Say it Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud!
As a year of soaring unemployment and food insecurity draws to a close, former Pittsburgh Pirate Andrew McCutchen and his wife Maria McCutchen continue to reaffirm their love for Pittsburgh with a generous donation to local nonprofit 412 Food Rescue, the latest in their years-long support of the organization’s continuing work to bolster food access in the region and beyond.
412 Food Rescue uses technology to mobilize a network of volunteer drivers, who ferry surplus and donated food to access points for food-insecure communities. Andrew McCutchen was one of the organization’s first celebrity supporters and has consistently contributed to its work.
“I first learned about 412 Food Rescue in 2015, and I’ve been a proud supporter since,” says McCutchen. “Their efforts to end food waste and hunger in Pittsburgh and across the nation embody the Pittsburgh spirit of lending a helping hand to your neighbor.”
McCutchen’s contributions have included enabling the organization to secure two trucks for large food deliveries, volunteering as part of his Project Pittsburgh initiative in November 2019, and his and Maria’s generous year-end donation this December. They have been joined in supporting and championing the organization by other celebrities including TJ Watt, Michael Keaton and Elizabeth Banks.
“We’re grateful for Andrew and Maria’s steadfast support during these challenging times, as well as the contributions of all our longtime and new supporters,” says 412 Food Rescue co-founder and CEO Leah Lizarondo. “Whether donating monetarily or volunteering their time, every one of our supporters has helped us respond quickly and effectively to the hunger crisis created by the pandemic. When it mattered most, our community really showed up.”
This has been an unprecedented year for both 412 Food Rescue and the city of Pittsburgh. The organization has adapted by introducing a number of new programs to support those most impacted by the pandemic and its financial fallout.
This year, 412 Food Rescue:
412 Food Rescue has adapted not only to a surge in need by also a surge in participation, with March bringing in the highest number of new downloads ever to the organization’s Food Rescue Hero app. Over the year, 4,525 new volunteers signed on to deliver food wherever it is most needed. The organization’s full 2020 Impact Report can be found here.
On December 31, 1862, in anticipation of President Abraham Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation, enslaved Africans gathered to celebrate their impending freedom. This initial “Freedom’s Eve” eventually became known as “Watch Night,” a time when contemporary Blacks reflect on the significant events of the “old year” and express their aspirations for the “new year.” Although freedom, justice and equality remain elusive notwithstanding centuries of struggle, this “Freedom’s Eve” we have good reasons to believe that we shall eventually overcome what has systemically ailed Blacks in America. A brief look at recent national politics will underscore this fact.
High on the list of 2020 momentous events is the fact that the majority of our nation voted to rid itself of the chief “bête en residence,” i.e., P45. In doing so, of special importance were the heroic roles Black women played in ending what some view as the worst episode in American presidential history. For example, ninety percent of Black women voted for President Elect Joe Biden and Vice President Elect Kamala Harris. The unconquerable, former Georgia State Representative, Stacey Yvonne Abrams led the victory in the key battleground state of Georgia. It is very noteworthy that the transition back to democracy includes the historical fact that Kamala Harris became Vice President Elect. When P45’s autocratic presidency ends, he will face New York State Attorney General Letitia James who, like Vice President Elect Kamala Harris, earned a degree from Howard University.
In terms of formulating national and international economic policy, it is of great significance that the Rhodes Scholar recipient, politically well-experienced, and courageous Susan Rice was selected to lead President Elect Biden’s White House Domestic Policy Council. Representative Marcia Fudge will bring much more than a “breath of fresh air,” replacing the stench left by Ben Carson as Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Similarly, Linda Thomas-Greenfield will restore the nation’s international standing while serving as the Ambassador to the United Nations. After four years of P45’s “communicators” lying and spewing “alternative facts,” America is most fortunate to have Black women of distinction such as Ashley Etienne (Communications Director for Vice President Elect Harris), Karine Jean-Pierre (Principal Deputy Press Secretary) and Seymone Sanders (Chief Spokesperson for Harris).
On “Watch Night” 2020, we will also bear witness to Black women’s political might as evidenced by the fact that we have the following Black women serving as Mayors: Atlanta (Keisha Lance Bottoms), Charlotte (Vi Lyles), Chicago (Lori Lightfoot), New Orleans (LaToya Cantrell), San Francisco (London Breed), and Washington DC (Muriel Bowser).
In other venues, we should be mindful of the following examples of Black women currently making major contributions:  La June Montgomery Tabron serves as the CEO of the Kellogg Foundation, one of the largest philanthropic organizations in the United States;  Rashida Jones, currently serving as Senior Vice President NBC News and MSNBC, has been elected President, effective February 1, 2021;  Mellody Hobson has been elected as Starbuck’s Board Chair (the only Black female Chair of a S&P 500 company);  Lori White became President of DePauw University ---this after every DePauw President had been a White male since 1837;  Shirley Jackson serves as President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; and  Isabel Wilkerson published Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, deemed one of the 10 best books of the year.
This year, we should celebrate the fact that, as America remains in the grips of what might prove to be the worst pandemic ever, a Black woman, Kizzmekia Corbett, serves as the National Institute of Health’s lead scientist for the development of Coronavirus vaccines. Also, significantly responding to the viral pandemic, Niani Tolbert started the #HIREBLACK initiative focused on hiring Black women. This initiative is especially important given the fact that Black women are overrepresented and underpaid in the ranks of essential workers battling the Coronavirus.
On December 31, 2020, we must remain cognizant of the fact that on January 20, 2021, America will no more be an “anti-racist” country than it had become a “post-racial” country when former President Barack Obama was inaugurated on January 20, 2009. We will need to be mindful of what Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said prior to the election, i.e.., “He can stay, he can go. He can be impeached, or voted out in 2020. But removing Trump will not remove the infrastructure of an entire party that embrace him; the dark money that funded him; the online radicalization that drummed his army. Nor the racism he amplified…” As we continue to remove the infrastructure that supported P45, we should take particular note of the fortitude displayed consistently by Black women –from Sojourner Truth to Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi- in dismantling systemic racism.
We shall get to a true “Freedom’s Eve” because young Black women currently demonstrate the tenacity about which Andra Day sang, i.e.,
“…And I'll rise up
I'll rise like the day
I'll rise up
I'll rise unafraid
I'll rise up
And I'll do it a thousand times again
And I'll rise up
High like the waves…
And I'll do it a thousand times again…”
We, as a people, will rise up because of the foundational support flowing from Black church mothers and their Sister Saints; Black Divine Nine women from whence came Kamala Harris; Black women caregivers who provide our children with their “daily bread;” Black women in service organizations who have never stopped “lifting as they climb;” the seldom-mentioned Black women who make up the essential workers ranks; and so many other Black women who serve as the sturdy Black bridges over which we pass on the road to freedom.
We shall remain inspired by iconic figures such as the 98-year-old civil rights worker, Gloria Richardson, who remains on the battlefield. Recently she reminded us, “Racism is ingrained in this country… We marched until the governor called martial law. That’s when you get their attention. Otherwise, you’re going to keep protesting the same things another 100 years from now…” (December 13, 2020). Let us keep marching in 2021 until the “trumpets are sounded” and the “walls come tumbling down.”
Jack L. Daniel
Co-Founder, Freed Panther Society
Contributor, Pittsburgh Urban Media
Author, Negotiating a Historically White University While Black
December 15, 2020
The Heinz Endowments has announced $5.75 million in funding to support local arts and cultural programs, many of which are intended to assist in mitigating the severe effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the region’s creative sector. The slate of grants includes $4,134,000 in general operating support, as well as funding for innovative at-home learning programs and organizations that have shown particular creativity in facing the pandemic’s challenges.
The pandemic has placed unprecedented hardships on the Pittsburgh region’s creative sector, forcing organizations to cancel performances and annual fundraising events or recast them into digital formats, furlough staff, and prepare for the possibility of long-term adjustments that will likely linger until a COVD-19 vaccine is widely available.
A Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council analysis of the regional arts sector released earlier this year found that the most urgent COVID-19-related need as identified by arts organizations was unrestricted general operating assistance. The same report revealed that approximately 84 percent of organizations had to cancel performances, classes and exhibitions, and nearly 68 percent had to temporarily close their facilities due to COVID-19.
“Our region’s vibrant arts sector has been impacted by the pandemic in ways that have brought it under extraordinary stress,” said Endowments President Grant Oliphant. “But for many, this has also inspired new and innovative ways of operating, connecting with art patrons, and presenting their art. This slate of grants recognizes both a critical need for operating support and the inventive ways in which arts organizations have faced these challenges.”
The $5.75 million will be divided among 37 organizations, in amounts ranging from $20,000 to $1 million each. Twenty-seven organizations are receiving grants in which 100 percent of the amount is designated for general operating support.
“The Heinz Endowments recognizes that in this unparalleled time in our region’s creative sector, the primary need for many arts organizations is the relief that funding for general operations can bring,” said Endowments Vice President of Creativity Janet Sarbaugh. “Our hope is that these grants help bring continuity and stability to these organizations as they make the ongoing shifts necessary to soldier through these challenging times, and allow them to concentrate on creating and sharing their art.”
A number of grants are directed to arts organizations that have made especially effective adjustments since the onset of COVID-19, serving as inspiration to other creative entities about what is possible in the current arts climate.
Among those is the Kelly Strayhorn Theater. Receiving $270,000 in funds for general operations from the Endowments during this grant cycle, the Kelly Strayhorn shifted from its usual spring “Full Bloom” fundraiser to a new virtual event planned by a seven-member arts organization collective. “Hotline Ring,” a seven-hour, mid-summer digital production, divided proceeds between the Kelly Strayhorn and other organizations in the collective.
“It was so much more than a fundraiser,” said Kelly Strayhorn Executive Director Joseph Hall, who began his tenure last winter days before the pandemic was officially announced. “We created it collectively, and in doing so revealed the process about how the Kelly Strayhorn will face the future. The experience tells us that a collective effort - where all have a voice - is how we will get to a place of innovation where all are served.”
Other organizations receiving grants that have shown particular adaptability include City Theatre, whose well-received “Drive-In Arts Festival” in September at Hazelwood Green featured 12 nights of outdoor music, theater, comedy and dance; City of Asylum, which created “The Show Must Go On(line),” a virtual shared arts programming channel that has featured content from a broad array of regional artists and organizations; and Alumni Theater Company, which has filmed fully produced performances for digital release to ticketholders at specific scheduled dates and times, helping recreate the communal experience of live performance.
Fifteen of the Endowments’ 37 arts-related grants center on the arts education sector, which has been challenged with adapting to at-home learning platforms since the onset of the pandemic.
“Our arts education grantees have faced the challenges of COVID-19 head-on, creating high-quality, accessible remote learning content that has proven to be popular with arts education professionals, parents, schools, and students alike,” said Mac Howison, the Endowments’ Program Officer of Creative Learning.
Carnegie Institute, receiving $325,000 in funds in this grant cycle, has been particularly astute in embracing technology through its Arts Education Collaborative. The Collaborative joined forces with Allegheny Partners for Out-of-School Time and The Legacy Arts Project on the Creative Learning Rapid Response program, which to date has produced a series of over 55 arts-related educational videos, publicized through the hashtag “#ArtsLearningAtHome.”
Available to all at no cost, the Creative Learning Rapid Response video series provided funding to teaching artists, who were compensated for their video contributions, and has been widely embraced by schools, teachers, parents and students.
Creativity grants have been awarded to the following organizations
ACH Clear Pathways - $100,000
Afro-American Music Institute - $50,000
Alumni Theater Company - $100,000
August Wilson African American Cultural Center - $800,000
Artists Image Resource - $40,000
Bach Choir of Pittsburgh - $20,000
Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation/BOOM Concepts - $75,000
Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation/Level Up - $50,000
Bricolage Production Company - $50,000
Calliope House Inc. - $20,000
Carnegie Institute/Arts Education Collaborative - $325,000
Carnegie Mellon University - $38,000
Chamber Music Pittsburgh - $20,000
Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh - $200,000
City of Asylum - $60,000
City Theatre Company - $95,000
Community Theater Project Corporation/Kelly Strayhorn Theater - $270,000
Film Pittsburgh - $40,000
Focus on Renewal Sto-Rox Neighborhood Renewal Corporation - $50,000
The Hawkins Project - $50,000
Hill Dance Academy Theatre - $75,000
Historical Society of Pittsburgh - $300,000
The Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh - $25,000
Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre - $210,000
The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust - $775,000
Pittsburgh Entertainment Project - $50,000
The Pittsburgh Foundation/Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh - $1,000,000
The Pittsburgh Foundation/Spotlight PA - $100,000
Pittsburgh Opera - $209,000
Pittsburgh Youth Chorus - $30,000
Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra Association - $20,000
Prime Stage - $40,000
Public Source - $300,000
River City Brass Band - $70,000
SLB Radio Productions - $50,000
Three Rivers Young Peoples Orchestras - $20,000
Union Project - $30,000
For Sustainable Pittsburgh’s statement on the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit this link. Plus, access our library of free webinars and accompanying resources here.
Stop the spread of misinformation: Allegheny County Health Department’s Rumor Control hub
BUSINESSES & NONPROFITS
RESTAURANTS & GROWERS
At Sustainable Pittsburgh, we empower decision-making that builds a fundamentally equitable, resilient, healthy, and prosperous region.