HARRISBURG, Nov. 15 –The Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus issued the following statement today calling on Penn State University President Neeli Bendapudi and university officials to recommit to and invest in the university’s racial justice efforts.
“Many of us were encouraged by the university’s decision in 2020 to establish the Center for Racial Justice only to learn with great disappointment that those plans were recently sidelined due to budgetary concerns. The fact that this decision was made just days after a founder of the Proud Boys was scheduled to speak at the university is even more troubling.
“The university’s recent actions appear to undermine, dilute and divert from the racial and social justice initiatives championed by professors, administrators and students on campus in recent years. At a minimum, the decisions have caused great division on campus. We strongly urge university officials to work with the more than 400 professors and lecturers who have signed onto a recent letter regarding these decisions and the diverse student body who deserve a welcoming campus. Together, we believe Penn State can foster an environment that invites diversity, believes in equity and implements systems for real inclusion.
“As the flagship university in our commonwealth, we expect nothing less.”
Penn State University President Neeli Bendapudi
A new report from the University of Pittsburgh’s Center on Race and Social Problems (CRSP) is shedding light on educational barriers plaguing Black students and families in Pittsburgh and nationwide.
On Oct. 19, representatives from CRSP presented findings from “Strength for the Journeys: Lessons from African American Families on Academic Programming and Educational Involvement in Greater Pittsburgh,” a report the center has been working on since 2018. The Heinz Endowments-supported project offered a more in-depth look at the disparities outlined in previous CRSP studies and explored how the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated issues such as mental health challenges among students and parents alike.
“We are calling attention to the collective issues that Black families face and the assets that have been supportive to them [and] are important for recommendations in the space of educational practice,” said James Huguley, associate dean and associate professor in the School of Social Work and the lead researcher on the project. “In this report, we see the day-to-day consequences of racialized economic and education oppression lived out.”
The Pittsburgh College Access Alliance (PCAA) — a coalition of community organizations formed to address educational inequities by fostering educational access, opportunities and a network of support within Black communities — approached Huguley to develop the report. The founding members include the Crossroads Foundation, the Fund for the Advancement of Minorities through Education, Higher Achievement, the Negro Education Emergency Drive and The Neighborhood Academy (TNA).
Although each organization had been successful in their respective missions before, including offering scholarships and college preparatory education, the consensus was that they could accomplish more together. To do so — and to better understand the needs of the families PCAA aims to help — the group engaged CRSP to initiate a listening tour with students, parents and alumni from each organization.
“When we attempted to study similar [collaborative] models within the nation, we quickly learned that no other organization was doing this work,” said Anthony Williams, TNA’s head of school.
The focus group sessions revealed that the barriers preventing Black families from obtaining quality education fall into three main categories: school and institutional, race and society, and financial. Structural issues included overcrowding, lack of funding, low expectations, peer distractions, teacher burnout and a lack of rigor.
While attending private school largely curtailed these challenges, many families faced economic barriers that made this an unattainable option. And those who could afford private school found that new issues replaced old ones; CRSP’s study noted that kids instead encountered racism, classism and racialized social isolation, among other negative experiences.
“The parents were loud and clear around the need for diversity in training, representation and curriculum to offset the racial isolation and discriminatory experiences they were having,” said Huguley. “These experiences lend support to what other parents have experienced and voiced in public and private settings in our region in the past year and a half.”
Families contributing to the project recommended a number of solutions to boost achievement and challenge oppressive systems, including more equitable distribution of educational resources, better training for educators, establishing Black parent support networks and much more.
“This work adds important validation and voice to the authentic struggles and strengths of real people that are behind every statistic that we see in striking publications like the Gender Equity Report or the Just Discipline school suspensions report,” said Huguley.
The report is just the first step in a broader CRSP plan to transform educational attainment in the region. The next phase will see the center partner with the Center for Urban Education on a project that will delve deeper into Black families’ pandemic experiences in Pittsburgh’s Hill District neighborhood.
For those interested in participating in the next community conversation about the research, a forum and dinner will be held at 5 p.m. on Nov. 1 at The Neighborhood Academy, 709 N. Aiken Ave.
SOURCE— Kara Henderson
Two Pitt professors have received additional funding to expand the Just Discipline Project, which aims to address disparities in suspension rates for Black and brown students in the region.
Through evaluating and enhancing elementary school environments with tailored programming and training for students, teachers and administrators, the hands-on program seeks to eliminate traditional disciplinary practices that have created inequity in schools and caused a surge in the school-to-prison pipeline.
“We want to get to the root of the issues,” said Ming-Te Wang, professor of psychology and education in the School of Education and Learning Research and Development Center and co-lead on the project. “We’re trying to figure out how to make the school community more optimal, supportive and accommodating for kids regardless of their background and help teachers evaluate how to be more culturally responsive.”
Just Discipline will expand to include 12 more Pennsylvania schools this fall and another 8 next year, supported by a $4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, $3 million from the Institute for Educational Science, and locally by The Heinz Endowments and The Pittsburgh Study at Children’s Hospital.
The funding boost will help Wang and fellow co-lead James Huguley, associate dean and associate professor in the School of Social Work, replicate the work that began in the Woodland Hills School District in 2017.
“Our population was in dire need,” said Leah Kelly, a teacher in Woodland Hills Intermediate, the first Just Discipline site. Now a special education teacher in new program affiliated Edgewood Elementary, she said the program improved communications across the board.
“Working with the Justice Discipline team, we saw a major change,” said Kelly. “Suspension numbers came down; we had more time for academics and relationship building with a happier population. The environment became a more positive place to work and learn. It’s a resource I cannot speak highly enough of that brought us amazing partners from the University of Pittsburgh who [are] now permanent members of our Woodland Hills family. We are forever grateful for them and what they’ve taught us.”
A vital aspect of the program is providing full-time staff and resources to assist with relational and behavioral issues. This includes a restorative practice coordinator who works daily alongside teachers, training them on cultural competency and developing community-building activities.
“It’s well-documented in research that use of exclusionary school discipline is harmful to the kids that receive it, and that those who receive it most are Black, Latinx kids from disadvantaged economic backgrounds and LGBTQ kids,” said Huguley. “Teachers are often overstretched with all the pressures in education, under-resourcing in urban schools or the lack of mental health and counseling supports and basic extracurricular needs. Even well-meaning teachers don’t have all the necessary resources to respond to their students.”
The program also creates opportunities for students, granting many the chance to learn leadership and mediation skills.
“It’s about building a climate where students feel they belong, are cared for and ensuring structures within the building let that happen,” Huguley said. “There’s no lack of talent, no lack of ability, only a lack of opportunity and justice. When you trace back histories, you see the societal forces that have worked against the Black community, and education is one manifestation of that, for sure.”
From friendship to collaboration
Wang and Huguley have drawn from their own backgrounds for the project.
“I grew up attending urban public schools,” said Huguley, who was raised in a low-income neighborhood in Providence, Rhode Island. “I was a kid from the projects. It was your typical urban school, except for a gifted and talented program [with] white kids from more affluent families and communities. They were in this bubble, and I was in that bubble with them. I saw the difference between what I was experiencing and what my peers from my community and others like mine were getting in the mainstream.”
Participation in that advanced program set him on the fast-track to success. He attended Providence College and later Harvard University. But even at that level, some things didn’t change.
“When I got to college, I looked around and didn't see people like me, Black and brown and I wondered why,” Huguley said.
Wanting to replicate his elementary school opportunity for others, he sought out programs designed to uplift Black and brown kids and fell into teaching.
Wang, meanwhile, found his desire to fight disparities in his role as a counselor and English teacher in the Tung-Fu Middle School in Taiwan. He likened the environment to that of Indigenous reservations in the U.S. — a place designed “to retain cultures that’s endured historical struggles and structural barriers.”
He noted that disparities resulted in students’ disinterest in education.
“That got me thinking about how we can better engage students in everyday schooling. I'd been focused on counseling, helping kids but wanted to promote systemic change to alter an environment, structural areas versus just looking at individuals,” Wang said.
The following year, he enrolled in Harvard University to pursue a doctorate in human development and psychology, and that’s where he met Huguley, who was working toward a master’s in education and risk prevention. They shared an advisor and often collaborated on small projects, becoming friends.
Wang arrived at Pitt in 2012, the same year he and Huguley published a paper on racial socialization and Black kids’ academic achievement —a nod to their future collaboration. Huguley joined Pitt the following year.
Backed by Pitt’s Center on Race and Social Problems and Motivation Center, the duo reunited in 2017 to conduct a study that revealed that 73% of Allegheny County school districts had suspension rates for Black students at least doubling the rate of their non-Black counterparts.
Their analysis suggested severe regional racial discrepancies directly tied to the school-to-prison pipeline, which is when disciplinary experiences in school increase students’ likelihood of interaction with the juvenile justice system. Their response was to create Just Discipline.
Despite their track record of fruitful collaborations, Wang and Huguley attribute their success to their growing team which includes other Pitt people: program director Shawn Thomas, director of operations Michele Leyshon, research coordinator Rachelle Haynik and multiple restorative practice coordinators.
Engagements with the Equity Initiative, Pennsylvania state legislators ors and invitations from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to speak, are proof that the Just Discipline staff are meeting a national need.
“We’re’ trying to demonstrate a different way, because these trends are pretty consistent across the country,” said Huguley. “We want people to know there are better, more humane ways.”
Wang added, “We want to convince policymakers that instead of investing money in purchasing more metal detectors, we should try something different. We want to generate compelling evidence to advocate for this program and teacher education.”
— Kara Henderson
Photographed at top: Restorative Practice Coordinator Michele Snyder leads a group activity and discussion at Turtle Creek K-5 Steam Academy. (Photos courtesy of Huguley)
Just Discipline Restorative Practice Coordinator Spencer Scott poses with several student leaders.
Destenie Nock (right), an assistant professor in the departments of Civil & Environmental Engineering and Engineering and Public Policy, is focused on applying high-level mathematical modeling to real-world issues in energy systems planning and equality. Her recent work has involved creating an energy equity metric that illustrates the socioeconomic divide in access to energy.
Q: In terms of improving public access to alternative energy options for more Americans, does the Inflation Reduction Act get it right? Does it do enough from an equity perspective to make it easier for more Americans to shift away from fossil fuels?
This is the first time we're seeing energy justice in a bill like this, with over $60 billion targeted for environmental justice efforts. There's also money to spur production of solar panels and wind turbines, and for processing critical materials in the United States. This is huge for energy justice and jobs.
A big part of the energy transition is what happens to the workers, not just ones who are selling and maintaining services, but the ones who are building, mining, doing research and development. Creating a domestic industry around that is critical to this transition. There are jobs that will come from manufacturing and construction, but with a domestic industry, it will be a much longer-term approach.
For example, there's $500 million for heat pumps and critical mineral processing. If we're trying to get people to shift away from natural gas to more electrical-based systems, we need to tie energy justice and housing by upgrading that infrastructure. Heat pumps that can both heat and cool will be central to that energy transition as well. They are more efficient than traditional heating systems, such as electric radiators, and that will help reduce our dependence on expensive energy generation systems like oil and natural.
Q: There were some carbon capture and storage provisions in the new law that some environmentalists saw as giveaways to the fossil fuel industry. How should we be thinking about those?
With one bill, it's hard to get it completely right, but compared to what we had before — the IRA — it's a good compromise. We weren't going to get this bill through the government without any support for fossil fuel. There are wealthy, powerful actors looking to protect their interests in that industry. I understand why some people are upset, but there's a larger picture at play here for reducing emissions.
One way to reduce emissions is to reduce the fossil intensity of the supply side. But there's also the demand side and reducing demand for fossil fuels. If we do that then it will start to push out those fossil fuel generators and that will be good for energy justice and climate justice.
Q: Shortly after this passed, California announced plans to ban the sale of new gasoline-powered cars beginning in 2035. Is that the kind of significant action we're going to need to see more of to deliver in terms of meeting emissions goals?
I think we'll see more actions like this in the future. It's great to try to get different people to invest in electric car manufacturing and improving number of vehicles made for sale. One challenge is that demand for electric vehicles has outgrown the supply. That leaves me worried that we could potentially be putting the onus on consumers to switch their technology when it is still not widely available.
I like to see in IRA that we're improving manufacturing capacity. But the law assumes people don't want to buy electric cars, when they do. Tesla has a long waiting list of people who want to buy their vehicles.
The concern here is for low-income and vulnerable populations who tend to depend on secondhand vehicles, and secondhand batteries that tend to die. There is some data that shows second life batteries don't work as well — their range is unreliable and they don't hold a charge as well.
One thing for the California policy to be successful will be heavy investment in public transportation and I'm not seeing that yet. If we're going to ban the sale of these vehicles knowing people still have to get to work and there's still a gap between deployment of our technology needs and the public demand, then we have to take that into account. In places like New York City and the Washington, D.C. metro area, people don't have to own vehicles to get around as long as they are close to the subway. In California, I did not find that to be the case when I visited, and that's a big challenge. Here in Pittsburgh, my public bus service stops at 9 p.m., so unless I want to be Cinderella, I need my own vehicle.
So while I'm glad to see this move, let's make sure the alternative isn't just another personal vehicle but a strong public transit system.
The Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (URA) announced today that its URA Ventures Pilot has closed on its first cohort of Main Street investments: Hazelwood Cafe LLC, Blanket & Board LLC, and Live Fresh Cold Pressed Juice + Smoothie Bar.
"The Ventures Pilot is the type of program we need to address the inequities in the business community when it comes to access to capital for MWBE companies," said Mayor Ed Gainey. "Congratulations to this first cohort of minority and women-owned businesses. I look forward to your future success, and I applaud the good work the URA is doing to uplift and support our entrepreneurs in our great city."
URA Ventures is an early stage, diversity-focused fund, seeking to invest in companies within the City of Pittsburgh. The program’s objective is to change the face of entrepreneurship by making strategic investments, and by accelerating access and availability of capital to historically disadvantaged small businesses, while creating quality jobs and spurring economic growth. The URA announced the social impact pilot in March 2022.
Part of the URA Ventures Pilot suite of programs, Main Street Ventures provides revenue-based investment in the start up and growth of local, neighborhood serving small businesses.
“We are excited to welcome this first cohort to the Main Street Ventures program,” said URA Deputy Executive Director Susheela Nemani-Stanger. “These businesses and what they are doing for their communities align with the mission of the Ventures program as well as the URA’s work. We are looking forward to helping these passionate and creative entrepreneurs advance their companies.”
“It’s important to note that all three of these companies are 100% MWBE, setting the standard for future cohorts,” said URA Business Solutions Administration Assistant Alissa Monette.
Hazelwood Café, located at 5017 Second Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15207, is a coffee shop, specializing in African coffee and its history. "We contribute to the community one cup at a time by serving Single-origin African coffee, from ethical sources."
Blanket & Board, is an award-winning event planning company that provides pop-up, luxury picnics in the city of Pittsburgh. Services include charcuterie boxes, setting up picnics in Pittsburgh’s parks, and catering private events. "With the current COVID-19 crisis, Blanket & Board provides a space for people to come together safely to engage in socialization and self-care. As a minority-owned business, we also want to create safe spaces where people of all backgrounds can feel welcome, seen, and heard.”
Live Fresh Cold Pressed Juice + Smoothie Bar, with locations in Homestead and the Northside, is designed to deliver the most refreshing and nutritional experience through their 100% natural and 100% tasty cold pressed juices, fresh fruit smoothies, and signature açaí + smoothie bowls. “Here at Live Fresh, we believe that consumers have the right to expect healthy options in a market full of fast food, while balancing daily responsibilities and routines. Creating healthy food options creates better communities and is a crucial part of the balance of growth and well-being of our community.”
"I’m excited to see the Ventures program moving forward," said URA Board Vice Chair and Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle. "The program is designed to provide numerous benefits including wealth building and economic stability opportunities in communities where it is needed the most, particularly Avenues of Hope corridors. Congratulations to this first cohort!"
More information will be provided at the URA Board of Directors virtual meeting this afternoon, Thursday, September 8, at 2:00 p.m. Board meeting information can be found here.
URA Deputy Executive Director Susheela Nemani-Stanger
U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and U.S. Representative Mike Doyle (D-PA) announced that the City of Pittsburgh received $11,320,000 in funding for the “New Pathways to Equity” project to invest in human-focused infrastructure in the Hill District. The funding comes from a Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability & Equity (RAISE) Grant, funded by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
With this funding, the city will make construction improvements to the public right-of-way in the Hill District, particularly on Centre Avenue. Improvements will include the reconstruction of intersections, street corridors and city steps as well as the installation of traffic calming measures, sidewalks and green infrastructure. The “New Pathways to Equity” project is crucial to the revitalization of the neighborhood.
“The Hill District is a vibrant community that for too long has been disconnected from the rest of the City of Pittsburgh,” said Senator Casey. “This grant, made possible by the infrastructure law, will make Centre Avenue safer and more accessible to drivers, public transit users, pedestrians and all residents of Pittsburgh. This project will bring more businesses, customers and workers to the Hill District, boosting the neighborhood’s economic strength.”
“This grant is the culmination of years of hard work to invest in the revitalization of the Hill District,” Congressman Doyle said. “This project will provide safer streets, better transit, and improved accessibility in the Hill District. Along with the federal funding we secured to reconnect downtown and the Hill District with the I-579 Cap Project, this grant will ensure that we are investing in the middle and upper Hill District equitably. I worked persistently with Mayor Gainey and County Executive Fitzgerald to secure this funding – including arranging a meeting with the Mayor and Secretary Buttigieg earlier this year to stress the importance of this project – and I believe that the combination of unified advocacy and project merit won this grant for Pittsburgh. This project also bolsters the City’s Avenues of Hope project to work with local and minority business owners to invest in historically marginalized corridors throughout the City, a project for which I secured $2 million in Congressionally Directed Spending in Fiscal Year 2022.”
“We were glad to support this important project that will improve the quality of life for residents in the Hill District,” said County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “Through continued investment in the neighborhood, we are improving infrastructure, mobility and access for those who live there, but also for those who come to eat, shop and visit.”
“This grant is not just an investment into essential infrastructure, it is also an investment in correcting long standing harms that have isolated the Hill from Downtown," said Mayor Ed Gainey. "Designing solutions and getting them funded required a true community partnership, and this is an example of the kind of ambitious reinvestment in our city that can happen when we all work towards a common purpose and shared goal.”
“This award will have a multi-generational impact in the Hill District neighborhood,” said Marimba Milliones, President & CEO, Hill Community Development Corporation. “Our infrastructure is in serious need of upgrading and this grant will support critical improvements to key corridors. We thank Senator Bob Casey, Congressman Doyle and Mayor Gainey for working to deliver these funds for the benefit of the Hill District’s residents and businesses. We are also hopeful that these funds can be leveraged to secure additional state and local resources.”
The year 2020 was one of unrest: The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted society while the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black people in America sparked a wave of global protests.
During this already turbulent time, Black youth were also experiencing an uptick in online racial discrimination, a new University of Pittsburgh study has found.
Pitt’s Ming-Te Wang and Juan Del Toro conducted a longitudinal study collecting 18,454 daily assessments of 602 Black and white adolescents across the country between March and November 2020. The children, aged 12-18, reported increased online racial discrimination that predicted worse same- and next-day mental health.
“This study showed us the need for programs to decrease online hate crimes as well as procedures by health providers — pediatricians, psychiatrists and others — to mitigate negative mental health effects such as online racial discrimination,” said Wang, a professor of psychology and education in the School of Education and senior scientist at Pitt’s Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC).
He and Del Toro, an LRDC research associate, set out to study online racial discrimination in the time of COVID-19. While students performed schoolwork at home, they spent more time online and in front of screens, communicating via direct-messaging platforms and social media.
The team established two primary research goals: Examine the frequency of online racial discrimination before and after the 2020 unrest and determine if such discrimination predicted mental health issues among a representative sample of Black youths.
What they found: 1 in 2 Black youths experienced at least one incident of online racism during the study period.
That rate was significantly higher than a previous study that found roughly 2 in 5 Black adults reported experiencing the same amount between March and June 2020 — a study period barely half as long as Del Toro and Wang’s.
“The data were rich as we had Black and white youths’ daily survey responses, and these daily self-reports were gathered across multiple periods throughout 2020, enabling us to look at changes in youths’ daily experiences of racial discrimination across time and examine the immediate and prolonged mental health consequences of racial discrimination,” Del Toro said.
In light of their findings, the researchers said changes in policy and medical approaches are needed when such racial traumatic experiences arise, including training on culturally sensitive assessments and effective communication skills for clinicians. Racial literacy training and resources to help youth cope with racial events also would benefit mental health professionals.
These findings have immediate implications for clinical practice, Del Toro said.
“Adolescents’ chronic exposure to online settings may exacerbate racial disparities in health, considering the present study found a negative impact of racial discrimination on Black youths’ but not white youths’ mental health.”
Source: — Chuck Finder
CHANGING THE LANDSCAPE OF EDUCATION FOR PITTSBURGH'S BLACK COMMUNITY
FAME (Fund for Advancement of Minorities Through Education) announces that The Neighborhood Academy joins FAME as their newest partner school. This partnership will help change the educational landscape for Pittsburgh's African American community.
According to Public Source, from 2017-18, statewide numbers show achievement gaps between
white and black students across Pennsylvania of 34 percentage points for English, 36
percentage points for math, and 39 percentage points for science.
FAME and The Neighborhood Academy share common goals to increase access to higher
education pathways for African-American students in the Pittsburgh area. The ultimate goal is to
remove barriers for students and families by creating true ease of access to college for
African-American students in Pittsburgh.
A significant factor in providing college access is providing access to high-quality college-prep
coursework in high school. FAME Scholars receive academic support, counseling,
programming, and need-based merit scholarships to attend local independent partner schools.
The Neighborhood Academy is a private, independent school dedicated to providing a college
preparatory high school education to underserved local students.
In 2016, FAME and The Neighborhood Academy began collaborating informally based on these
shared goals. After much discussion among the leadership of both organizations, steps were
taken to formalize the collaboration by adding The Neighborhood Academy as a FAME partner
high school. As a result, FAME Scholars will now be able to use their FAME Scholarships to
attend The Neighborhood Academy, the only school within the PCIS, Pittsburgh Consortium of
Independent Schools, specifically designed to meet the needs of African American student
FAME and TNA will work closely to ensure that each FAME Scholar receives the academic
support and enrichment opportunities needed to prepare for college with little to no financial
burden. The first FAME Scholars have been identified and will begin in the fall of the 2022-2023
school year in 9th grade.
"I am very excited about the partnership between The Neighborhood Academy and FAME. I
look forward to our organization's impact on the lives of African American families throughout
the Pittsburgh region and beyond. Together, we will provide youth with access to quality learning
experiences to prepare more African American students for success in their educational
journeys." says The Neighborhood Academy Head of School, Dr. Anthony Williams.
"Along with the FAME Board of Trustees, I am excited and proud that The Neighborhood
Academy will become our newest FAME partner school. During the past six years, TNA's
leadership and excellence in our work together has created a strong foundation for this
partnership. Based on mutual respect, this partnership will allow FAME to offer Black students
and families the opportunity to experience quality education, college preparation, and cultural
affirmation in a physically and emotionally safe environment. Ultimately, to the benefit of FAME,
TNA, our communities, city, and region," says FAME CEO, Darryl T. Wiley.
Source: The Neighborhood Academy
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.