century, Pittsburgh's Hill District was one of the most vibrant Black neighborhoods in the U.S. Jazz greats like Lena Horne, Billy Strayhorn and Miles Davis would perform at the Crawford Grill. Black social clubs, restaurants and churches thrived. Many men had high-paying jobs at steel mills, and families prospered. The Pittsburgh Courier, a nationally circulated Black newspaper, chronicled it all through the lens of photographers like Charles "Teenie" Harris.
This was the environment that award-winning playwright August Wilson grew up in. Wilson, who was born in 1945 and died in 2005, is best known for a series of 10 plays known as August Wilson's American Century Cycle, which dramatize a century of African American life. His work won many awards including Pulitzer Prizes and Tony Awards; and Netflix released a movie based on "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" in December.
Students at Carnegie Mellon University's Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) captured some of the historical context of his plays in an immersive new game that honors Wilson's legacy, "Explore August Wilson's Hill District."
Players use a smartphone or tablet to work their way through the mission of filling a photo album with historical images taken by Harris and others from two decades: the 1910s and the 1960s. The augmented reality (AR) mode relies on a printed-out map of the Hill District, which then can be used to show how the buildings and infrastructure change over time. The app can run with AR or without, as much of the experience is an exploration and collection game within 2D scenes in these two epochs.
"The core of the experience is to engage the player in the culture and events of the Hill District," said Em Tyminski, a second-year graduate student studying costume design and a 2D artist and narrative designer for the team. She is splitting her time between the ETC and the School of Drama.
Led by Hyoeun Kim, the team also includes Shera Zhan, Yifan Deng and Zoltan Jing. Brendan Valley supplied sound design work as well. All are graduate students in the ETC program. Professors Mike Christel and Ralph Vituccio serve as faculty advisers. Not only did the team members cross department lines, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they collaborated across multiple time zones. Some members were on the West Coast while others were working in China where there is a 13-hour time difference with Pittsburgh.
"They were able to work distributed around the world to get something done. These stories sing inside the application," Christel said.
Scholarship Funded by EQT Foundation Covers Full Tuition From Grades PK-12
This fall, Shady Side Academy named Junior School pre-kindergarten student Abram Amos-Abanyie of Forest Hills as its newest EQT Scholar. As one of only two EQT Scholars at SSA, Abram is the recipient of a scholarship worth full tuition for his entire Shady Side education through grade 12.
Founded in 2016, Shady Side’s EQT Scholars Program covers full tuition beginning in pre-K or kindergarten through grade 12 for two students with demonstrated financial need. The program is funded by an endowment from the EQT Foundation, the charitable arm of natural gas producer EQT Corporation. Over 13 or 14 years, the scholarship is worth more than $300,000. Junior School fourth grader Adrianna Ballard of Swissvale is the other current EQT Scholar, named in 2016. Abram and Adrianna will remain EQT Scholars as long as they continue to qualify for financial assistance and remain in good academic standing.
Abram, who enrolled in senior pre-kindergarten at the Junior School this fall, is the fourth child in the Amos-Abanyie family to attend Shady Side, following siblings Emmanuel (grade 6), Levi (grade 4) and Elina (grade 1).
“We were speechless when we found out that Abram was being offered the EQT Scholarship,” said Abram’s mother, Kristin Amos-Abanyie. “We love being part of this community, and having the peace of mind to know that Abram's tuition is covered until he graduates is a huge relief. An SSA education provides a lifelong foundation, and we cannot wait to see all the amazing things our kids will do in the future. With three older children at SSA, we know that the teachers meet our children where they are and challenge them to improve. We are so excited for Abram to be a part of the school and watch him grow and challenge himself through all the opportunities SSA offers. He loves everything about school, especially his teachers and friends.”
“Abram is a model student who sets an example of how to live The Shady Side Way every day,” said Abram’s senior pre-kindergarten teacher, Melissa Petitto-Kenny. “He is quick to help friends in the classroom, as well as teachers. He finds joy in learning and is always ready to try any activity we offer him, especially when it involves building structures or making art! He comes to school each day with a smile behind that mask. Abram’s quiet kindness and big imagination are a gift to our class.”
Shady Side Academy is a nationally respected private school in Pittsburgh for boys and girls in grades PK-12, with an optional boarding experience in high school. Four age-specific campuses with extraordinary resources, teachers who actively mentor, a forward-thinking curriculum, a diverse and inclusive community, and a legacy of alumni accomplishments all inspire Shady Side students to high achievement in academics, the arts and athletics, and to meaningful ambitions in life. Learn more at www.shadysideacademy.org.
Since its inception in 2003, the EQT Foundation has awarded more than $60 million to nonprofits throughout the operational footprint of the EQT Corporation. The EQT Foundation is committed to supporting the education and training of children and adults; the development of diverse, livable communities; and preserving our natural environments. Learn more at https://www.eqt.com/community/eqt-foundation/.
Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore, get wisdom.
And in all your getting, get understanding.
Typically, generational wealth refers to material things of significance passed on from one generation to the next. This type of generational wealth provides succeeding family members with a foundation that enables them to avoid “starting from scratch” or having to “lift themselves up by their bootstraps.” Instead, these generational wealth recipients are provided a “head start” that enables them to not only cope with acquiring basic necessities such as food, shelter and health care but also to actualize themselves as human beings.
Imagine the privileged position you would be in if, for example, your parents made it possible for you to graduate from college not only free of debt but they also gave you a new car as a graduation gift. Consider the economic advantage you would have if you also enjoyed the number one American wealth generation act, i.e., you inherited a mortgage-free multi-bedroom home.
Unfortunately, the well-known fact is that the foregoing type of generational wealth is one of the key disparities many Blacks experience as a result of systemic racism. As noted on September 28, 2020 by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, “…the typical White family has eight times the wealth of the typical Black family and five times the wealth of the typical Hispanic family… In the 2019 survey, White families have the highest level of both median and mean family wealth: $188,200 and $983,400, respectively… Black families' median and mean wealth is less than 15 percent that of White families, at $24,100 and $142,500, respectively…”
To be sure, living in a capitalistic society, Blacks must not only understand but also practice the rudiments of the American/international financial system. At the same time, we must not forget that, as the “passport for the 21st century,” education and the wisdom related to its use are critically important types of generational wealth. Otherwise, the material aspects of generational wealth become a matter of “easy come, easy go.” For an example of the latter, we need look no further than a current national leader who received hundreds of millions from his father and, today, he has debt in the hundreds of millions! Lest Blacks are appropriately educated, they might not only lose ground in terms of material wealth, but also their pursuit of equity and social justice.
We must heed the wisdom articulated by Carter G. Woodson when he wrote, “If you can control a man's thinking you do not have to worry about his action. When you determine what a man shall think you do not have to concern yourself about what he will do. If you make a man feel that he is inferior, you do not have to compel him to accept an inferior status, for he will seek it himself. If you make a man think that he is justly an outcast, you do not have to order him to the back door. He will go without being told; and if there is no back door, his very nature will demand one.”
A Black person, for example, could sit on the Supreme Court for years, but if she/he is miseducated, then that person might attack laws designed to assist Blacks as well as members of other oppressed groups. It will be they who will lead the attack on laws that aid the LGBTQ community.
Lacking wisdom and, at the same time, properly miseducated a Black elected attorney general might purposefully fail to have a grand jury indict White police officers who murdered an innocent Black woman and, instead, obtain an indictment for one White police officer who wantonly shot bullets into the apartment of a White person.
Profoundly miseducated and, without generational wisdom, such a Black person might be the first to come to the rescue and wipe “Karen’s tears” after she was nationally criticized –even if Karen had called the police to arrest the Black person because she “looked suspicious” as she was getting into her recently purchased 2020 car. Another such miseducated Black might be the one to hug “Karen” after she was found guilty of murdering their uncle and, still another, might straighten the wrinkle in “Karen’s” dress when she rises to be sentenced in court.
Lacking generational wisdom, the proximity to power along with a big title and big salary (for a Black person) could cause miseducated folks to become classic “house Negroes.” To appreciate just how far those without wisdom might go and squander Black equity and social justice generational wealth, please read the September 28, 2020 New Pittsburgh Courier Digital Daily article “Ten of the most noteworthy House Negroes in America.” Therein, you will note the detrimental deeds of Clarence Thomas, Daniel Cameron, Jason Whitlock, Candace Owens, Terry Crews, Kanye West, Charles Barkley, Stacy Dash, Diamond & Silk, and Herman Cain.
If we are to end the cycle of “being sick and tired of being sick and tired” and, instead, make consistent, significant, incremental progress when it comes to Blacks acquiring freedom, justice and equality, then we must not squander the generational wisdom of those who came before us. We must not only “say their names” but also acquire the wisdom of ancestors such as James Baldwin, Daisy Bates, Mary McLeod Bethune, Gwendolyn Brooks, Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois, Toni Morrison, Myrlie Evans-Williams, Fannie Lou Hammer, John Lewis, Audre Lorde, Martin Luther King, Jr., Pauli Murray, Rosa Parks, Bayard Rustin, Carter G. Woodson, and Malcolm X.
Regarding a bit of generational wisdom from Audre Lorde, always remember that “… survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to stand alone, unpopular and sometimes reviled, and how to make common cause with those others identified as outside the structures in order to define and seek a world in which we can all flourish. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths. For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. And this fact is only threatening to those women who still define the master’s house as their only source of support.”
Lest the foregoing type of generational wisdom is internalized, years from now after yet another urban insurrection stimulated by racist abuse, Black folks will be babbling, “We had a Senior Vice President for…, and an Executive Associate for…, and a Special Counselor for…, and it seemed we’d make so much progress. But here we are again, having made so little progress over so much time.” Truly, “my people are destroyed” not only for lack of material wealth, but also lack of knowledge, understanding and wisdom!
Jack L. Daniel
Co-Founder, Freed Panther Society
Contributor, Pittsburgh Urban Media
Author, Negotiating a Historically White University While Black
October 13, 2020
Avis Williams has always loved to cook and share her culinary talents with friends and family. Now, anyone can enjoy the delicious comfort food she prepares by visiting Hilda’s Soul Food Kitchen in Homestead. The restaurant specializes in Southern hospitality and cooking that will “bring back memories of your grandmother’s kitchen” and “bring the South to Pittsburgh.” Opening the restaurant in July fulfilled a 10-year dream for Williams, who named the restaurant in honor of her mother.
After working in accounting and banking for many years, Williams prayed about making the change, and then “God started opening doors.” Although she previously helped to run a catering business, she had no professional training, so she decided to go back to school to learn how to manage a restaurant. Williams is graduating from CCAC’s Hospitality Operations Management program this year. Through the program, she learned every aspect of restaurant management—from maintaining food in the right order in the refrigerator, to becoming ServSafe certified, which is the industry standard in food safety training and is administered by the U.S. National Restaurant Association.
“CCAC was a tremendous help,” said Williams. “Every class that I took was so beneficial. The whole setup of the program is exactly what someone needs if they’re looking to manage a restaurant.”
Although she was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Williams acquired a love of Southern cooking through her husband and other family members who are from the South. Hilda’s is definitely “filling a niche” by offering daily specials, such as meatloaf and gravy with rice and Southern creamed peas, BBQ ribs with mac ’n cheese and greens, smothered pork chops with two sides, or blackened salmon or chicken tossed salads. Fridays are fish FRYdays with crabcakes, salmon cakes and shrimp étouffée, and every Saturday features a Southern breakfast buffet. Patrons can also sample Southern specialties such as boiled peanuts and pimento cheese.
Customers have responded enthusiastically to the new restaurant, which is currently open for takeout and delivery. The restaurant has limited seating, and Williams plans to offer indoor dining in the future when health concerns about COVID–19 have lessened.
Hilda’s Soul Food Kitchen, located at 514 E. 8th Ave., Homestead, is open Tuesday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., with a Saturday breakfast buffet from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. For more information or to place an order, call 412.462.4220.
Visit ccac.edu to learn more.
Who could have prepared my football teammates and I at Shady Side Academy for the summer of 2020, for me, it is going down in history as one of the most unpredictable, frustrating, upside down you turn me seasons I have ever encountered. Of course, this is due to the COVID-19 pandemic scare which hit our team with such a great force like a lineman tackling a quarterback without much protection.
Let me backup, it was Spring, March 2020 to be exact, and as an eighth grader, I was anxiously trying to get out of middle school, when COVID-19 reared its ugly head. Students were forced out of our daily school routines and rushed into an online learning experience to be located at home for about three months without much notice or preparation. The online experience was confusing and a little strange in the beginning, it did not feel normal to not be around my classmates, but once I got my ZOOM skills down, I persevered. Needless to say, I missed connecting with my friends and my teachers in person, its hard to recreate the excitement and action that takes place in a classroom, for me it is an important part of the overall learning experience. During my online instruction in the spring, my mom was always looking over my shoulder while I sat at the kitchen table and my dogs were enjoying biting my toes during my endless ZOOMS, but still online learning could not take the place of being at Shady Side Academy for a regular school day with my classmates and teachers.
Like many people surviving the pandemic here in the United States and around the world we believed by summer COVID-19 would be a thing of the past, this horrific historic disaster, would be brief and just like that life would soon be back to normal, at least by summer, right? Not. Unfortunately, here we are in the middle of August and the virus still has deadly tentacles that continues to spread ferociously, touching everyone’s lives in unpredictable and sadly harmful ways even for us athletes who dream of playing football. I was excited about participating in summer football camp at SSA that kicked off in June. I envisioned my life as a football player taking off especially since this is the first time I would be practicing on a High School team. I was relieved when football practice for the summer was not cancelled, however while the powers that be sorted out our football destiny, we had a few moments of interruption and uncertainty. When we got the green light to continue practice through the summer most of my teammates and I were relieved and we understood we would have to practice differently under COVID-19, no doubt this would not be your regular football season.
Your football game strategy and techniques needs to be on point especially with COVID-19 looming over the field, social distancing with my passionate teammates who are eager to run a cool play and throw a football is a new challenge. You better keep your stride and forget about the fact that we had to wait four long weeks before we could even touch a football. On the long hot 90 degree days, you better make sure you have your own water jug, no sharing sips and stories around the big Gatorade cooler, remember to stand 6-feet apart (this is always on your mind.) Don’t forget your plays and get into formation, run the ball, COVID-19 rules, they exist, they are real and required.
While COVID-19 has tried to take away everything good this summer, I’m thankful that our team, one of the few in the region is still able to practice and come together. While the politics continue over whether or not we will have a season, I still enjoy my football practice even with the extra safety precautions and the major changes required and necessary. As part of the precautions, every morning our temperature is taken and we are asked questions regarding our travel activities. My teammates diligently wear our masks for most of our practice and we place our items in a small hoop, making sure not to contaminate anything. Overall, everyone is working hard at following the social distancing rules because we understand the importance of why we have the guidelines in the first place is to help keep us safe and alive.
My favorite part of every practice is when we go to lift weights, in smaller groups, with masks secured, my teammates and I turn up the music and focus on our goals of winning. Moments like this help me escape the harsh reality of COVID-19 and I am thankful that our football camp was not canceled. I appreciate the camaraderie of the players and how important it is for my mental and physical growth overall. I realize so many other players in other school districts have already canceled their football seasons and fall athletics, and I understand the difficult decisions that many people have to make because of COVID-19. These are tough decisions for families, school administrators, coaches, lawmakers, and the athletes but in the face of adversity we are all learning important lessons about life and how precious these moments are sometimes we have to run the most difficult plays to get to the end zone.
My coach, Chuck DiNardo at Shady Side Academy emphasizes during practice to work hard at everything that you do, and when you show up for practice be ready to do your best. He also tells us to thank our parents and others who are making sacrifices for us to be able to practice, and more importantly we should not take them for granted especially during this deadly pandemic.
TO BE OR NOT TO BE, indeed, this is the question that sums up our football season-- whether or not we will have a season come fall is still up in the air and a heated political hot potato, I am not sure who really wins in the end. While the politics about the season continues to be sorted out, I can appreciate that everyone on my football team still comes to work hard every practice and we all have respect for each other, our coaches, and our equipment and stadium. More importantly, our team focuses on respect and trust the most. Coach DiNardo, aka “Coach D” says that he wants to be able to trust us to keep working hard even when we are tired. We are tired of this pandemic, but our spirits are not broken by the desire to continue to play a game that means so much to us young athletes.
As our social distancing rules continues, for me football is still a great escape from this pandemic, sincere props go out to Coach DiNardo, Coach Charles Calabrese “Breezy,” Coach Dave Havern, Coach Josh Frechette, and Coach Alex Bellinotti for their dedication and leadership throughout the summer practice. Indeed, I am a better player because of their relentless commitment and support through this highly unusual, unpredictable but need I say, worthwhile summer of football. Whether we play football or not will continue to be debated, I hope those marking the decisions understand most of us athletes still care about what actions take place. What resonates with me during these turbulent times, is our SSA football chant after each practice where my teammates and I come together to shout loud and proud: “Family on 3. 1. 2. 3. Family.” Family is what matters the most and sometimes it comes in the form of a football team, and sometimes in a family we learn crucial life long lessons during difficult situations like this dreadful pandemic, these are the moments that you need to be strong, stay focused and keep grinding!
Isaiah Beckham, PUM Contributor
August 17, 2020
Isaiah Beckham, Shady Side Academy Football player, 9th grade student.