Monthly Archive: October 2009


Pitt alumni celebrate ‘sit-in’ anniversary that led to changes

At this year’s University of Pittsburgh Homecoming Weekend, Oct. 22 to Oct. 25, the Pitt African American Alumni Council celebrated the 40th Anniversary of a “sit-in” that eventually led to the many strides towards diversity the university has taken over the years. A weekend that boasted the largest reunion of African-American alumni in the university’s history, saw the return of many of Pitt’s former civil rights leaders. Among them was Anthony Fountain, who was the founding member and first chairperson of the Political Action Committee of the Black Action Society at the time of the “sit-in.” EXHIBIT UNVEILING— Pitt alumni join family and friends at the Hillman Library for an unveiling of an exhibit chronicling 40 years of African-American accomplishments at the university. Fountain was there on Jan. 15, 1969 when approximately 50 students took over the university’s computer center. They called for an increase in Black faculty, enrollment, and overall representation, ultimately leading to the establishment of the Department of Black Studies later that year.


‘Idol’ star exhorts youths to work for their dreams

Had she continued the path she was on in high school, Fantasia Barrino might have been just another dropout and teen mother. But she was blessed with a talent, which she continued to hone until the opportunity to display it came along. Now, at 25, she is an “American Idol” champion, a successful recording artist, a Broadway star, a budding real estate magnate—and a student again. Fantasia told her story to about 20 kids at the Bedford Hope Center in the Hill District Oct. 22 before touring the center’s newly installed digital audio/visual recording studio. STRAIGHT TALK—Helping with the city housing authority’s Clean Slate program, “American Idol” winner Fantasia Barrino tells kids from public housing communities to work for their dreams and stay in school so they don’t make the mistakes she made. “I’ve been singing since I was 5, a preacher’s kid from a small town in North Carolina,” she said. “But no one’s coming there to scout talent. I started down the wrong road, and I knew better. Then I got to audition for ‘American Idol,’ and I won. Now my music’s doing great and I’m back in school.”


Williams, Ravenstahl top our endorsements

On Nov. 3 we have an opportunity to make our voices heard. Even though most of the races were decided in the primaries, this year there are still some key races affecting African-Americans in western Pennsylvania. At the top of that short list is the mayoral race in Pittsburgh, and Joe Williams for Allegheny County Judge of the Court of Common Pleas. LUKE RAVENSTAHL and JOE WILLIAMS There are several other Blacks running for office but they are unopposed. There are five slots open for the Court of Common Pleas with seven candidates, which makes it extremely important for us to come out in support of Williams who has been a pillar of the community for a number of years, as well as being named one of the best attorneys in America by the Allegheny County Bar Association. He was a trial lawyer for 24 years. He will be a very strong asset for the Black community if retained as a judge.


Shunned Illinois senator suddenly relevant

by Laurie Kellman WASHINGTON (AP)—For Democrats determined to get a health care bill, Sen. Roland Burris is like the house guest who couldn’t be refused, won’t soon be leaving and poses a plausible threat of ruining holiday dinner. Suddenly, he can no longer be ignored. KEY PLAYER—Sen. Roland Burris, D-Ill., is interviewed by the Associated Press in his Capitol Hill office in Washington, Oct. 15.


Style…Beverly Johnson opened doors in ‘70s

(Part three of a four-part series) Dark and lovely, she descended the steps outside Bryant Park in Midtown Manhattan wearing high heels and a colorful asymmetrical dress. “That’s Beverly Johnson!” a young man shouted, prompting her to pause, smile, and wave as he and other onlookers took her picture with cell phones and digital cameras. NAOMI SIMS, BEVERLY JOHNSON, and TYRA BANKS The 57-year-old former fashion model’s appearance was a treat for the scores of curious folk who lined the sidewalks in front of the park on that particular day of Fashion Week last month. They congregate there for hours, hoping to get a glimpse of a star yet oblivious to the fact that celebrities usually enter and leave through side and rear doors to avoid, well, people with cameras.


Blacks vie for office in Clairton, Wilkinsburg and Duquesne

While the mayoral race in Pittsburgh features one African-American candidate, the Wilkinsburg’s race features three. Incumbent John Thompson, who defeated former mayor Wilbert Young in 2005 is facing a rematch against Young and another independent, Ronald Garland Sr. JOHN THOMPSON, HOWARD ORGAN “Yeah, I hear it’s a three-way race,” said Thompson. “Wilbert is running as a write-in candidate because he was removed from the primary ballot for not disclosing some tax issues. Ron’s running as an independent,” he said. “We have nine new businesses in the commercial corridor. We’ve updated all the police computer equipment and got new vehicles. We have increased our housing stock and the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corp., which I’m president of, has applied for federal Mainstreet Program grants. So I’m happy with the progress. We’re poised for the future.”


Young Pittsburgh mayor faces youthful independent opponents

by Ramit Plushnick-Masti PITTSBURGH (AP)—The son of an ex-convict and the son of a Super Bowl Hall of Famer are challenging Pittsburgh’s mayor in next month’s general election. And with all three men between the ages of 29 and 33, the race has the perfect ingredients for a robust, engaging political contest. Or maybe not. LUKE RAVENSTAHL, FRANCO ‘DOK’ HARRIS, and KEVIN ACKLIN The race between incumbent Democrat Luke Ravenstahl, 29, and challengers Kevin Acklin, 33, and Franco “Dok” Harris, 30, both independents, has been marked by little visible campaigning and virtually no interest from the public. Even the relatively youthful age and appearance of the candidates in a city with one of the oldest populations in the country is doing little to generate excitement.


Week Without Violence broadens scope of issues

This year’s YWCA Greater Pittsburgh Week Without Violence strayed from last year’s focus on Black-on- Black street violence and opened its scope to include violence hitting several different segments of society. “We wanted to focus this week on all types of violence—amongst males and females, including gays and lesbians, date violence and on the recent increasing levels of violence among girls,” said CEO Magdeline Jensen. “Street violence can be perpetrated on all of these populations, but we wanted the message during the week to bring focus on some of the other forms of violence that pervade our society.”


Activism and pragmatism: The legacy of Pitt’s Black student leaders of the 1960s

by Laurence A. GlascoFor New Pittsburgh Courier The Pitt African American Alumni Council’s Oct. 22-25 “Sankofa” Homecoming Weekend paid tribute to the activism of pioneer student activists as well as the recent academic achievements of Black Pitt students. These included Rhodes Scholars Donna Roberts and Daniel Armanios, Marshall Scholar Rebecca Hubbard, Truman Scholars Armanios and Adam Iddriss and Goldwater Scholars Armanios and Benjamin Gordon, among others. That festive celebration marked the 40th anniversary of Year Zero in the presence of Blacks at the University of Pittsburgh. The changed landscape for Blacks at Pitt is remarkable. Before 1969, Black students at Pitt, as at other Northern universities, were almost invisible members of the university community—few in number, excluded from many areas of campus life, studying without benefit of Black faculty mentors, and with their history and culture largely absent from the curriculum.


‘The Marriage Works’ answer for struggling couples

by Renee P. Aldrich Four years and more than 200 couples later, the founding agencies of a federally funded marriage education program “The Marriage Works” came together for an elegant dinner held last month at the Pittsburgh Athletic Association to honor and celebrate the accomplishment of Shawn Pinkston as project director of the program. Close to 100 individuals, many of whom were couples who have been through the 10- week “Marriage Works” program, were on hand to take part in the celebration. MARRIAGE TEAM—This team helped drive the success of “The Marriage Works” program over the past four years.