Say it Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud!
Health, Poverty, Action, Social Justice Access. Justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society. “Social justice is the view that everyone deserves equal economic, political and social rights and opportunities. Social workers aim to open the doors of access and opportunity for everyone, particularly those in greatest need.” National Association of Social Workers. “Social justice encompasses economic justice.
County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and President Judge Kim Berkeley Clark announce that the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has again awarded Allegheny County a $2 million grant to continue its efforts in collaboration to rethink the criminal justice system, safely reduce the county jail population, and eliminate racial inequities. The grant is part of the Safety and Justice Challenge, a $246 million national initiative to reduce over-incarceration by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails.
The Safety and Justice Challenge is supporting local leaders in Allegheny County and across the country determined to tackle one of the greatest drivers of over-incarceration in America – the misuse and overuse of jails. The county was first selected to join the collaborative Safety and Justice Challenge Network in 2017 with funding for a targeted project focused on building data dashboards to monitor key indicators in the criminal justice system. Since receiving the Safety and Justice Challenge grant in 2018, the population of the Allegheny County Jail is down 36%.
“We’re grateful to the MacArthur Foundation for its ongoing support of our efforts. Its continued funding of our collaborative efforts has allowed us to continue focusing on this important issue,” said County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “While the pandemic slowed our progress in some areas, it also showed clearly that our collaborative efforts can be quite impactful when it comes to the overall population of the jail. We look forward to doing even more to improve our criminal justice system.”
Allegheny County was one of 15 jurisdictions selected for additional funding based on the promise and progress of work to date. This new round of funding will provide Allegheny County with continued support and expert technical assistance to strengthen and expand strategies that address the main drivers, and resulting racial inequities, of local jail incarceration.
Building on Allegheny County’s progress to date is especially critical as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and racial injustices against Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other people of color reinforce the need to transform how the system operates. The response in Allegheny County to the COVID-19 pandemic, including a 77% reduction in jail bookings and the rapid review and release of people being held in the jail, demonstrated the ability to achieve a significantly smaller jail population without compromising public safety. People released from the jail at the start of the pandemic had lower recidivism rates than those released during the same time period in the previous year, and court filings for new criminal offenses have consistently remained below pre-pandemic levels.
“We are proud of the progress we have made in the past two years to safely reduce the Allegheny County Jail population. Incarceration should be reserved for those who have committed the most serious offenses and pose a risk to the safety of the public,” said Judge Kim Berkeley Clark, President Judge of the Fifth Judicial District. “The continued support of the MacArthur Foundation will advance our goals of eliminating unnecessary incarceration and ensuring a more fair and efficient criminal justice system for all.”
In partnership with the Courts and the District Attorney’s Office, and including departments under the executive branch, Allegheny County has developed a comprehensive plan for additional strategies and initiatives over the next two years to invest in a safer, more effective, and more equitable system. Key strategies to achieve this goal include:
· Preventing unnecessary arrest and incarceration of people in crisis due to substance use, mental illness, or homelessness;
· Implementing a revalidated pretrial assessment and supervision plan to reduce bookings at first appearance;
· Implementing Court efficiencies to reduce length of stay in the jail;
· Completing a community-informed redesign of the physical structure of the jail to reflect a significantly smaller census and optimize the space for rehabilitation;
· Partnering with the University of Pittsburgh’s Institute of Politics on a research project to identify drivers of racial and ethnic disparities throughout the criminal justice system and implement solutions; and,
· Engaging community members in the development of additional strategies.
Five years after its public launch, the Challenge Network has grown into a collaborative of 51 jurisdictions in 32 states modeling and inspiring reforms to create more fair, just and equitable local justice systems across the country.
“We must confront the devastating impacts of mass incarceration by a system that over-polices and over-incarcerates Black, Indigenous, and Latinx people,” said Laurie Garduque, MacArthur’s Director of Criminal Justice. “Over the past five years, the Safety and Justice Challenge has safely reduced the ineffective and harmful use of jails, while learning that jail population reduction alone does not undo the racial inequities perpetuated by an unjust system and our nation’s history of systemic racism. We are committed to supporting cities and counties as they reimagine a definition of safety that is inclusive of all communities and makes meaningful progress towards our goal of ending racial and ethnic disparities in jails.”
Several of the nation’s leading criminal justice organizations will continue to provide technical assistance and counsel to Allegheny County and its partners, and the other jurisdictions involved in the Challenge: the Center for Court Innovation, Everyday Democracy, Nexus Community Partners, the Institute for State and Local Governance at the City University of New York, the Justice Management Institute, Justice System Partners, the Pretrial Justice Institute, Policy Research, Inc., the Vera Institute of Justice, the W. Haywood Burns Institute, Urban Institute, and Bennett Midland.
More information about the work underway in Allegheny County can be found at www.alleghenycounty.us/safety-justice-challenge/index.aspx as well as on www.SafetyandJusticeChallenge.org.
January 26, 2021
Remarks by President Biden at Signing of an Executive Order on Racial Equity
State Dining Room
2:06 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, folks. I thank the Vice President for being with me today as well. In my campaign for President, I made it very clear that the moment had arrived as a nation where we face deep racial inequities in America and system- -- systemic racism that has plagued our nation for far, far too long.
I said it over the course of the past year that the blinders had been taken come off the nation of the American people. What ma- -- what many Americans didn’t see,
or had simply refused to see, couldn’t be ignored any longer.
Those 8 minutes and 46 seconds that took George Floyd's life opened the eyes of millions of Americans and millions of people around -- all over the world. It was the knee on the neck of justice, and it wouldn't be forgotten. It stirred the conscience of tens of millions of Americans, and, in my view, it marked a turning point in this country's attitude toward racial justice.
When his six-years-old -- six-year-old daughter, Gianna, who I met with when I met with the family -- I leaned down to say hi to her, and she said -- looked at me, and she said, "Daddy changed the world." That's what Gianna said -- his daughter. "Daddy changed the world." And I believe she is right, not because this kind of injustice stopped -- it clearly hasn't -- but because the ground has shifted, because it's changed minds and mindsets, because it laid the groundwork for progress.
COVID-19 has further ripped a path of destruction through every community in America, but no one has been spared, but the devastation in communities of color has been nothing short of stunning. Just look at the numbers: 40 percent of frontline workers -- nurses, first responders, grocery store workers -- are Americans of color, and many are still living on the edge. One in ten black Americans is out of work today. One in eleven Latino Americans is out of work today. One in seven households in America -- about one in four black, one in five Latino households in America -- report that they don't have enough food to eat in the United States of America.
Black and Latino Americans are dying of COVID-19 at rates nearly three times that of white Americans. And it's not white Americans’ fault, but it’s just a fact. And the Americans now know it, especially younger Americans.
One of the reasons I'm so optimistic about this nation is that today's generation of young Americans is the most progressive, thoughtful, inclusive generation that America has ever seen. And they are pulling us toward justice in so many ways, forcing us to confront the huge gap in economi- -- excuse me, economic inequity between those at the top and everyone else, forcing us to confront the existential crisis of climate; and, yes, forcing us to confront systemic racism and white supremacy.
It’s just been weeks since all of America witnessed a group of thugs, insurrectionists, political extremists, and white supremacists violently attack the Capitol of our democracy. And so now -- now is the time to act. It's time to act because that's what the faith and morality calls us to do.
Across nearly every faith, the same principles hold: We're all God's children; we should treat each other as we would like to be treated ourselves. And this is time to act -- and this time to act is because it's what the core values of this nation call us to do. And I believe the vast majority of Americans -- Democrats, Republicans, and independents -- share these values and want us to act as well.
We have never fully lived up to the founding principles of this nation, to state the obvious, that all people are created equal and have a right to be treated equally throughout their lives. And it's time to act now, not only because it's the right thing to do, but because if we do, we'll all be better off for it.
For too long, we've allowed a narrow, cramped view of the promise of this nation to fester. You know, we've -- we've bought the view that America is a zero-sum game in many cases: "If you succeed, I fail." "If you get ahead, I fall behind." "If you get the job, I lose mine." Maybe worst of all, "If I hold you down, I lift myself up."
We've lost sight of what President Kennedy told us when he said, "A rising tide lifts all boats." And when we lift each other up, we're all lifted up. You know, and the corollary is true as well: When any one of us is held down, we're all held back. More and more economic studies in recent years have proven this, but I don't think you need economic studies to see the truth.
Just imagine if instead of consigning millions of American children to under-resourced schools, we gave each and every three- and four-year-old child a chance to learn, to go to school -- not daycare, school -- and grow and thrive in school and throughout. When they've done that -- the places it's been done, it shows they have an exponentially greater chance of going all the way through 12 years of school and doing it well.
But, you know, does anyone -- does anyone in this whole nation think we're not all better off if that were to happen?
Just imagine if instead of denying millions of Americans the ability to own a home and build generational wealth -- who made it possible for them buy a home, their first home -- and begin to build equity to provide for their families and send their children off to school, does anyone doubt that the whole nation will be better off?
Just imagine: Instead of denying millions of young entrepreneurs the ability to access capital, we made it possible to take their dream to market, create jobs, reinvest in their own communities. Does anyone doubt this whole nation wouldn't be better off?
Just imagine if more incredibly creative and innovative -- how much more creative and innovative we'd be if this nation held -- held the historic black colleges and universities to the same opportunities -- and minority-serving institutions -- that had the same funding and resources of public universities to compete for jobs and industries of the future. You know, just ask the first HBCU graduate elected as Vice President if that's not true.
But to do this, I believe this nation and this government need to change their whole approach to the issue of racial equal- -- equity. Yes, we need criminal justice reform, but that isn't nearly enough. We need to open the promise of America to every American. And that means we need to make the issue of racial equity not just an issue for any one department of government; it has to be the business of the whole of government.
That's why I issued, among the first days, my whole-of-government executive order that will, for the first time, advance equity for all throughout our federal policies and institutions. It focuses on the full range of communities who have been long underserved and overlooked: people of color; Americans with disabilities; LGBTQ Americans; religious minorities; rural, urban, suburban communities facing persistent poverty.
And I've asked Ambassador Susan Rice to lead the administration's charge through the White House and Domestic Policy Council because I know she'll see it through. Every White House, every White House component, and every agency will be involved in this work because advancing equity has to be everyone's job.
Today, I'll be shortly signing an additional package of executive actions to continue this vital work. Housing, for example: Housing is a right in America, and homeownership is an essential tool to wealth creation and to be passed down to generations.
Today, I'm directing the Department of Housing and Urban Affairs -- and Urban Development to redress historical racism in federal housing policies. Today, I'm directing the federal agency to reinvigorate the consultation process with Indian tribes. Respect the tribal sovereignty -- respect for tribal sovereignty will be a cornerstone of our engaging with Native American communities.
This builds on the work we did last week to expand tribes' access to the Strategic National Stockpile for the first time, to ensure they receive help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, to fight this pandemic.
Today, I'm directing federal agencies to combat resurgence of xenophobia, particularly against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, that we've seen skyrocket during this pandemic. This is unacceptable and it's un-American. I've asked the Department of Justice to strengthen its partnership with the Asian American and Pacific Islander community to prevent those hate crimes.
I've also asked the Department of Health and Human Services to put out best practices for combatting xenophobia in our national response to COVID.
Look, in the weeks ahead, I'll be reaffirming the federal government’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and accessibility, building on the work we started in the Obama-Biden administration. That's why I rescinded the previous administration's harmful ban on diversity and sensitivity training, and abolished the offensive, counter-factual 1776 Commission. Unity and healing must begin with understanding and truth, not ignorance and lies.
Today, I’m also issuing an executive order that will ultimately end the Justice Department’s use of the private prison indus- -- private prisons, an industry that houses pretrial detrainees [sic] -- detainees and federal prisoners.
The executive order directs the Attorney General to decline to renew contracts with privately operated criminal facilities -- a step we started to take at the end of the Obama administration and was reversed under the previous administration.
This is the first step to stop corporations from profiteering off of incarcerating -- incarceration that is less humane and less safe, as the studies show. And it is just the beginning of my administration’s plan to address systemic problems in our criminal justice system.
Here’s another thing that we need to do: We need to restore and expand the Voting Rights Act -- named after our dear friend, John Lewis -- and continue to fight back against laws that many states are engaged in to suppress the right to vote, while expanding access to the ballot box for all eligible voters.
Because here’s the deal, and I'll close with this: I ran for President because I believe we're in a battle for the soul of this nation. And the simple truth is, our soul will be troubled as long as systemic racism is allowed to persist. We can't eliminate it if -- it's not going to be overnight. We can't eliminate everything.
But it’s corrosive, it’s destructive, and it’s costly. It costs every American, not just who have felt the sting of racial injustice. We aren’t just less of a -- we are not just a nation of morally deprived because of systemic racism; we're also less prosperous, we're less successful, we're less secure.
So, we must change, and I know it's going to take time. But I know we can do it. And I firmly believe the nation is ready to change, but government has to change as well. We need to make equity and justice part of what we do every day -- today, tomorrow, and every day.
Now I'm going to sign these executive actions to continue the work to make real the promise of America for every American. Again, I'm not promising we can end it tomorrow, but I promise you: We're going to continue to make progress to eliminate systemic racism, and every branch of the White House and the federal government is going to be part of that effort.
This first executive order is a memorandum for the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to redress our nation's and the federal government's history of discriminatory housing practices and policies.
(The executive order is signed.)
The next executive order is reforming the incarceration system by eliminating the use of privately operated criminal detention facilities.
(The executive order is signed.)
The third executive order is a memorandum for the heads of executive departments and agencies on tribal consultation, and strengthening nation-to-nation relationships.
(The executive order is signed.)
The last executive order is condemning and combatting racism, xenophobia, and intolerance against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States.
(The executive order is signed.)
I think the country is ready, and I know this administration is ready. Thank you.
Q Mr. President, what did you talk to Vladimir Putin about?
THE PRESIDENT: You. (Laughter.) He sent his best.
END 2:21 P.M. EST
State Rep. Donna Bullock, D-Phila., chairwoman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, state Rep. Napoleon Nelson, D-Montgomery, chairman of the caucus’ subcommittee on budget equity, and members of the PLBC sent a letter to Gov. Tom Wolf (January 22, 2021) today to address budget inequities in Pennsylvania and urged him to take corrective measures in his upcoming budget address for the 2021-22 legislative session.
“The Pennsylvania state budget is a valuable measure of our commonwealth’s priorities and can be our best tool for racial and structural equity. Unfortunately, the budget sometimes adversely, even if unintentionally,” impacts Pennsylvania’s Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities, according to the letter.
“We want the governor to know we support initiatives he may take to address racial inequities in budget funding and priorities,” Bullock said. “But we also want him to understand that we expect a bold vision for the 2021-22 legislative session in order to correct those inequities and bring necessary changes to processes that continue to short-change our communities of color at a very disproportionate rate.”
The letter goes on to say those inequities were even more evident during the pandemic and subsequent economic downturn that was a result of the pandemic.
“If we’ve learned nothing in the last year of living in a global pandemic,” Bullock said, “it is that the misalignments and distorted priorities that have been set over many years continue to plague BIPOC communities and we cannot let up on our pressure to see our way to a fairer structure so all Pennsylvanians can be lifted from our current situation and prosper.”
"The concerns and ills that have plagued communities of color and under-served communities in this commonwealth have been plaguing those communities not just since the pandemic, but for years," Nelson said. "It's time we address them and work to make our communities whole. We need to think about the budget and how the state is utilizing its resources going forward in a way that ensures our tomorrows aren't going to look exactly as our yesterdays did. Because, for too many of us, our yesterdays were bleak. They were not fair, they were not just, and there was no equity. We need Governor Wolf to understand that, to internalize that, and then to speak it to the rest of the commonwealth."
Attention: A video of Rep. Bullock to accompany this release can be downloaded here.
Attention: A video of Rep. Nelson to accompany this release can be downloaded here.
A link to the letter to Governor Wolf can be found here.
After the May 2020 death of George Floyd and the waves of protests that followed, Pitt Business faculty member Paul Harper was moved to use his position to expand understanding of racial justice—both among business students who will be tomorrow’s leaders, and among colleagues in the field.
He’s been the driving force behind a new course at Pitt and an upcoming series of presentations by top business scholars that examine issues of racial justice at the intersection of business and society.
“Since the murder of George Floyd, there has been a consistent effort by people who are looking for a moral evolution. I am heartened by that—and young people are at the lead,” Harper said. “I want to have these conversations. These are the people who are going to move this world forward.”
As one of a very few Black business school faculty members nationwide, he “felt a personal responsibility to step forward and show leadership,” said Harper, a clinical assistant professor of business administration in the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business whose research and teaching are focused on business ethics, international entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship and inclusive innovation.
A deeper understanding of racial justice is increasingly important to business students’ success, he said.
"Corporations are not immune to changes in public sentiment and the desire for social justice. The choice of which social issues a corporation ought to address, what constitutes the basis of moral duty and how that moral obligation is to be met falls under the intellectual purview of business ethics,” said Harper.
“For corporations and the schools that are tasked with training their management and leadership ranks, the strategic implications are clear: As much as this is about Black and white, about good and bad, and about right and wrong, it is also about winning and losing,” said Harper.
“Moving forward, corporations will need new leadership who are trained to understand, recognize and affirm calls for social justice emerging from the stakeholder ranks, and there will be fierce competition for the alumni of those schools who can provide that kind of strategy and business ethics training," Harper said.
Over the summer, Harper developed a new course to address the questions of structural racism, justice and capitalism. Race and Business Ethics was offered for the first time in fall and is again being offered this spring term through the College of Business Administration.
“The last thing I want to do is have students leave unprepared for dealing with the awakening giant of race consciousness,” he said. “You’re seeing a moral reckoning going on here. I couldn’t see how any quality business school could proceed without that.”
While business schools traditionally have addressed race in the context of interpersonal relations, Harper’s course takes a much broader perspective, starting with how U.S. business as an institution has been complicit in the racial exploitation that brought the nation to this point in its history.
Events that have made news headlines in recent months can be viewed through a business lens, Harper noted: Sports teams are grappling with whether players should be allowed to protest, as well as with the significance of racially-tinged team logos and branding. Prestigious financial institutions that benefited from the slave trade are being forced to examine their history and contemplate steps for moving forward more equitably. And universities are having to wrestle with the ways they have been complicit in the creation and maintenance of the systems that propagate and legitimize racial bias, he said.
These ethical questions are at the same time all business problems.
“The study of racial justice and business is not something that’s been done, but that is really the battleground. These questions relate to the brands you purchase, the teams you cheer on, the corporations you aspire to work for,” he said.
“If we take these issues dead-on, there’s the opportunity to have a high impact. That’s the place where change will be made.”
Beyond the University, Harper was named co-chair of a new Racial Justice Committee of the Social Issues in Management (SIM) Division of the Academy of Management (AoM). AoM is the preeminent international professional association for scholars of management and organizations.
If we take these issues dead-on, there’s the opportunity to have a high impact. That’s the place where change will be made.
He is the lead editor of an upcoming special issue on the topic of racial justice in the Journal of Business Ethics, the top journal in his field, and recently co-authored a virtual special issue that focused on the role of the corporation in eradicating structural racism.
Harper is continuing to leverage his expertise and his unique perspective with the launch of a new AoM SIM Division Racial Justice Web Forum that examines racial justice at the intersection of business and society.
Pitt’s Katz School is the lead sponsor of this free five-part series that features top business scholars from around the world.
The presentations are of particular interest to business professionals, but registration is open to the public.
The first online forum, “Racial Justice and Business Schools,” is set for 11 a.m. on Jan. 22. Harper will be among the panelists who will examine the role of race in business school curricula and research valuation.
Other events in the series are:
Racial Justice, Social Theory, and Business Ethics, 11 a.m. Feb. 12; Racial Justice and Business Technologies, 11 a.m. March 5; Racial Justice, History, and Business Ethics,11 a.m. March 26; and Racial Justice and Sustainability, 11 a.m. May 7.
In times of emotional turmoil, many people may not know exactly what to say to help calm the feeling of loss, sadness, anger and fear. But today and all the days going forward, none of us can remain silent when it comes to the continued loss and suffering experienced by our friends, neighbors and co-workers of color, as well as others who are the victims of racism and social injustice.
We must have honest and open conversations around equality and racism in our country. It is heartbreaking and gut-wrenching to see our fellow citizens from the black community continue to experience inequality and racism, and, collectively, we must raise each other up as we work toward solutions. We must never forget George Floyd and the many others who have experienced abuse and senseless deaths.
Pittsburgh has thrived as a travel destination because of the diversity of our neighborhoods and the amazing arts and cultural scene that reflects the talents of artists from different race and backgrounds.
As one of the largest industries in Allegheny County employing more than 43,000 employees, we have a powerful voice and a responsibility to ensure that our employees, neighbors and visitors are treated fairly and with respect.
We promote Pittsburgh as a welcoming city to visitors from around the world. ‘Pittsburgh. You are Welcomed Here.’ is more than a tagline, but a commitment to ensure that not only do our visitors feel welcomed, but, most importantly, that all our residents are welcomed, valued and are afforded the same dignity and respect.
While it is important for us to speak out, it is equally important for us to listen. We are receiving thoughtful, deliberate and heart-felt messaging from these protests. We must listen.
At VisitPITTSBURGH, we will actively engage with our community partners in equity and inclusion efforts, ensure we represent Pittsburgh’s diversity in our story telling, support our black and minority business partners and celebrate the region’s black and minority community members.
We aim to ensure that our voice is part of this community dialog. While we do not have all the answers, we are here and willing to do our part.
President and CEO
Jerad Bachar, President and CEO
The Carnegie Mellon University International Film Festival is set to showcase two films in December that raise awareness on the injustices suffered by African Americans in the U.S. Director Idrissou Mora-Kpai tells about racial injustice in the city of Charleston, South Carolina. Set to be the next film in the "Faces of Home" series, "America Street" continues the conversation on racism in the historic city. Told through the eyes of an African American store owner, the film puts the spotlight on challenges the Black community faces in a city with a disappearing Black population. Set in 2015 after the killing of Walter Scott by a police officer, the film remains relevant in the current political climate that has involved so many communities across the country. Through meaningful discussion and a plea to see life through the eyes of another, the film offers hope for how cities like Charleston can resist the forces of gentrification.
"Through the character of Joe, my film examines how African Americans feel marginalized in a once predominantly Black city like Charleston and how white supremacy is becoming more pervasive and insidious in America," said Mora-Kpai.
Having taught film production at the University of Pittsburgh for several years, Mora-Kpai is now an assistant professor specializing in fiction and documentary production at Ithaca College in Upstate New York. He is an award-winning filmmaker whose work has been screened worldwide at multiple film festivals. He is also a recipient of the prestigious Dutch Prince Claus Award for his dedication to promoting social change in the Global South. Many of his films narrate post-colonial societies, African migrations and diasporas.
"Garbage," a short film about misconceptions our society perpetuates and their negative consequences, will also be shown in December. The story is told from the perspective of a Black male and a white woman living in the same city, but metaphorically in two separate worlds. From their characters' actions, the story interrogates stereotypes and biases we place on others who are different from us.
The film is directed by Jose Muniain and written by Brian Broome, both with roots in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Muniain has spent much of his life working in film and media production, specializing in documentaries designed to be used as social tools. Broome is a K. Leroy Irvis Fellow and instructor in the Writing Program at the University of Pittsburgh.
"America Street" and "Garbage" both grapple with racial injustice and the struggle to build and maintain a strong community in the face of racial inequality, gentrification, police brutality and class conflict. These films help facilitate an interracial discussion of the various issues raised in the two narratives.
Registration for "America Street" starts Nov. 25. Tickets are $12 for online viewing. The first 100 people to register with a promo code will be able to watch for free. The code will be available on the CMU IFF website in the coming days. A live discussion with the film's director, Idrissou Mora-Kpai, will follow the film on Dec. 3 at 5 p.m. EST via Zoom and moderated by Waverly Duck, an urban sociologist and associate professor of sociology at the University of Pittsburgh. The discussion is free but requires registration. The event is organized in conjunction with Row House and sponsored by Cause, Humanities Scholars Program and the Center for Diversity and Inclusion at CMU.
The Office of Mayor William Peduto has submitted the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act to City Council today to offer additional protection from hairstyle discrimination for Black Pittsburghers in employment, housing, education, and public accommodations.
Black individuals’ natural hair grows in different textures, lengths, and colors, and can be worn in a variety of hairstyles, which hold cultural and personal significance in the Black community. However, modern ideas of professionalism tend to reflect European or white standards. The recent CROWN study conducted by the JOY Collective indicates that 80% of Black women in the study said that they felt the need to alter their natural hair to “fit in” in professional setting. The CROWN study also indicates that Black women are 1.5 times more likely to be sent home from the workplace because of their hair, their hair is 3.4 times more likely to be considered “unprofessional,” and they are 83% more likely to report being judged more harshly on their looks than white women nationally.
The Gender Equity Commission’s 2019 “Pittsburgh’s Inequality Across Gender and Race Report” suggests that these national trends are reflected here in Pittsburgh as the report outlined that personal, professional, housing, and educational outcomes are the most inequitable for Black women in the city. Locally, some workplaces, schools, and other groups have created grooming policies that create the opportunity to exclude Black women, Black men, and religious minorities in that space. This legislation seeks to remove these barriers and protect residents and employees from this type of discrimination.
“The City of Pittsburgh is committed to equity and to eliminating the barriers that unfairly affect our communities,” said Mayor William Peduto. “Black hair is and always has been professional, but that has not always been reflected by employers, schools, or agencies in this city. This legislation affirms our commitment to improving outcomes for Black residents and make certain that they do not face natural hair discrimination in the workplace, when searching for a home, or when entering a business.”
The legislation would provide legal recourse for individuals experiencing hairstyle discrimination. Claims or reports of hairstyle discrimination can be reported to the City of Pittsburgh’s Commission on Human Relations (CHR), who have already received numerous complaints. The CHR will be releasing guidance for landlords, employers, and business owners to understand the ordinance, understand hairstyle discrimination, learn best practices for creating a welcoming environment, and promoting actions to proactively prevent this type of discrimination over the coming weeks.
“Pittsburgh’s CROWN legislation is an important step in creating explicit protections that can help us realize a more inclusive and racially-just city,” said CHR’s Executive Director Megan Stanley. “While claims of natural hair discrimination may have been filed previously under the classes of race or religion, we want to make clear that natural hairstyles and coverings are welcoming, do not affect a persons skills or abilities, and that no person should be treated differently based on how they choose to wear or treat their hair. Sadly, we know this to be an issue both locally and across the country, and we hope that the legislation introduced and the companion guidance documents will help to create a more equitable Pittsburgh.”
Similar legislation has been passed and implemented in California, Colorado, New Jersey and has been passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, PA State House of Representatives, and is being pursued by the Philadelphia City Council. The CROWN Act in Pittsburgh has been supported by the local community.
“Black women and girls have historical been negatively judged and excluded both personally and professionally based on the texture and/or style of their hair,” said Kathi Elliott, Executive Director of Gwen’s Girls. “Society has taught us that it’s not professional or not beautiful. To be sent home from school or denied a job because ‘it’s a distraction’ or not professional, is an remnant of systemic racism. As the Crown Act continues to make progress on the state and federal levels, it’s encouraging to see the City of Pittsburgh taking this step, sending the message that this discrimination will not be tolerated and that violations will be met with legal recourse. Now we need school systems and businesses to review and change their policies and practices that perpetuate this discrimination.”
The legislation will be introduced during the regular City Council meeting on Tuesday, October 6. The full ordinance is available here: https://pittsburgh.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=4657946&GUID=6A9AB631-2E7D-46EE-89A6-FC104157984D&Options=ID|Text|&Search=2020-0769
Gwen’s Girls and the Black Girls Equity Alliance releases a new report, Understanding and Addressing Institutionalized Inequity: Disrupting Pathways to Juvenile Justice for Black Youth in Allegheny County.
Local data presents a stark picture of the ways Black children are disproportionately arrested
and cited at school, often for minor offenses.
For the last four years, Allegheny County, Juvenile Probation Office (JPO), Allegheny County
Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police have engaged with
the Black Girls Equity Alliance, providing and analyzing data and discussing the practices that
contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline.
“This report specifically opens up an educational dialogue about system response to African
American youth and Minority groups. I would ask that each partner takes this report back to
their agency and have "real conversations." Then we can help each other come together with
solutions,” Kimberly Booth, Assistant Chief Juvenile Probation Officer, Allegheny County.
“This report makes it clear: Pittsburgh’s schools, like its other institutions, are racially biased against Black students,” said Kathi Elliott, CEO of Gwen’s Girls and convener of the Black Girls
Equity Alliance. “The over-policing of students doesn’t make our schools any safer – many of the arrests, referrals or citations are for minor incidents considered disorderly conduct, such as being loud and disruptive, swearing, or making obscene gestures. Black students engaging in
typical teenage behavior are treated as criminals and that record follows them for years. It’s time to focus on solutions. We are looking forward to collaborating with the many system leaders to implement policies and practices that support our students and not criminalize
• Pittsburgh Public Schools police are the largest juvenile justice referral source for Black
girls in Allegheny County.
• The majority of arrests made by Pittsburgh Public Schools police are for minor offenses
that are not safety related. In 2019, 54% of PPS police’s arrests of Black girls and 42% of
Black boys ultimately resulted in a criminal charge of disorderly conduct, a highly
discretionary charge that is frequently affected by racial biases.
• Students with disabilities constitute a large proportion of Pittsburgh Public Schools
students referred to juvenile justice by the Pittsburgh Public Schools police.
• Black youth are 10 times more likely than White youth to be referred to juvenile court
for failure to pay fines.
The report concludes with recommendations for schools, law enforcement, judges, policy
makers, funders, and service providers.
Source: Gwen's Girls
Presenting Breonna Taylor for Vanity Fair’s September issue, “The Great Fire.”
Five months have passed since police killed Breonna Taylor in her own home, a violent crime that our September issue guest editor Ta-Nehisi Coates ascribes to a belief in Black people as a disaster, as calamity. “I don’t know how else to comprehend the jackboots bashing in Breonna Taylor’s door and spraying her home with bullets, except the belief that they were fighting some Great Fire—demonic, unnatural, inhuman.”
Coates chose the "The Great Fire" as the theme for the issue, which assembles activists, artists, and writers to offer a portrait of hope in a world where the possibility of a legitimate anti-racist majority is emerging for the first time in American history. “Something is happening,” writes @tanehisipcoates, “and I think to understand it, we must better understand the nature of this Great Fire.”
For his cover story, Coates tells Breonna’s story through the words of her mother. Also in the issue: an oral history of the historic days after George Floyd's death; a portfolio of creatives and visionaries who capture the spirit—and urgency—of the moment; director @ava DuVernay's conversation with revolutionary Angela Davis; and much more. Read “The Great Fire” at the link in bio now. Painting by Amy Sherald (@asherald).
The City of Pittsburgh remains committed to fighting housing discrimination, despite recent actions by the Trump Administration to roll back fair housing rules.
The Department of Housing and Urban Redevelopment stripped protections from Affirmatively Further Fair Housing (AFFH) regulations, which are meant to reduce residential segregation, housing discrimination, and unlawful housing practices that were borne out of systemic racism.
Despite this move by the Trump Administration, Mayor William Peduto and the Commission on Human Relations (CHR), with the support of the Fair Housing Partnership of Greater Pittsburgh, remain committed to reducing discrimination, and will continue to enforce AFFH regulations as they have since 2015.
“This is just the latest move by the Trump Administration to reinforce generations of systemic racism plaguing our communities, in which government housing policy is used to negatively impact black people by not allowing the same opportunities that other neighbors have,” Mayor Peduto said.
“With rising rents nationwide, a shortage of affordable housing, and new housing instability created by COVID-19, we must create just and equitable housing opportunities in order to provide safe housing as a human right, available to all and free of discrimination,” CHR Executive Director Megan Stanley said.
The new rule increases the risk of segregation and harmful practices rooted in systemic racism, as practices like redlining continue in Pittsburgh and other communities around the nation. It comes as the Commission has adjudicated 25% more housing discrimination complaints than the previous year, which shows the City needs more, not less, protections and policies in place to reduce unfair housing practices.
CHR has partnered with CREATE Lab on Earthtime visualizations on the need for AFFH in Pittsburgh and is now extending these efforts into City Planning and public engagement.
It also formed a AFFH Task Force, which released a report on fair housing this spring.
Source: City of Pittsburgh
Mayor Bill Peduto committed to Fair Housing and reducing discrimination.
In the last several weeks, POISE has been approached by a number of Black-Led Organizations, Activists, and individuals inquiring if the Foundation has a Fund that supports Black social justice and equity efforts in light of current events concerning police violence, social injustice and systemic anti-Black racism.
In 2018, POISE Foundation created the Human Equity and Justice Fund (HEJF) in the wake of the killing of Antwon Rose in Pittsburgh, PA and the shootings and beatings of numerous other Blacks, including high school children at the hands of the police.
The purpose of the Human Equity and Justice Fund (HEJF) is to provide immediate financial support to organizations and movements that are on the frontlines responding to crises that significantly impact the Black community.
In light of the recent killings of Blacks across the country by law enforcement, racial disparities across education, income and employment and the extreme disproportionate manner in which COVID-19 is affecting African Americans both at home and throughout the country, POISE is proactively opening up a grantmaking program today through the HEJF. Grants will fall into two categories:
Rapid Response Mini-Grants
These grants will provide immediate financial support up to $2,500 to support Black-led, Black-serving organizations and movements that are on the frontlines responding to a crisis that could not have been anticipated which significantly impacts Allegheny County’s Black community.
Racial Equity Seed Grants
These grants will provide programming support up to $5,000 for Black-led, Black- serving organizations that are advancing youth-led social change, and community-based intergenerational collaborations and programming within the racial justice space.
For more information about the HEJF, including details about how to apply for a grant and eligibility criteria please visit our HEJF website page at: www.poisefoundation.org/hejf
Mark S. Lewis, President and CEO of POISE Foundation commented:
"We are in a moment where our country recognizes the inhumanity that has existed for centuries cannot continue. We also recognize that moments fade. We need to ensure that this moment becomes a movement with no end until human equity is achieved. This fund seeks to support both this moment and building capacity for the movement."
POISE Foundation is actively fundraising for the HEJF and hopes that individuals and organizations from throughout the country who are concerned with promoting equality and social justice will strongly support this initiative by making contributions to the HEJF at: https://poisefdn.fcsuite.com/erp/donate/create?funit_id=1140
POISE is coordinating its HEJF fundraising campaign right now in association with Black Philanthropy Month 2020 that starts on Saturday, August 1, 2020 and continues throughout the month. Black Philanthropy Month (BPM), observed every August, is a global celebration and concerted campaign to elevate African-descent giving. More information about BPM is outlined below.
Most recently, important funding for the HEJF has been provided by the Henry L. Hillman Foundation and McAuley Ministries. A list of Individuals and Organizations that have recently donated to the HEJF are outlined on POISE’s website at: www.poisefoundation.org/contributions-to-the-fund-hejf
Source: POISE Foundation
On Tuesday July 28, 2020 Pittsburgh City Council finally passed five pieces of legislation sponsored by Council members Rev Ricky Burgess and R. Daniel Lavelle to reform the Pittsburgh Police. Those five pieces of legislation include:
Rev. Burgess says “We can cannot ignore the large national outcry from protests including Pittsburgh residents about the unjust deaths of unarmed people of color like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. We must implement fundamental police reforms and significantly fund evidence based violence reduction social service programs. The best way to improve public safety is not just additional police officers but rather by increasing the community’s confidence in the police. It is time to have an open inclusive conversation about the future of policing in this country and here in Pittsburgh”
Councilman Lavelle says, “During these times it is critically important that we not only acknowledge the voices of those marching in the streets but also provide a legislative platform for them to directly engage in the governance and policing of our city. The idea that more policing can solve a broad range of community problems is misguided. What our communities need, particularly communities of color, is more direct investment in things like: affordable housing, better education, counseling for trauma and addiction, youth development, workforce development, and public transit.”
On June 30, 2020, the SSA Board of Trustees voted unanimously to discontinue the use of the Indian as Shady Side Academy's mascot and the name of its competitive teams, effective July 1, 2020.
Statements on the Changing of Shady Side Academy’s Athletic Mascot from SSA’s President and Athletic Director
Shady Side Academy President Bart Griffith Jr. ’93:
“Shady Side’s administration fully supports the trustees’ decision to discontinue
the Indian as the Academy’s mascot, and we look forward to leading our
community through the process to select a new mascot in the coming months. As
a proud alum and someone who appreciates both the history and continued
evolution of Shady Side, I believe we have a unique opportunity to establish a
symbol that more fully unites our community and assists in building upon the
already strong spirit of the school.”
Shady Side Academy Director of Athletics Gene Deal:
“I am confident our administration, faculty, students, and parents will embrace
this challenge with respect and kindness. This is an opportunity for us to come
together as a community and embrace a larger vision. I am excited for our
student body to have a mascot that we can all rally behind and cheer for at our
athletic games. I predict this will elevate our school spirit to a new level. Onward
NFL clubs today adopted new procedures in diversity, equity and inclusion. In approving a resolution and other rules changes, league officials will implement wide-sweeping workplace reforms to increase employment opportunities and advancement for minorities and women across the league.
"We believe these new policies demonstrate the NFL Owners' commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in the NFL," said Pittsburgh Steelers owner and chairman of the Workplace Diversity Committee, Art Rooney II. "The development of young coaches and young executives is a key to our future. These steps will assure coaching and football personnel are afforded a fair and equitable opportunity to advance throughout our football operations. We also have taken important steps to ensure that our front offices, which represent our clubs in so many different ways, come to reflect the true diversity of our fans and our country."
The resolution changes the current Anti-Tampering Policy by establishing a system that prohibits a club from denying 1) an assistant coach the opportunity to interview with a new team for a bona fide Offensive Coordinator, Defensive Coordinator, or Special Teams Coordinator position; (2) a non-high-level/non-secondary football executive from interviewing for a bona fide Assistant General Manager position. In either case, a contract could not be negotiated or signed until after the conclusion of the employer club's playing season; and 3) requires all clubs submit in writing an organizational reporting structure for the coaching staff with job descriptions for any coach who is a coordinator or co-coordinator within that structure. The resolution also requires that any dispute regarding whether the new team is offering a "bona fide" position will be submitted promptly to the Commissioner, whose determination shall be final, binding and not subject to further review.
The resolution was put forth by the Workplace Diversity Committee, chaired by Rooney and the Competition Committee, chaired by Rich McKay (Atlanta Falcons). The league also announced expansion of Rooney Rule requirements and implementation of enhanced diversity policies.
The enhancements to the Rooney Rule include changes both on and off-the-field. Clubs will now be required to interview at least two external minority candidates for head coach vacancies; at least one minority candidate for any of the three coordinator vacancies; and at least one external minority candidate for the senior football operations or general manager position.
For the first time the Rooney Rule will also apply to a wide range of executive positions. Clubs must now include minorities and/or female applicants in the interview processes for senior level front office positions such as club president and senior executives in communications, finance, human resources, legal, football operations, sales, marketing, sponsorship, information technology, and security positions. The league office will also adhere to these requirements.
"The NFL is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion, which I believe is critical to our continued success," said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. "While we have seen positive strides in our coaching ranks over the years aided by the Rooney Rule, we recognize, after the last two seasons, that we can and must do more. The policy changes made today are bold and demonstrate the commitment of our ownership to increase diversity in leadership positions throughout the league."
Comprehensive diversity, equity, and inclusion plans will be implemented at all 32 clubs and the league office to include education, training, and universal data collection. Additionally, an advisory panel, with input from the Fritz Pollard Alliance, will be convened to promote ideas to foster an inclusive culture of opportunity both on and off the field.
In other steps, for the first time, all 32 NFL clubs will host a coaching fellowship program geared towards minority candidates. These fellowships are full-time positions, ranging from one to two years, and provide NFL Legends, minority, and female participants with hands-on training in NFL coaching. While positions at each organization vary, these programs help identify and develop talent with the goal of advancing candidates to full-time coaching positions through promotion within.
Additionally, the NFL has two long-standing fellowship programs focused on increasing the pipeline for minority coaching and player personnel candidates– the Bill Walsh NFL Diversity Coaching Fellowship and the Nunn-Wooten Scouting Fellowship.
The NFL's Workplace Diversity Committee is comprised of owners and executive personnel to include: Chair, Art Rooney II (Pittsburgh Steelers); Michael Bidwill (Arizona Cardinals); Arthur Blank (Atlanta Falcons); Ozzie Newsome (Baltimore Ravens), Kim Pegula (Buffalo Bills), George H. McCaskey (Chicago Bears). E. Javier Loya (Houston Texans); and John Mara (New York Giants).
The NFL's Competition Committee consists of two owners, two club presidents, two general managers, and three head coaches: Chair, Rich McKay (Atlanta Falcons), Ozzie Newsome (Baltimore Ravens), Stephen Jones (Dallas Cowboys), John Elway (Denver Broncos), Mark Murphy (Green Bay Packers), Sean Payton (New Orleans Saints), John Mara (New York Giants), Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers), Ron Rivera (Washington Redskins).
The policy changes were developed in consultation with the Fritz Pollard Alliance, which advocates for diversity and job equality in the league.
White supremacy is a long-rooted destructive social determinant that contributes significantly to disparities in education, health, housing, wealth, and, in general, quality of life. When addressing this Revelations-like “Beast,” we must understand that institutional statements about Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity, Diversity, and Inclusion are just statements unless oppressed people force institutions to also proactively pursue equity and social justice. Otherwise, we witness appalling things such as the Rooney Rule being adopted in 2003 when there were 3 Black Head Coaches and, in 2020, there are 3 Black Head Coaches.
Because of its ability to regenerate, White supremacy deserves responses as rigorous as those made to Covid-19, i.e., systemic interventions by all societal sectors. Regarding Blacks’ responses to White supremacy, this article was stimulated by my colleague, Dr. Curtiss E. Porter (Chancellor Emeritus, Penn State Greater Allegheny) who wrote, “I am concerned about this generation’s response to White Supremacy… It appears to me, that they think ‘words are enough,’ which I will generalize in the headline ‘Dear White People.’ They are brilliant in articulating the vectors and intersections of racial substance, thought and action, such as the negative outcomes posed by micro-aggression but, in the end, it appears, that much is directed toward some ‘great white ear’ which will hopefully respond munificently.”
In the spirit of Sankofa, a backward look was taken to recall what “brought us thus far” and, based on current circumstances, discern implications for today’s fight against White supremacy. This brief reflection confirms, for example, that “Freedom only comes through persistent revolt, through persistent agitation, through persistently rising up against the system of evil.” (Martin Luther King Jr.) As corroborative evidence, consider two significant periods during the war against White supremacy.
1663-1865 The African Holocaust in America, also known as slavery, remains one if not the worst example of inhumanity --one that produced such excruciating suffering that “ride-or-die” folks were needed in the pursuit of freedom. The horror produced by demonic White supremacists led to people who  leaped from slave ships into the seas;  conducted more than 250 slave rebellions;  implemented work slowdowns by breaking tools and setting fire to crops;  killed newborns rather than let them grow up as slaves;  served as “House Negroes” but spied on masters in order to help “Field Negroes” plan attacks against the master; and,  fled from plantations. These were the proverbial “desperate times that required desperate measures,” including the fact that it took the bloodiest American war to end slavery.
1954-1980 Immediately after the Civil War, there were continued bombings, burnings, lynchings, and shootings of Blacks. Jim Crow laws were passed to enforce racial segregation. Racism became institutionalized. For more than a century, by law and in practice, Blacks were subjugated second class citizens. Therefore, the Civil Rights Movement was driven by a sense of urgency as well as commitment to a wide array of direct actions undergirded by Martin Luther King Jr’s exhortation “…that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
Accordingly, instead of simply hoping that White leaders would respond munificently,  Black students confronted and made demands on historically White institutions of higher education;  Black national organizations won a series of key court cases;  Black community activists boycotted, marched, sat-in and made demands on local governments, schools, and businesses;  Blacks, by way of urban insurrections, exploded like a “festering raisin in the sun;” and  Let us not forget that Dwight Eisenhower sent troops to Arkansas and, later, Lyndon Johnson sent troops to Alabama.
Blacks’ direct action was supplemented by a plethora of efforts to raise “race consciousness,” i.e.,  to move from an inferior and subservient self-concept as a “Negro” to a proud and self-assertive “Black” mentality; and  to gain “Black power” which included Blacks doing for self as well as taking their rightful places in public spaces, e.g., to freely attend public schools as well as build Black owned and operated schools; to work in corporate positions as well as become entrepreneurs; to be fairly covered in the White-owned press as well as create Black newspapers; and to dine at any public restaurant as well as own and operate restaurants.
2000-2020 “Diversity and Inclusion” replaced “affirmative action” but did not significantly advance “equity and social justice” for Blacks. During this period, members of the “talented tenth” became the first Blacks to occupy various managerial, political, and staff positions; Black students gained a significant but token presence in higher education; and more Blacks escaped the worst of poverty. However, by 2020, disparities were growing like a lethal virus as evidenced by widening gaps in Black home ownership, health, educational achievement, and wealth. This scenario reminds one of when more than 40,000 Blacks got back on the White folks’ buses instead of also building upon the transportation system they developed during the Montgomery boycott.
Regarding Blacks’ addressing White supremacy, I have a dream that, one day, the very best Black student-athletes, other students, faculty, administrators and staff will choose to take their talents to several leading historically Black colleges and universities and turn them into externally verified world class colleges and universities. I have a dream that there will be more OWN channels, Tyler Perry Studios, Black law firms, Black banks, Black construction companies, Black grocery stores, and, in general, an exponential expansion of Black entrepreneurship.
In my dream, Blacks will deal with the full implications of Carter G. Woodson’s statement, “The education of the Negroes, then, the most important thing in the uplift of the Negroes, is almost entirely in the hands of those who have enslaved them and now segregate them.”
I dream of White supremacy withering on the vine when  Blacks become the largest active voting block and Black elected officers are multiplied significantly;  Black civic organizations, churches, and families regain their critical importance;  Blacks’ undying love for their people is wed to sustained systematic actions;  the most talented and highest achieving Blacks constantly speak truth to power instead of being muzzled by “30 pieces of silver;” and  the struggle against White supremacy is joined by all people purporting to endorse freedom, justice and equality.
Jack L. Daniel
Co-founder, Freed Panther Society
Contributor, Pittsburgh Urban Media
Author, Negotiating a Historically White University While Black
May 13, 2020
“I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,
When he beats his bars and he would be free’
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
A plea, that upward to Heaven he flings-
I know why the caged bird sings.”
-Paul Laurence Dunbar-
Wearily we watch as “Black babies face double the risk of dying before their first birthday” (see Gaby Galvin, August 1, 2019). Tragically, Black teens have the highest probability of becoming a homicide victim. The most gifted Black child’s life can be halted when a wanton bullet finds its deadly mark. Black men know that jogging while wearing a “hoodie” and a Covid-19 protective mask could contribute to them being murdered. Like Sandra Bland, days after a traffic stop arrest, a Black woman can be found dead in a cell, or, as with Breonna Taylor, be aroused from sleeping and murdered during a “botched” police raid.
Far too many Black lives are ones in which hopes are routinely dashed; excruciating pain is daily delivered; spirits are constantly broken; and life is like trying to breath inside a stifling vault. For no other reason than being Black, these harsh things and more are strapped on Blacks’ backs and, in turn, contribute to the rapid rise in mental illness among Blacks (See Cordilia James and Petersen Pedersen in the Wall Street Journal, July, 21, 2020).
More than a century after Dunbar wrote the above poem, my father-in-law (Nathaniel S. Colley, Sr.) experienced what all highly accomplished Blacks know, i.e., that “doing the right things” does not provide him/them with a pass to escape the deleterious fate of being born Black in America. He did his undergraduate work at Tuskegee; earned his law degree from Yale; served as an army officer during World War II; was a NAACP Western Region general counsel; and, while assisting President John F. Kennedy, he agreed to take part in an inspection of military troops stationed in Japan.
While in Japan, a Japanese citizen sought to understand the extent of White American racism by asking, “Mr. Colley, if you go to Mississippi, will they also put dogs on you too?” My father-in-law said, “Yes, if I go to Mississippi, they’ll put dogs on me too!” For the rest of his life, Colley Sr. reminded himself and others that neither his Tuskegee and Yale degrees nor his many distinguished trial lawyer accomplishments would prevent “dogs from being put on him too” ---that Malcolm X spoke truth when he asked and answered, “What do Whites call a Negro with a PhD? A Nigger!”
Recently, I had a reminder that “dogs could be put on me too. The rear deck of my home is about 15 feet from the water that feeds into the Chesapeake Bay. An armed White police officer walked past my home many evenings and spoke to me as I sat on my deck. His seemingly friendly “hellos” caused me to have a lapse in judgment, but I was reminded of who I was when I went down to the boardwalk to fish.
As the White officer approached, I said “Hello,” and he said, “Excuse me, do you live here?” I said “Yes” and, pointing to my home, I added, “I speak to you from that deck behind us when you pass by each evening.” He said, “Oh and, by the way, you have to move your stool off the boardwalk. There are no chairs allowed on the boardwalk.” Noticing the gun strapped on the officer’s hip, I knew being a Black man was in play, not “Dr. Jack L. Daniel, the emeritus Vice Provost and Distinguished Service Professor.” Hence, I said nothing and moved my stool.
After the officer left, I thought about what could have happened had I gotten angry, jumped up and asked, “How can you ask me if I live here when, after so many evenings, you passed by my home and spoke to me?” In minutes, the story could have become, “After fearing for his life, officer accidentally shoots angry man who was breaking the law on residential boardwalk,” followed shortly thereafter with “#Jack L. Daniel, say his name.”
If you are Black in America, then you don’t drive your car; walk down the street; barbecue in a public park; enter your own apartment late at night; fall asleep in the reception area of a dorm hall; attempt to cash a check with “Dr.” in front of your name; or engage in any normal activity without the nagging realization that you could become a fatal statistic. You can’t be stopped at a red light without the possibility of a White male throwing lighter fluid on you and setting you on fire as was done recently to a Black woman in Wisconsin. Even in death, as was the case for Congressman John Lewis, racist derived inhumanity was put on full display when, in their “tributes to John Lewis,” Republican Congressman Marco Rubio and Senator Dan Sullivan mistakenly posted pictures of themselves and Elijah Cummings.
Notwithstanding the woes of being Black in America, we of good faith will continue to do as John Lewis commanded, i.e., “get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and redeem the soul of America.” We will do so because we know, as John Legend sang, “One day when the glory comes; It will be ours, it will be ours; One day… When the war is won; When it's all said and done; We'll cry glory, oh glory.”
Jack L. Daniel
Co-Founder, Freed Panther Society
Contributor, Pittsburgh Urban Media
Author, Negotiating a Historically White University While Black
July 29, 2020
Civil rights legend Rep. John Lewis.