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Four local arts organizations—City Theatre Company, the Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh Glass Center, and Pittsburgh Public Theater—have appointed Fatima Bunafoor to be their shared Talent & Equity Director, in an effort to address common staffing challenges and inclusive human resources objectives. The cohort of theatres seeks to advance better practices related to human and personnel management, including developing and sharing learning policies around hiring, retention, staff development, and organizational culture in an industry-setting partnership model.
“The impetus of the shared Talent & Equity Director position was born out of a previous project on which we collaborated to create a six-month cohort focusing on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) training with 15 local arts nonprofits and funders,” said Hayley Haldeman, executive director of the Mattress Factory, in a statement. “By pooling our resources, we can meet our common challenges while also creating an environment where we learn and evolve together.”
Additionally, the August Wilson African American Cultural Center will participate in a series of staff trainings directly tied to EDI in conjunction with the larger cohort.
Bunafoor is an equity and management professional who has dedicated her career to human rights, racial justice, education, and creating systems of accountability. A native of Bahrain, she moved to the United States in 2010 to participate in the NESA Undergraduate Exchange program through the State Department, and sought asylum in 2011 due to her work documenting human rights violations by the Bahraini government against political prisoners. She has worked in the government as well as the nonprofit and private sectors. Bunafoor holds a B.A. in International Studies from Juniata College and an M.S. in Public Policy and Management from Carnegie Mellon University. She previously served as a manger of special projects with the Office of Equity and Engagement at the Allegheny County Department of Human Services and as a diversity and program coordinator at CMU’s Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy.
“The Director of Talent & Equity role is an opportunity for the arts cohort to put into practice all their EDI goals and learning,” Bunafoor said in a statement. “I am excited to build this role and collaborate with the arts cohort. The commitment that leadership made through this hiring process and the commitment to collaboration are great examples of incorporating equity in every aspect of organizational practices.”
The new role is made possible in part by grant support from Art Equity Reimagined’s Collective Action for Reimagining Fund, through which the cohort was able to hire the search firm Equitable Hiring Group. Over 50 human resources and diversity and inclusion professionals were considered for the position.
The leadership council managing the cohort includes Hayley Haldeman; Heather McElwee, executive director of the Pittsburgh Glass Center; Lou Castelli of Pittsburgh Public Theater; Denise Church of the August Wilson Center; Pam Lezark of the Mattress Factory; and Clare Drobot and James McNeel of City Theatre.
City Theatre Company is Pittsburgh’s home for bold new plays and provides an artistic home for the development and production of contemporary plays that engage and challenge a diverse audience. Renowned for its Young Playwrights Festival, City Theatre is the largest performing arts organization not located in the downtown Cultural District.
The Mattress Factory is a site-specific contemporary art museum with a mission to say “yes” to artists. The Mattress Factory hosts artists from around the world and around the corner who live and work at the museum as they create site-specific installation art that transforms spaces in its two historic row homes, converted mattress warehouse, and surrounding neighborhood.
Pittsburgh Glass Center is one of the premier glass facilities in the U.S. and is a vibrant contributor to Pittsburgh’s thriving cultural landscape. The Glass Center cultivates an inclusive and welcoming environment that encourages the casually curious and the master artist to learn, create, and be inspired by glass and shares the passion for glass locally and globally to advance a more accessible glass community.
Pittsburgh Public Theater is dedicated to serving as a true public theatre for the Pittsburgh region, producing more than 120 performances each season and welcoming over 70,000 guests. The Theater is committed to education and engagement initiatives and innovative community partnerships and is renowned for its exceptional mix of programming, featuring classics and fresh new works.
The August Wilson African American Cultural Center showcases nationally and internationally renowned performing and visual artists and supports and nurtures the local arts community. The Center’s programming connects the community to the rich, substantive artistic content that reflects the African diaspora and is named for Pittsburgh native and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson.
Omicelo Cares Launches New Education Platform to Help Community Members Properly Invest in the Stock Market and Crypto Markets
Omicelo Cares is excited to share the launch of their newest education platform, Equity Up, that will teach community members how to properly invest in the stock market and crypto markets. The goal of Equity Up is to increase economic mobility and shrink the gap in financial asset growth between those with low incomes and those with higher incomes through unique, community-focused stock market and crypto-currency education.
Building on the success of the Real Estate Co-Powement Series, and with support from partners including Wall Street Wizards and Molloy College School of Business among others--Equity Up, represents a trusted and accessible platform for community members to get comprehensive, first-class financial market education. In addition to this first-class education, participants can also expect to walk out of the course with bank accounts, brokerage accounts and crypto wallets.
“The problem that we’re trying to solve with Equity Up, is that very few people with low incomes are participating in the stock market although it has produced 8.5% returns on average each year for the last 40 years”, says Jason Flowers, Executive Director of Omicelo Cares. “Part of that has to do with discretionary cash to invest, but the other critical factors are the barriers to entry and the sheer fear given the lack of education on wealth building for low- to moderate-income families.”
With the barriers to entry for the stock market being at an unprecedented low, including startup costs and trading commissions—the timing for a program like Equity Up is ideal and exactly what our community members need right now. Registration is now open for the inaugural course, which will take place on Mondays & Wednesdays from 6 -8pm. The course runs April 25th through May 25th, 2022. For more information or to register for the course, visit: https://omicelocares.org/equity-up/.
About Omicelo Cares
Omicelo Cares mission is to lift the incomes of existing community members in low- to moderate-income neighborhoods to own financial assets, grow their businesses, and lift their incomes. For more information visit: www.omicelocares.org
Jason Flowers, Executive Director of Omicelo Cares
Allegheny Health Network (AHN) announced it has received charitable sponsorships from PNC Bank to improve health equity in the greater Pittsburgh region. The funding will support AHN’s Healthy Food Center at West Penn Hospital, as well as the health system’s ‘First Steps and Beyond’ program to improve Black infant health outcomes.
“AHN and Highmark Health have been fortunate to frequently work with PNC Bank over the years to promote health and wellness for all residents in Pittsburgh communities and beyond,” said Allie Quick, chief philanthropy officer at AHN. “We are so grateful for their involvement once again to help address the impact of racial disparities on birth outcomes in our region, as well as transform the lives of families with insufficient access to nutritious food choices.”
According to the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank, one in five Pittsburgh residents experience food insecurity – meaning they lack consistent access to nutritious foods, which are critical to an active, healthy lifestyle. Funding from PNC Bank will help to sustain the AHN Healthy Food Center at West Penn Hospital and its efforts to link food and medicine for improved patient health outcomes. In recognition of PNC’s generous support, this Healthy Food Center location has been designated the ‘PNC Pantry.’
The AHN Healthy Food Center, part of the network’s Center for Inclusion Health, serves as a food pharmacy where patients can obtain healthful food items, as well as education on disease-specific diets and resources to address other social challenges. The first center debuted in 2018 at West Penn Hospital, followed by locations at Allegheny General Hospital, Jefferson Hospital, Saint Vincent Hospital and Forbes Hospital. To date, more than 125,000 meals have been provided to patients and their families in the Pittsburgh region through the Healthy Food Centers.
Another sponsorship from PNC will support the ‘First Steps and Beyond’ program at AHN, which is designed to decrease Black infant mortality rates, reduce preterm birth rates and increase knowledge about safe sleep. Originally announced last December, the program seeks to expand prenatal, perinatal, birth doula and fatherhood services, as well as develop interventions for families experiencing oppression and hardship, especially due to racial inequality.
“PNC is committed to promoting economic empowerment for all across our footprint,” said Lou Cestello, PNC regional president for Pittsburgh. “Allegheny Health Network is working to eliminate health disparities that can serve as significant barriers to overall equity, and we are proud to team up with them to improve health outcomes for underserved communities in our region.”
Gwen's Girls, the Black Girls Equity Alliance (BGEA) and the Gwendolyn J. Elliott Institute (GJEI) will kick-off this year's She Matters webinar series with a conversation surrounding their forthcoming State and Local Policy Agenda on Thursday, February 16, 2022, at 1 p.m. EST. This Agenda recommends strategies to eradicate the systemic inequities Black girls face in Allegheny County and Pennsylvania.
"We are looking forward to presenting this year's She Matters webinar series on some of the most pressing issues concerning our youth," said CEO Dr. Kathi Elliott. "It is critical that our local, state and federal elected officials, as well as public agencies implement policy shifts necessary to ensure Black girls have the opportunity to not just survive but thrive."
Due to generous support from the Heinz Endowments, FISA Foundation and Hillman Family Foundation/Dylan T. Simonds Fund, the BGEA works to raise awareness and eradicate the intersection of racism and sexism negatively impacting girls' lives through webinars with a collaborative and interdisciplinary focus. Whereas, the GJEI serves as a clearinghouse for comprehensive research and programming practices that empower young girls and women. Both entities are committed to seeing that our elected officials and agency leaders support the State and Local Policy Agenda.
This is the first webinar in our She Matters series leading up to the 7th-Annual BGEA Summit in September, focusing on the goals of sharing our research, advocacy agenda and highlighting our girls' needs. Additional topics will include the Role of Trauma in Youth and Adolescent Development, Child Welfare Abolition, The ABCs of LGBTQ+ Youth, among others. All webinars will occur on the third Wednesday of every month at 1 p.m. EST. Follow Gwen's Girls' social channels for details on all the upcoming webinars.
To join the conversation on February 16, please click on this link to register.
About Gwen's Girls
Gwen's Girls is a nonprofit organization that empowers girls and young women to have productive lives through holistic, gender-specific programs, education and experiences.
BGEA promotes four workgroups that focus on improving the outcomes of Black girls in child welfare, juvenile justice, education and health and wellness. These workgroups have created a space for collaborative inter-disciplinary initiatives that have included developing trauma-informed care training, data-driven problem solving, participatory action research and honing community resources to better serve the needs of Black girls.
The mission of the Institute is to provide expertise in the fields of research and training for individuals and organizations working with girls.
CEO Dr. Kathi Elliott
Onome Oghifobibi arrived at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in 2015 for a pediatric residency and then completed a neonatal-perinatal fellowship, caring for some of the most vulnerable infants in the neonatal intensive care unit. During these years, he witnessed a disconnect between the region’s world-class universities and hospitals and the striking health disparities that some people faced. He wanted to stay at Pitt to help.
His timing was perfect. Because of a University-wide initiative, Oghifobibi is now an assistant professor of pediatrics, where he helps by not only caring for infants but by developing a program with the Allegheny County Health Department to combat a significant health disparity — the distressing rate of maternal and infant mortality in Pittsburgh’s Black and Brown communities. For Oghifobibi, staying at Pitt meant “feeling valued and heard” and that other people cared enough about his community-driven work to retain and support him.
“Staying here is an opportunity for me to help with the health disparity crisis,” he says. “We have the resources — great universities and a world-class health care system.”
Oghifobibi’s hire was a part of the Race and Social Determinants of Equity, Health and Well-being Cluster Hire and Retention Initiative at Pitt. The goals of the initiative are to engage more faculty to conduct research, educate students and engage in service designed to eliminate racial disparities and improve measures of well-being in the Pittsburgh region, nationally and around the world. Leading Pitt’s cluster hire are Paula K. Davis, associate vice chancellor for health sciences diversity, equity and inclusion, and John Wallace, vice provost for faculty diversity and development in the Office of the Provost. The initiative calls for numerous faculty member hires over four years.
In less than a year, the cluster hire has already brought to Pitt many outstanding faculty members. And that’s just the beginning, according to Davis, who chairs the health sciences’ cluster hire committee with Naudia Jonassaint, associate professor and vice chair for diversity and inclusion in the Department of Medicine and associate dean for clinical affairs, and MaCalus Hogan, professor and vice chair of orthopaedic surgery in the School of Medicine.
In addition to Oghifobibi, the cluster hire is bringing faculty with a wealth of academic interests and research expertise to Pitt. Ashley Hill from the Graduate School of Public Health conducts research aimed at reducing disparities in sexually transmitted infections among young people. Taofeek K. Owonikoko is head of the School of Medicine’s hematology/oncology division and focuses on discovering new biomarkers in lung cancer and other solid tumors. Katrina Knight from the Swanson School of Engineering is improving synthetic mesh materials that are used to treat pelvic organ prolapse.
But recruitment is only one part of a successful cluster hire. Davis and Wallace are also actively working to retain new faculty, which involves evaluating the hiring departments’ mentoring and inclusion plans and planning opportunities for new hires to develop social networks. For example, to inspire and encourage collaboration and multidisciplinary research among the cluster hires, the Offices of the Provost and the Senior Vice Chancellor for the Health Sciences co-sponsor the Race &... Lecture Series, which provides a spotlight for each new faculty member to describe their work and interests to the Pitt community.
“The idea is not just to bring people here but to ensure that they’re successful and that we can retain them, as well as, frankly, effectively retaining our existing diverse faculty,” Wallace says.
That Pitt’s cluster hire in the health sciences was able to advance new areas of academic interest and research speaks to the efforts of Davis, Jonassaint and Hogan, each of whom credits the support of Anantha Shekhar, senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and John and Gertrude Petersen Dean of the School of Medicine, who sparked the cluster hire’s success and helped it quickly gain momentum.
“Absent Dr. Shekhar’s and Provost Ann Cudd’s decision to take bold steps to support the hires, we absolutely would not be having this conversation,” says Davis. “In many schools, the approach to diverse, equitable and inclusive recruitment is passive. But this isn’t the field of dreams — you know, ‘if you build it, they will come.’ They’re not coming. You have to build relationships with people.”
To the committee, diversifying the faculty and its research interests through the cluster hire is nothing short of a paradigm shift. They believe the benefits will go beyond research: Pitt’s capacity for innovation will increase, and students and trainees will have role models to provide roadmaps for navigating academic life and career aspirations.
Despite early successes, Wallace, Davis, Jonassaint and Hogan are not done. All agree that investing the resources, creating infrastructure and empowering people to execute a vision will help Pitt become a magnet for change.
“Eventually, it won’t be ‘change’; it’ll just be who we are,” says Hogan. “We’ll be known for valuing people for who they are and what they do.”
The University of Pittsburgh is an affirmative action, equal opportunity institution.
Source: University of Pittsburgh
Onome Oghifobibi, MD, MSc, FAAP
Neonatal Medicine Fellow
State Rep. Donna Bullock
Jan. 21, 2022
Preliminary legislative district plan is responsive to the growth of communities of color
As the chair of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus and state representative for the 195th District in Philadelphia, I strongly endorse the Preliminary Plan for House Districts passed by the Pennsylvania Legislative Reapportionment Commission on Dec. 16.
I have watched the reapportionment process closely and am truly impressed by the commitment to fairness and transparency that Chairman Mark Nordenberg has demonstrated throughout. The unprecedented level of public engagement has resulted in a strong preliminary plan that is fair, representative, and constitutionally sound.
Notably, this preliminary plan is responsive to the growth of communities of color across the commonwealth. As many have stated, statewide the number of Pennsylvanians who identify as Black, Hispanic, Asian or multi-racial increased by more than 800,000 since the last census, while the White population decreased by more than 540,000.
In the last decade, the City of Philadelphia, after many census reports showing population losses, increased its population by more than 80,000 residents requiring a House district be moved within the city boundaries. This growth is recognized in the preliminary plan by adding House District 9 to Philadelphia. The newly drawn House District 9 is a majority Black district which, through the unpacking of neighboring House districts including my own, furthers the goals of the Voting Rights Act.
The population growth in Philadelphia is part of a trend across the southeast of the commonwealth. In addition to the placement of House District 9, the preliminary plan reflects this trend by placing new legislative districts in Montgomery and Lancaster counties which provide increased opportunities for the growing minority populations in those areas to secure equal representation.
In addition to preserving and expanding districts in which a racial minority group makes up the majority of the population, the preliminary plan takes the important step of including coalition districts. These districts, in which diverse communities of color make up a majority or plurality of the population, recognize the commonalities of Black, Latino, Asian, and Indigenous Pennsylvanians and will allow these communities to fully realize their political power.
The newly drawn House District 54 in Norristown, Montgomery County, is a great example of a coalition district that will undo previous efforts to dilute the political power of Black and Latino Pennsylvanians. Over the years, maps have been drawn in a way that diluted the voice of the people of Norristown by combining them in a legislative district with very different suburban and rural communities in the western part of the county. This map, instead, puts Norristown in a district with communities with more commonalities in Conshohocken and Plymouth Township—and will have a racial minority population of nearly 45%.
Similar efforts have been made in Lancaster County, where all population growth in the last decade came from communities of color. Pennsylvanians of color will make up nearly 50% of the population of the newly drawn House District 50 in and around Lancaster City. This district, like House District 54, is a great opportunity for Black and Latino Pennsylvanians.
I want to thank Chairman Nordenberg for his tireless efforts in this redistricting cycle and for recognizing that the diversity of this commonwealth is a strength. His leadership has led to a plan that will uplift—rather than dilute—our voices.
Donna Bullock represents House District 195 in the City of Philadelphia and serves as the Chair of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus. The PLBC is a bicameral institution established in 1973 to serve as an information and advocacy vehicle to advance the interests of African American, Latino, and other people of color of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
January 19, 2022
Today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania released a new report, Student Arrests in Allegheny County Schools: The Need for Transparency and Accountability. The report finds that some school districts regularly underreport data on student arrests to the public.
Comparing school and justice system data, the report finds that many more students are arrested or referred to police than schools admit. This underreporting is especially true for students with disabilities and Black students, who are significantly more likely than other students to be arrested at school.
“The data shortcomings raise serious concerns about whether these students are receiving the protections from discrimination guaranteed by law,” said Harold Jordan, a co-author of the report and the nationwide education equity coordinator for the ACLU. “School officials make decisions about how and when to use law enforcement. Too often, they involve police in everyday school matters, when they are not required to do so. We need a full accounting of student-police interactions in Allegheny County.”
The report also finds that Allegheny County is one of the hot spots for student arrests in Pennsylvania, a state which had the second-highest rate of student referrals to law enforcement in the country during the 2017-18 school year, according to data collected by the U.S. Department of Education.
“When students are arrested for minor, often typical adolescent behavior, it negatively impacts their ability to succeed in school,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “Students are being unnecessarily pushed into the justice system rather than having their needs addressed by supportive adults who are trained to work with adolescents, which is a far better investment of public resources.”
“FISA Foundation was proud to support the development of this report because we believe it’s imperative that school administrators, school boards, parents and advocates examine their own data and use it to inform policy and practice,” said Kristy Trautmann, executive director of FISA Foundation. “The trends are clear and deserve urgent attention: schools are referring students of color and students with disabilities to the police at alarmingly high rates, often for minor offenses or for behaviors that are manifestations of disability. This report makes it clear that data on police referrals is flawed, inconsistent and incomplete. You can’t address a problem that isn’t being measured accurately.”
The report offers a comprehensive set of recommendations to local and state officials, which, if implemented, would ensure better access to student arrest data; eliminate the everyday presence of police in schools; limit student-police interactions to emergencies and dangerous incidents; and reinvest money used for school police into student support programs and staff.
You can find a copy of the report at aclupa.org/student_arrests
(Story provided for republishing by KFF, By Christine Spolar
DECEMBER 7, 2021 Kaiser Health News.)
The ferocity of the covid-19 pandemic did what Black Pittsburgh — communities that make up a quarter of the city’s population — thought impossible. It shook the norms.
Black researchers, medical professionals and allies knew that people of color, even before covid, experienced bias in public health policy. As the deadly virus emerged, data analysts from Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh, foundation directors, epidemiologists and others pooled their talents to configure databases from unwieldy state data to chart covid cases.
Their work documented yet another life-threatening disparity between white and Black Pittsburgh: People of color were at higher risk of catching the deadly virus and at higher risk of severe disease and death from that infection.
More than 100 weeks after advocates began pinging and ringing one another to warn of the virus’ spread, these volunteers are the backbone of the Black Equity Coalition, a grassroots collaboration that scrapes government data and shares community health intel.
About a dozen members of its data team of 60 meet twice weekly to study hospitalization rates and employment statistics. Social media advisers turned health equity into a buzzy online effort, with videos and weekly Facebook town halls, to encourage vaccinations. Local ministries are consulted, and volunteers take surveys at pop-up clinics, sponsored by other groups, at barbershops and hair salons. Elected lawmakers seek its counsel.
“We came together because we were concerned about saving lives,” said Tiffany Gary-Webb, associate dean for diversity and inclusion at the University of Pittsburgh, who oversees the data effort. “It evolved, with us realizing we can do more than address covid.”
Covid ravaged communities across the United States — more than 787,000 Americans have died, including Colin Powell, the first Black secretary of state and a decorated Army general — and laid bare how marginalized populations lose out in the scrum for public health dollars and specific populations were left vulnerable.
Months before the pandemic began, the Rev. Ricky Burgess led the Pittsburgh City Council to declare racism a public health crisis.
“Institutional racism is for real,” the councilman said in a recent interview. “You are talking about generational disproportional investment and generational disproportional treatment. And it impacts all that you see.”
The covid pandemic proved how structural inequities have been missed or ignored, Burgess said.
“I’ve lost friends, family and a lot of church members. My son had covid. For me it’s personal,” he said. “I knew immediately it would have a disproportionate effect.”
In 2020, covid reduced overall U.S. life expectancy by 1.5 years, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Black and Hispanic people fared the worst, losing more than three years in life expectancy. White people saw a 1.2-year drop.
Using county data, the Black Equity researchers found a sobering racial gap in the Pittsburgh area: Black residents of Allegheny County saw disproportionate hospitalization rates — and were more likely to land in the ICU or on a ventilator — in the pandemic. Weekly hospitalization rates were higher during surges of infection in April, July and December 2020 and again in March and October 2021. Deaths, too, were disproportionate but fluctuated after December 2020.
For much of the pandemic, death rates were higher for African Americans than for other racial groups, the coalition said.
‘It’s All a Shade of Bad’
Kellie Ware has long considered health inequity a deadly problem. She graduated from Pittsburgh public schools, left for law school in Boston, and months before covid began its global assault she was working in her hometown mayor’s office as an equity and diversity policy analyst.
Ware was at her desk in late 2019 when her phone started ringing. A damning report, compiled by university sociologists and the city’s gender commission, had yet again detailed glaring disparities.
The blandly titled report, “Pittsburgh’s Inequality Across Gender and Race,” jolted emotions in the city of 303,000 people — and underscored how health disparities track with income.
Among the findings: Black people in Pittsburgh earned far less than their white neighbors and suffered far worse from disease. For every dollar white men earned, the report found, Black women earned 54 cents, making them five times as likely to live in poverty as white men.
With notably higher cardiovascular disease and cancer rates, Black residents’ life expectancy was about eight years less than white Pittsburghers’.
The report sparked a furor, which Ware met with perspective shaped over years away from the former steel town. “The report was factual,” Ware said, “but I know this: There’s not a ton of places where it’s great to be a Black woman. Those earnings? It’s 54 cents to a dollar for women in Pittsburgh. It’s 68 cents nationally. It’s all a shade of bad.”
The first signs of the pandemic supercharged Ware and others. As covid devastated New York in March 2020, Karen Abrams, a program officer at the Heinz Endowments, a foundation in Pittsburgh that spends $70 million a year on community programs, began connecting the dots in texts and calls with nonprofits, business owners and university researchers.
Covid spread quickly in dense multi-generational households and in Black neighborhoods in Chicago, Washington, New Orleans and Detroit. Abrams was among the advocates in Pennsylvania who watched county and state health systems race to prepare and who feared that Black residents would be underserved.
In Philadelphia, early on in the pandemic, volunteer doctors in mobile units began distributing protective equipment and covid tests in Black neighborhoods. In Pittsburgh, Abrams asked tech-minded allies to document the reality of covid infection in Pittsburgh. “We intuitively knew what was happening,” she said. “But without that data, we couldn’t target our attention and know who needed the help most.”
Within days, volunteers were on daylong rounds of video calls and appealing to county and state bureaucrats for more race-based statistics to bolster their research.
Fred Brown, president of the nonprofit Forbes Funds, and Mark Lewis, who heads the Poise Foundation, were stalwarts of a “huddle,” a core of longtime advocates who eventually founded the coalition.
Brown emphasized pulling labor statistics to show that the essential workers keeping the city running — among them nursing homes aides and home care staff — were overwhelmingly Black or Latino.
Mapping covid testing centers and analyzing data proved sobering, he said. It turned out that the people most likely to be tested lived in Pittsburgh’s predominately white neighborhoods. Largely employed in tech, academia and finance, they could easily adapt to lockdowns. They had round-the-clock internet at home and could afford food deliveries to limit the chance of infection. Later, they could access vaccines quicker.
“The communities that had the most tests were the affluent ones,” Brown said. And those with the fewest “were the most resilient, the people who had to go out there and work.”
Lewis, a certified public accountant who spent years as a corporate auditor, focused on standards. County and state health professionals worked mightily to control the spread of covid but didn’t always gather data to ensure fairness in distribution, he said. “We realized that, as testing was done, it was not being recorded by race,” Lewis said. “Why? A lot of the issue was — at the state and the local level — there was no requirement to collect it.”
Gary-Webb said researchers had a sense of where the inequities would be found because they knew the neighborhoods. They first layered in percentages of Black families in poverty as well as data on the locations of federally qualified health centers to advise health authorities on where and when to increase testing.
University and nonprofit researchers found anomalies as they worked. For instance, race was noted on some testing data, with patients designated as Black, white or, inexplicably, unknown. The “unknowns” were a significant percentage. So researchers began layering additional census, labor and ZIP code data, to identify neighborhoods, even streets, at risk.
The ZIP code data took months to shake loose from state databases, largely because government software was slow in the fast-moving pandemic and government data was not updated regularly or formatted in ways that could be easily shared.
Their efforts paid off: The group was able to winnow down Allegheny County records that omit race to 12% of positive covid cases; 37% of statewide records are missing race details, the coalition reported.
Robert Gradeck, who runs the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center, a data collaborative managed by the University of Pittsburgh, said covid should play a lasting role in improving public health reporting. “We kept thinking: What can we learn from this?” Gradeck said. “It’s not that you can’t answer questions. But you can answer only part of them.”
Among the top recommendations to health authorities: adopt software practices to ensure that race and other demographic data must be entered into electronic records. And then refine how to share data among counties, states, research institutions and the public.
The coalition attracted support in monthly calls with state Health Secretary Rachel Levine, recently sworn in as a four-star admiral in charge of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, which responds to health crises on behalf of the federal government.
“I thought what they did was critically important,” Levine said, noting that officials recognized the coalition’s research as revelatory. With “a diverse group of professionals, they were able to use and collect data in a very effective way.”
Their early research found the covid rate among Black people in Allegheny County, which encompasses Pittsburgh, was three times the rate of white people. Hospitalizations among Black people have been as high as seven times the rate of whites, according to “Missing Our Shot,” the coalition’s 2021 report.
A Vaccine Clinic Campaign Stop
Ed Gainey, a state legislator from Pittsburgh, was among the first politicians to say African Americans in his hometown were missing out on covid protections. Last month, Gainey was elected the city’s first Black mayor, after winning a primary, within months of the murder of George Floyd, that pointed to inequities in health care and policing.
A Democrat who worked for two Pittsburgh mayors, Gainey admits he and other Black elected officials were somewhat ill-equipped in the first weeks of the pandemic.
"I fought hard to get the vaccine into the community last year, but I really didn't know the language — the health language — to be able to get it," Gainey said during an interview at a pop-up vaccine clinic in the city.
Vaccinations have risen because of community efforts, he said, but children are still a source of worry. Gainey, who grew up in a low-income housing complex, said he understands when some youngsters shrug when asked about covid risks. “But I will tell you I know this: If you can make a kid believe in Santa Claus, you can make them believe in the vaccine. And you know, I understand some of the young kids’ reluctance. I didn’t grow up going to the doctor regularly either,” he said. “I came from the same kind of environment.”
As the 2019 report made clear, many of the benefits of Pittsburgh’s tech-based economy — a vaunted “ed-and-meds” renewal against the industrial decline of the 1980s — still was largely bypassing African Americans.
The first year of covid was an iterative process of trying to stay ahead of the virus. Gary-Webb, who earned a doctorate from Johns Hopkins’ public health school, said it was also a time for Black residents to be heard about what they knew and saw in their neighborhoods.
The coalition, sustained by thousands of volunteer hours, attracted some funding earlier this year, notably for outreach and to pay for running datasets. Last month, the Poise Foundation was approved for a three-year, $6.99 million grant, federal money to be administered by the state health department to support an array of health partnerships in the region and, notably, to improve covid vaccine uptake in ZIP code areas the Black Equity Coalition identified as vulnerable. Among its goals: demographic messaging, data analysis on covid testing and education outreach in dozens of counties.
Gary-Webb counts herself among a group of “boomerang” Pittsburghers who have lived other places — in her case, Baltimore, New York and Philadelphia — and covid has helped them recalibrate how Black residents can participate in public health.
As she put it: “The health planners were saying, ‘Help us get out the message.’ We said, ‘No, we are not just getting out the message. We want to be talking about equity at the same time.’”
Tiffany Gary-Webb, associate dean for diversity and inclusion at the University of Pittsburgh
NEW HEALTH EQUITY SCORECARD: State-by-State Scorecard of Racial and Ethnic Disparities Finds All
States’ Health Systems Are Failing People of Color.
In Nearly Every State, Black Americans Are More Likely Than White Americans to Die from Preventable and Treatable Conditions Exacerbated by Lack of Timely, High-Quality Health Care
A new health equity scorecard released by the Commonwealth Fund finds
deep-seated racial and ethnic health inequities in all 50 states and the District of
Columbia — disparities that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Achieving Racial and Ethnic Equity in U.S. Health Care: A Scorecard of State
Performance is a comprehensive examination of how health care systems are
functioning for people of color in every state. Part of the Commonwealth Fund’s
ongoing series examining individual state health system performance, the
report uses 24 measures to evaluate each state on health care access, quality and
service use, and health outcomes for Black, white, Latinx/Hispanic, American
Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN), and Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific
Islander (AANHPI) populations.
The health equity scorecard reveals that even among high-performing states,
racial and ethnic health disparities can be dramatic. For example, Minnesota’s
health care system, which has historically performed well in Commonwealth
Fund state scorecard rankings, has some of the largest health disparities between
white and nonwhite communities. Maryland, Massachusetts, and Connecticut
are other traditionally high-scoring states where white residents receive some
of the best care in the country but where quality of care is far worse for many
populations of color. Similarly, in states like Mississippi and Oklahoma whose
health care systems have historically performed poorly for both white and Black
populations, white patients still received markedly better care.
In addition to showing how people of different races and ethnicities fare within
each state, the Fund’s scorecard ranks how well each state’s health system is
working for each racial and ethnic group. For instance, the health care system in
California works better for Latinx/Hispanic people than the Texas health care
system. In both Texas and California, however, the health system benefits white
people more. Among states with large American Indian populations, South
Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming have the worst-performing
health systems for these communities while California’s system ranks at the
top — though there are still wide disparities with other populations in the state.
Structural racism and generations of disinvestment in communities of color
are chief among many factors contributing to pervasive U.S. health inequities,
the authors note. As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, people in many
communities of color are more likely than members of white communities to
live in poverty, to work in low-paying, high-contact industries, and to reside
in high-risk living environments. Many Black, Latinx/Hispanic, and AIAN
populations then face an unequal health system when they need to access care.
They are less likely to have health insurance, more likely to face cost-related
barriers to care and medical debt, and more likely to receive suboptimal care.
Health inequities are perpetuated and reinforced by each of these contributing
factors — all of which have their roots in both past and current policies at the
federal, state, and local levels. The authors suggest pursuing four broad policy
goals to create an equitable, antiracist health system:
1. Ensuring affordable, comprehensive, and equitable health insurance
coverage for all
2. Strengthening primary care
3. Lowering administrative burden for patients
4. Investing in social services.
Since health inequities vary across states, there are also opportunities for
state programs to tailor interventions that address the unique needs of their
HOW WE CONDUCTED THIS STUDY
State health system performance was evaluated for each of five racial and ethnic
groups — Black (non-Latinx/Hispanic), white (non-Latinx/Hispanic), AIAN
(non-Latinx/Hispanic), AANHPI (non-Latinx/Hispanic), and Latinx/Hispanic
(any race) — among 24 indicators of health system performance. Indicators were
grouped into three performance domains: health outcomes, health care access,
and quality and use of health care services.
For each of the 24 indicators, the researchers calculated a standardized score
for each state/population group with sufficient data (e.g., Latinx/Hispanic
individuals in Texas). Within each performance domain, they combined
indicator values to create a summary score. The domain summary scores in each
state were then combined to create a composite state health system performance
score for each racial and ethnic group.
Based on the overall composite scores, each racial/ethnic group within each state
received a percentile score providing both national and state-level context on the
performance of a state health system for that population. The percentile scoring,
from 1 (worst) to 100 (best), reflects the observed distribution of health system
performance for all groups measured in this report and enables comparisons
within and across states. For example, California’s health system score of 50
for Latinx/Hispanic individuals indicates that it is performing better for those
residents than Florida’s health system does for Latinx/Hispanic people, with a
score of 38. However, both groups fare worse than white residents in California,
where the health system performs at a score of 89 for them.
Touchstone Center for Crafts, JARI, Creator Square, and Bridgeway Capital team up to
form the Alliance for Creative Rural Economies to support creative business growth and
impact in Johnstown, PA and Cambria County.
With a recent $100,000 grant from Arts Equity Reimagined, a team of four organizations, two
from the arts and culture sector and two from the economic development sector, formed a
partnership to inspire entrepreneurial makers, designers, artists, and craftspeople to grow in
the Johnstown area. The Alliance for Creative Rural Economies (ACRE Partners) will also
identify and better support the local creative businesses already growing in the community.
ACRE Partners consists of Touchstone Center for Crafts (Touchstone), JARI, Creator Square
(CRSQ), and Bridgeway Capital’s Creative Business Accelerator (CBA). They aim to foster an
expanding and vibrant ecosystem of creative businesses that contribute meaningfully to
Johnstown's economic future.
The Johnstown area’s post industrial economic hardships are well documented. While the
challenges are significant, there are also many signs of positive change that the ACRE
Partners will leverage to make Johnstown a regional hub for creative businesses to succeed
and create impact.
“With the Center for Metal Arts, Bottle Works, Community Arts Center of Cambria County and
other cultural nonprofits, Johnstown already enjoys many creative economy assets,” observed
Katie Johnson, Associate Director of the CBA. “ACRE Partners will work to grow the
entrepreneurial and small business elements of this creative economy.” The CBA will provide
the small business assessments for select program participants to help the ACRE Partners
determine the best way to encourage their next steps and steady growth.
ACRE Partners is developing a website to serve as a virtual hub for its efforts. It will highlight
the creative businesses growing successfully in the area, while providing the tools and
connections to help entrepreneurs pursue their own success. While they aim to have at least
200 creative entrepreneurs in the network, the grant also enables them to provide intensive
support and paid professional services to help up to fifteen creative businesses with the most
promise for growth in Johnstown.
In addition, Touchstone and CRSQ will provide studio access and workshops, and exhibition
opportunities, while JARI and the CBA provide small business guidance and access to flexible
capital, like grants and microloans. What is unique about this program is that a complete
slate of both creative and business support has been established by harnessing the strengths
of multiple organizations, each who have unique modes of support for creative
entrepreneurs, to form a comprehensive network that can assist them at any stage of their
development. The support will be tailored to each individual’s needs.
One of the key locations in ACRE Partners is the recently opened Creator Square. Positioned
on Gazebo Park, Creator Square is getting ready to provide studio space and community
connections to the creative entrepreneurs attracted to Johnstown through ACRE Partner
efforts. “This building was renovated to help creative entrepreneurs get started in
Johnstown,” said Paul Rosenblat, Principal at Springboard Design and founder of Creator
Square. “Johnstown has all the ingredients to start a new economic chapter in part driven by
In order for creative businesses to be successful in Johnstown, they must possess strong
fundamentals like business plans and social media strategies. “JARI has a long track record of
helping small businesses become sustainable,” states Blake Fleegle, local small business
owner and Entrepreneur Coach for JARI and Startup Alleghenies. “ACRE Partners is another
avenue for JARI to meet businesses where they are and guide them to success.”
ACRE Partners will conduct outreach to better serve local creative businesses and attract new
creative businesses to the area, especially those looking to make pivots in a post-pandemic
economy. “Touchstone attracts emerging craftspeople from around the country,” states
Lindsay K. Gates, Executive Director at Touchstone Center for Crafts. “Our experience and data
tell us that these emerging creative entrepreneurs are very interested in communities like
Johnstown to settle and start businesses.”
The full website is slated for early 2022, but ACRE Partners (www.acrepartners.org) set up an
inquiry form and landing page to start gathering data on creative entrepreneurs looking to
start and grow businesses in the region. By early 2022, they will start virtual workshops to the
network on the various pathways creative businesses can take to grow in the area. “By the
end of our one-year grant period, we hope to have 5-7 creative businesses really getting
traction in the community,” states Gates. When this approach is proven, we’ll also look to
expand the model to other rural areas in mill towns in western PA seeking creativity-driven
New Pitt Research: Glaring Racial Disparities in Out-of-school Suspensions; a Warning About the Role of On-site Law Enforcement PITTSBURGH—A new University of Pittsburgh study of Allegheny County schools shows severe racial disparities in out-of-school suspensions with a rate that is double for African-American students compared to their non-Black classmates. The new report from Pitt’s Center on Race and Social Problems is titled “Just Discipline and the School-to-Prison Pipeline in Greater Pittsburgh: Local Challenges and Promising Solutions.” It uses the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Safe Schools Reports data from 2012 to 2016 for 51 school districts, covering all grades. As the new school year begins with more law enforcement officers assigned to schools, the Pitt researchers also expressed concerns about the “criminalization of school discipline,” whereby school law enforcement officers getting involved in common student discipline increases the likelihood that a student will become involved with the juvenile justice system. “More than 80 percent of our districts have problems with either overall suspension use, racial disparities in those suspensions or both,” said James Huguley, Pitt assistant professor of social work and first author of the report. “Our region has a problem that is not only a social justice issue, but also an economic one that is hampering our well-being and our future.” The report, funded by The Heinz Endowments, also offers a solution — an eight-point plan for a successful reform model, portions of which are already being used successfully in the Woodland Hills School District. “The Heinz Endowments is excited about the reforms underway in the Woodland Hills School District because they represent the type of work we support to promote just policy and practice in our schools and to help all of our children achieve the potential we know they have,” said Endowments President Grant Oliphant. “We have to end these suspension practices that limit education and future employment opportunities for our children and threaten to rob our communities of their talent and imagination. We’ve got to do better than this in our region.” Key findings from the report include: Across Allegheny County, suspension rates dropped by 16 percent in the comparison of 2012-13 to 2015-16. The top three school districts for reductions (per 100 students) were Penn Hills, Sto-Rox and Cornell. The three districts with the biggest increase were Propel Schools, Duquesne City and Wilkinsburg. For Black students in Allegheny County, the suspension rate was 41 suspensions for every 100 students, compared to a rate of only 5.6 for non-Black students. The racial disparity stemmed from exceedingly high suspension rates in urban school districts, where Black students tend to be concentrated, and exceptionally high racial disparity rates in White suburban districts. Suspensions have serious negative academic and economic consequences for students and communities. Pitt’s findings show that a 10-point difference in suspensions per 100 was linked to an approximately 3 percent lower graduation rate. Economically, suspensions in a single graduating cohort will cost Allegheny County more than $9 million in lost tax revenue plus $30 million in total social costs over the course of these students’ careers. As a solution, the report proposes the model called Just Discipline, which departs from the punitive model and instead focuses on a relationship-driven method to build community and then leverage that community to engage the offender in repairing the harm. It requires, among other things: an adjustment of policies to reduce the possibility that minor offenses such as willful defiance or dress code violations will lead to suspensions; a focus on community and relationship building as the foundation of a strong behavioral climate; full-time in-school facilitators to focus on relational dynamics within the school and to become keepers of the school culture that undergirds the school’s behavioral fabric; and the acknowledgement of implicit racial bias and racial injustice histories and how they affect the schooling experiences of students of color. Huguley, who co-authored the report with Pitt Associate Professor of Psychology in Education Ming-Te Wang, said there is reason for optimism. He said that overall suspension rates are down across the region. He also noted that some of the districts are already adapting new policies and shifting practices, and that schools that are making the efforts to move toward positive change will reap the benefits.
PPG (NYSE: PPG) and the PPG Foundation today announces a commitment to invest $20 million by 2025 to address systemic racism and advance racial equity in the U.S. by funding educational pathways for Black communities and people of color. The commitment strengthens PPG’s focus on education – a priority giving area for PPG and the PPG Foundation – and furthers its support of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.
“We aim to reach diverse students and communities to champion change and empower historically underrepresented populations with greater opportunities to achieve brighter futures,” said Malesia Dunn, executive director, (pictured) PPG Foundation and corporate global social responsibility. “Through this important commitment, we will prioritize equity and justice within education to close the racial gaps in STEM learning and careers, and help our society meet collective challenges quickly, creatively and effectively.”
The $20 million investment reflects commitments to support:
Advanced STEM education and career development - Supporting Black people and people of color who are pursuing advanced studies in engineering, chemistry and data science by funding scholarships, and academic and career counseling programs. PPG will focus on programs that promote inclusion, provide professional development and build bridges that enable middle and high school students to successfully pursue advanced learning opportunities and STEM careers.
K-12 STEM education - Encouraging interest among more Black students, and students of color, through hands-on STEM experiences in afterschool programs, camps and in-school settings, as well as mentoring and career exposure.
Social justice - Supporting new partners dedicated to social justice that were identified in collaboration with PPG’s employee resource networks (ERNs). PPG will support a range of social justice initiatives that focus on civil rights, criminal justice reform and the cultural heritage of Black communities and people of color.
Beautifying diverse communities - Increasing the number of PPG COLORFUL COMMUNITIES® projects that impact diverse communities.
Ongoing impact opportunities - Funding additional opportunities impacting Black and people of color populations that will be identified in collaboration with PPG employees, leaders and community partners, on an ongoing basis.
The PPG Foundation will direct at least 25% of diversity funding to organizations serving the company’s global headquarters community of Pittsburgh. It also will continue to invest more than 50% of its U.S.-based grantmaking to support causes that focus on Black communities and people of color, veterans, women, LGBTQ+ populations, economically disadvantaged individuals and families, and people with disabilities.
The community engagement commitment supplements PPG’s actions to further progress diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) companywide. PPG will continue to identify additional opportunities to ensure support to underrepresented groups around the world.
“At PPG, we believe in DE&I and have long upheld these values throughout our company and community engagement efforts to create stronger, more sustainable communities,” said Marvin Mendoza, global head, DE&I, PPG. “Our new community engagement commitments build upon PPG’s purpose to protect and beautify the world and align with our practices to create an equal and just society.”
In 2020, PPG continued its focus on DE&I across the company. In response to George Floyd’s death and the widespread civil rights movement that followed, the PPG Foundation made initial investments in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Legal Defense Fund, the Center for Policing Equity and the Equal Justice Initiative. In November 2020, the company appointed Mendoza to design, lead and execute PPG’s global DE&I vision and strategy, and leverage data-driven insights to accelerate the company’s DE&I agenda. PPG also relaunched and expanded its ERNs, providing employees with more opportunities to share ideas, learn from one another, and leverage the unique skills, experiences and perspectives of the PPG team.
PPG’s global community engagement efforts and the PPG Foundation aim to bring color and brightness to PPG communities around the world. We invested more than $11 million in 2019, supporting hundreds of organizations across 38 countries. By investing in educational opportunities, we help grow today’s skilled workforce and develop tomorrow’s innovators in fields related to coatings and manufacturing. Plus, we empower PPG employees to multiply their impact for causes that are important to them by supporting their volunteer efforts and charitable giving. Learn more at communities.ppg.com.
Today, more than 80 percent of the U.S. population—and 50 percent of people worldwide—live in and around urban centers.
The Graduate Certificate in Urban Ministry is a flexible program allowing community members and seminarians to explore their Christian vocation in urban settings. This program allows students from all denominations to think about how to apply their faith to where they work, live, and play.