Pittsburgh School Board Director Mark Brentley and his former colleague City Council President Darlene Harris rarely agree. But that is not the case when it comes to supporting the Northside Oldtimers and their efforts to save their youth and community from violence.
Shouting, “Stop the violence, save our streets,” and “Hey, ho, violence has to go,” Harris and Brentley marched together with neighborhood children and residents of all ages from the Propel School to West Park, kicking off the day-long Oldtimers community celebration.
“Last year I was in the hospital. But this year, I said if I can walk, I’m marching with the kids parade because this event is important for the children, the community and the city,” said Harris.
Brentley, who’s marched in the parade in each of the event’s five years, said the idea of bringing young and old together to foster unity is inspiring.
“This nexus of old and young, it was a brilliant incite on the part of the Old Timers,” he said. “They are talking, learning to socialize, and learning that it’s not about the color of your T-shirt, or your neighborhood—it’s about togetherness.”
And the togetherness was evident. Along with Harris and Brentley, the march included members of the Perry High School marching band, and football players and cheerleaders from the Northside Stallions. Old Timers Vice President Fred Fortson said this year’s event was the best attended yet.
“It’s grown every year. Even with the rain this morning, people are coming out,” he said. “I’m very pleased.”
Will Thompkins said the message of nonviolence and togetherness is reaching the youth.
“Naturally, you always want to reach more, but all these communities are coming together as family and convincing young people to do the right thing, to celebrate life,” he said. “It’s a day-by-day thing, but we’re making it.”
And when participants made it to West Park, they were welcomed with music, and by vendors selling a broad variety of food, hand-made clothing and art, and with a children’s area filled with inflatable carnival playhouses. There were also tables set up by Dollar Bank, Manchester Youth Development and the Black Political Empowerment Project.
Dena Ligons, representing the Stallions, said the celebration gets better every year.
“It would be nice to see some more support from the individual residents, along with the neighborhood groups, but the kids are getting the message,” she said. “We have to continue to show them different things to bring them together—music, dancing—as a community.”
The only complaints voiced were about the lack of media attention. Harris lamented that they come out for the Batman movie, but not for the Oldtimers annual celebration.
“This is something I’d like to see in all the city neighborhoods,” she said.
Mildred Tyler, who handles media outreach for the Oldtimers was also disappointed by the lack of media attention at the beginning of the day.
“They’ll come for shootings, but not for this. That’s not right,” she said. “If they hear a ‘code blue,’ they’ll be all over the place.”
The Oldtimers gathering was a two day event, Saturday and Sunday. It’s one of the largest community gatherings in the city drawing hundreds of people from all over the city, plus former North Side residents who come in from out of town to attend. The two days are filled with food, games, fun and entertainment for all ages, at West Park on the North Side. The park was packed both days.
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