Daily Archive: November 5, 2009


Frazier leaving Hill House, will join Highmark in January

Evan Frazier had big shoes to fill, joining the Hill House Association as president and CEO following the death of its long-time director Jim Henry. Now, after six years, the big shoes to fill are Frazier’s as he has announced his departure to take a position as Highmark’s senior vice president of community affairs in January. “My position may change, but my commitment to the Hill House and the Hill District is unwavering,” he said. “I look forward to watching the Hill House and the communities it serves grow and flourish in the years to come.” EVAN FRAZIER During his tenure, the Hill House Association turned an ancillary storage space into a revenue generating Family Dollar store, and acquired the neighboring office and retail space built by developer Irv Williams. Frazier also directed a $9 million capital campaign, more than half of which is going to restore the Kaufmann Center and Elsie Hillman Auditorium to a destination for music and culture.


Edwards radio purchase cancelled, application to buy WPYT withdrawn

Veteran broadcaster Eddie Edwards Sr. has withdrawn his Federal Communications Commission application to purchase 660 AM WPYT Radio due to an unforeseen health issue. Edwards’ son and attorney Eddie Edwards Jr. said he wanted to keep his father’s medical condition as private as possible, saying only that his father was hospitalized last week in Cleveland, but is now in Pittsburgh under the care of his own doctor. EDDIE EDWARDS Edwards announced the purchase Oct. 5 saying he came out of retirement because there is an urgent need for a Black news/talk radio outlet in Pittsburgh following the sale of WAMO. Edwards also announced plans for building a $1 million studio and adding an FM component to the station. None of that will be happening now. However, he may reapply in the future if his health allows.


49 of 71 homicides Black lives. Is community finally getting the point?

With the numbers of October’s homicides decreased by nearly half from that of October 2008’s numbers, is the community finally marching in the right direction? Have all the vigils, walks and marches to stop violence finally gotten through to the community. Although even one life lost to violence is too many, there is still some hope that maybe the message that we, as a community, want our streets back has gotten through to the right people. STEPHAN WHITFIELD, ALBERT BOCK, AND SAMUEL KENNEDY As part of an ongoing effort to heighten awareness about the effects of murder in Black communities, the New Pittsburgh Courier will compile a list of homicides in the County each month. It is our hope that as the list of victims grows, so will a true understanding of how these lost lives affect the mental health, economic well-being and self-images of the region’s Black neighborhoods. Out of the 71 murders, thus far, in 2009—49 were Black and 43 were Black men.


Kenny Fisher plays with the angels; Pittsburgh jazz icon passes at 69

Kenny Fisher didn’t talk much, but his saxophone spoke volumes to those lucky enough to have heard him play. “Fish,” as his friends called him, was one of the last links to Pittsburgh’s heyday as a jazz mecca—he knew everyone and played everywhere; the Loendi Club, the Hurricane and the old Crawford Grill. On Oct. 25, after a lengthy battle with cancer, Fisher played his last solo, he was 69. BACK IN THE DAY—The Kenny Fisher Quintet, from left: Jesse Kemp, pianist; Wade Powell, trumpet; Tony Fountain, drummer, percussionist; Howard Russell, bassist, deceased; and Kenny Fisher. A renowned tenor sax player, who took his quartet to Europe, the Caribbean, and New York City in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Fisher grew up in the Hill District, attending Weil Elementary School and Schenley High School. As a teen he would hang outside the Crawford Grill, listening to the greats like John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman. Later, he honed his craft from musicians playing on the street, and by studying with seasoned players at the Musicians Club in the Lower Hill.


Style…Redefining fashion from ‘ghettofabulous’ to ‘fabulosity’

(Part four of a four-part series) The shelf life of the average urban streetwear brands is surprisingly short. By year seven, ironically a number that symbolizes completion, most hip-hop-inspired fashion lines have fizzled and become yesterday’s news as a young and fickle consumer market has moved on in search of the next big thing. But Baby Phat has defied the odds, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. While no one knows whether the privately held company is the most profitable urban streetwear brand, it is arguably the most widely recognized, the most ubiquitous, and the most influential. FAMILY—Kimora Simmons with daughters Ming Lee and Aoki Lee after the Baby Phat show. Some of Baby Phat’s longevity can be credited to design teams that gradually transitioned the women’s sportswear from throw-away hootchie gear to fashion that reflects more taste and sophistication than when it started yet is still young and fresh. Baby Phat’s maturity from looks totally reflecting an “urban youth mindset” in its early years to an aesthetic that appeals to aging original devotees while continuing to attract younger fans has not escaped industry observers. And much of the credit for that must go to the line’s irrepressible chief creative officer, Kimora Lee Simmons.


Study: Close 16 city school buildings; Maintenance costs, declining enrollment cited

With the cost of maintaining 76 school buildings, 48 built before 1940 and 15 built before 1910 becoming unmanageable with enrollment projected to decline by 5,000 in 10 years, Ohio consulting firm DeJong Inc. is recommending the Pittsburgh Public School close 16 buildings, 13 of them next year. The study did not take academic program success into account, only conditions and enrollment. It projects a possible savings of $300 million over 10 years. NUMBERS—Pittsburgh School Director Dara Ware Allen pores over a report by consultant DeJong Inc. recommending the district close 16 schools. The firm’s study recommends closing two high schools, Peabody and Oliver, moving students to magnate programs or to Westinghouse or to Langley, respectively. The plan would also close:


Churches tackle underlying causes of street violence

On Oct. 26, more than 500 people from different congregations around the region gathered in Epiphany Catholic Church to move forward with plans for social reform and to celebrate their past accomplishments. Members of the Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network challenged elected officials to agree to a number of commitments on issues including community benefits agreements, immigration reform and health care reform. Although Black-on-Black violence was not among the main points on their list, PIIN believes the issues they addressed are the driving force behind street violence. “The overarching concern for which we organize is metro equity. Violence in the Black community is a public health issue that is a result of a number of things eroding metro equity, e.g. sprawl, suburban development incentives given by cities, municipalities and states which dilutes the tax base in the city and further contributing to concentrated poverty,” PIIN President Rev. John Welch said. “Low wage jobs with no benefits contributes to the hopelessness in our communities that also plays a part in the violence we experience.”


Spergel Model connects all arms of community to address gang violence

Last year, New York City-based criminologist David Kennedy presented his model for reducing gang violence at the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work Center on Race and Social Problems Summer Institute on Race and Youth Violence. Soon after, Pittsburgh announced its plan to install Kennedy’s model, a method that relies heavily on law enforcement. This year Pitt brought in sociologist Irving Spergel, who like Kennedy has seen his model for reducing gang violence installed in cities across the country and abroad. Unlike Kennedy, Spergel’s model views law enforcement as only one body in a coalition of several community institutions. COMMUNITY-WIDE APPROACH—Irving Spergel answers audience questions about Pittsburgh’s youth gang problem. “Most policy and programmatic responses to gang activity focus on either law enforcement or youth development. A major contribution of Spergel’s work, known as the “Spergel Model,” is its call for a coordinated approach that encompasses law enforcement, community groups, schools, social service agencies and governmental organizations,” said Richard Garland, One Vision One Life project director. “This inclusive gang prevention, intervention and suppression program is based on Mr. Spergel’s national assessment of youth gang policies and programs.”


Pitt African American Alumni Council launches $3M scholarship campaign

During the University of Pittsburgh’s 2009 homecoming, the African American Alumni Council announced its fund-raising efforts toward a $3 million scholarship campaign. With more than $1.4 million raised from 644 donors to date, the AAAC will use the next five years to reach their goal. The campaign will support students of diversity through the Bebe Moore Campbell Scholarship Fund, the Jack L. Daniel Endowed Book Fund and the AAAC Endowed Scholarship Fund. The late Campbell, a 1971 Pitt graduate, was a nationally acclaimed best-selling author and Pitt trustee; Jack L. Daniel is a Distinguished Service Professor of Communication and former vice provost for undergraduate studies and dean of students at the university.


CMU professor Anderson creates website for minority designers

Have you ever thought, “how’d they do that?” when considering the latest gadget or product, or said to yourself, “somebody should make this,” before you wander into your fantasy of creating the perfect product. Well, it might be a passing thought or dream for you, but for Eric Anderson, an industrial designer and associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University, it’s his jo, to not just think about making products better, but to actually do it. And when he’s not teaching design or conceptualizing a new product, Anderson is advancing the nonprofit organization, Designers for the 21st Century (D421), that he co-founded with African-American designer Joi Roberts, to support Black designers. ERIC ANDERSON Anderson admits he stumbled upon his profession, rather than planning for it. “Most folks don’t understand where design comes from, and that was true of me when I was entering college,” he said. “I went to Overbrook High. At the time, they had one of the best art programs in the city. When I graduated, I thought I was going to be an illustrator, but took a class in design.” That one class was the beginning of his path as a designer.