Daily Archive: December 3, 2009


Sir Walter makes final curtain call: Christian dead at 92

When John Christian took on a job, he went all out. As a pioneering disk jockey in the 1950s, he was called “Sir Walter,” and true to form, could be seen in public sporting a bowler or top hat or in tails, and sometimes wearing a monocle. As a salesman and business owner he overcame White prejudice and excelled. And as a television newsman and producer, he won many awards. JOHN CHRISTIAN John Christian, Sir Walter, passed away Nov. 29 following a long illness. He was 92. Local television host Chris Moore said Christian paved the way for him and other African-American broadcasters.



53 of 76 homicides Black lives: One of the lowest death count months of the year

With only five homicides, November is one of the months with the least amount of deaths for 2009. With the holiday season in full force, maybe a sense of family, togetherness and good cheer towards men has come upon those who commit these senseless acts of violence. Or maybe, enough is finally enough. As part of an ongoing effort to heighten awareness about the effects of murder in the Black community, the New Pittsburgh Courier will compile a list of homicides in Allegheny 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 76 murders in 2009—53 were Black and 47 were Black men.


NAACP protests goal to close achievement gap

For several weeks, the Pittsburgh Chapter of the NAACP has led weekly protests outside the Pittsburgh Public School District Administrative building. The goal of their seven-week campaign is to force district Superintendent Mark Roosevelt, the school board and administrators to take action against the ever-present achievement gap between Black and White students. SOUND THE ALARM— Marilyn Barnett, middle, joins others in the cold to rally for educational equity. “All students don’t have the same opportunity to learn. All students don’t have access to the same resources. There’s a difference between the way we treat students,” said NAACP education chair Marilyn Barnett, Ph.D. “That’s like giving one kid a computer and another kid a typewriter. We are going to be the drum majors for justice.” In order to close the achievement gap, the NAACP wants the district to treat African-American students with equity, not equality. This means devoting more resources to Black students, hiring better quality teachers, and ensuring Black students are expected to meet higher standards.


Cancer screening guidelines bring disagreements

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation website, http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org, it is estimated that more than 200,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year and more than 40,000 will die. Out of those 40,000 women, most are likely to be African-American women. The National Women’s Health Information Center of the United States Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health website, http://www.womenshealth.gov, says African-American women are more likely to die from breast cancer because tumors are found later and in more advanced stages, so there are fewer treatment options. HELPING THE FIGHT— Participants from the 2009 Susan G. Komen Pittsburgh Race for the Cure. The race raises funds to fight breast cancer. With information like this, it is easy to see why some find the suggested breast cancer guideline recommendations released by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a little alarming.


Pittsburgh selected as top city for small businesses

Once again, Pittsburgh as a metropolitan region is ranked as a top rated city by an outside national source. Fortune Small Business Magazine listed the area as the second best city to launch a small business. Oklahoma City is rated the number one ranked city with Raleigh, N.C., Houston, Texas and Hartford, Conn., following Pittsburgh. HOWARD SLAUGHTER JR. Agreeing that Pittsburgh should be highly ranked as a good place to launch a business, Ruth Byrd-Smith said, “Pittsburgh is a city where there is a strong generational work ethic. The climate is seasonal without being harsh. The people are friendly and it is a very economical place to live.” Byrd-Smith, a former entrepreneur is the director of the Allegheny County Minority/Women and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise.


CEA fights battle on two fronts

The Community Empowerment Association, an organization working to strengthen the Homewood Brushton area through housing, education and family support programs, has experienced two serious setbacks in recent months. However, Rashad Byrdsong, the organization’s founder, sees both obstacles as a chance to focus dialogue on issues important to the community CEA serves. COMMUNITY GATHERING—Rashad Byrdsong welcomes guests to a Brother to Brother Breakfast, one of the many programs run by CEA. CEA’s trouble began when they learned the building they operate from would be sold to another organization. They received a second blow two weeks ago when County Controller Mike Flaherty released a statement saying CEA would have to pay more than $300,000 back to the county due to the results of an audit. “There was no misappropriation of funds, there was no misuse, there was no money stolen or taken,” Byrdsong said.


Former Milliones School offers U Prep

Originally, the School at 3115 Centre Ave. was Heron Hill School. It was renamed and renovated as Margaret Milliones Middle School. Last year, after being shuttered in a 2006 round of school closings, it reopened amid controversy with a new name, University Prep. A year later, the Hill District six to 12th grade school is still controversial, but is beginning to form its own identity. HELPING OUT—Seventh grade math teacher Fabyonne Williams helps one of her students at U Prep. “I would think being able to walk to high school would be a plus—but those aren’t the calls I’m getting,” said Mark Brentley Sr., Hill District school director. “My concern is still at the board level with the hit-and-miss method of closing and opening schools. It continues to be disruptive to the community and the students.”


Miles pulls plug on media Career, Retires September 2010

After 43 years in business, 31 in various media positions, WQED President and CEO George Miles has announced he will retire in September. He said it’s time for new blood. “It’s time to give it over to the next generation,” he said. “It’s an appropriate time for me because we just completed a new five-year strategic plan, and I don’t have another five years in me—but I have one, so I’ll be helping to smooth the transition.” After graduating from college in 1963, he served in the Army and as an auditor for the U.S. Department of Defense. He then worked as a CPA in New York City until he was offered a job as comptroller of KDKA-TV and KDKA-Radio.


15 added to Westinghouse Wall of Fame

The Westinghouse Wall of Fame was started 13 years ago. Valeria Williams and John Brewer were the founders. The purpose of the Wall of Fame is to illustrate positive images of former Westinghouse High students throughout the school’s history who have had a positive impact on the local, national or international scene. HALL OF FAMERS— Seated, from left: Edward Ray, Robbin Floyd-Jones, Joseph T. Capone Sr., Floretta Irvin, Robert Randall, Cheryl Jones Banks, Barbara Phinisee and Elnora Fortson. Back from left: John Wallace Jr., Terrence Taylor, Dorien (Doc) Russell, Roderick Craighead Jr., Sylvia Burnett, niece of Fnetta Gordon-Nelson andRhonda Sears. Not shown is Brett C. Carter. The Wall of Fame currently has 190 name that are on display at the high school and the Homewood Coliseum. They currently induct between 15 and 18 people every two years. When they were originally inducted they had a program every year. However, the committee decided to change to a two-year program.


Tavern owners celebrate community, honor their own

When is a pig roast more than a pig roast? When it’s been going on for nine years, when it’s supported by not only the patrons of the neighborhood bar that hosts it, but also by local politicians and community activists of the caliber of Rick Adams, dean of Students at Homewood Campus of CCAC; (who was the emcee for the program) and when the municipal departments get involved. SPECIAL AWARD—Larry Mitchell, right gives Lottie Edwards, wearing hat, a special award as others look on. Fire trucks came to the street at 8 a.m. to clean the streets, the police blocked off Montezuma to keep participants safe—and when two and three generations of community members come together for fun, food, fellowship, but even more so when the hosts recognize the work of notable individuals who have made an impact in the community and honor them with plaques. This is when a pig roast is more than just a pig roast.