There are a host of female leaders in Pittsburgh who continue to fight for equality among the Black community in Pittsburgh, such as Alma Speed Fox, M. Gayle Moss, Esther Bush and others. There are also a number of familiar faces, but least recognized, out there in the trenches and doing their part to continue to fight is Ronell Guy.
Guy, executive director of the Northside Coalition for Fair Housing, uses her love and dedication for people to continue to be an advocate for equality for all.
“I get so excited about my work and I am committed to the cause, I just have to do this. I feel fairness and justice are important,” Guy said when asked why she continues to work in the community. “I was raised in the tradition of fighting for something and I believe in that. People before me have made so many sacrifices and contributions I can not drop the banner.” She adds that it is also the spirit of God that helps her to continue.
The Coalition was formed in 1998 in response to a mass eviction of more than 300 families living in the Northside Properties.
For four years the Northside Coalition has been bringing the community together to bring awareness and address the issue of violence, which is becoming a growing epidemic in the Black community, and how it impacts African-American women through their Women’s Walk for Peace. The Walk has grown to be one of Pittsburgh’s largest annual community events.
“The walk is a reminder to the community that violence in our neighborhoods is an issue and although people have become desensitized and immune to it, there are a group of women who experience every day,” Guy said.
Guy is no stranger to fighting for the rights of others; she has been an advocate for more than 20 years and prior to her position at the Northside Coalition, Guy was the director of the Western Pennsylvania Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania.
Patricia Parker, community liaison for the Coalition, said she describes Guy as, “remarkable and compassionate. This is the lady, who when we first got the scare, did not stop and did the research on how to save our homes. She is always looking for ways to empower other African-American women.”
Equal rights, treatment and opportunities were the major issues during the civil rights movement and now more than 50 years later, the fight for these same issues remains.
“The city is segregated, the schools are segregated and there is segregation in the workplace. And class issues have crept into our communities,” said Guy who explained that before no matter how well off one was, African-Americans cared for each other, but now finances have become a divider. “I love my brothers and sisters, but we need to focus on the stuff that is important. People are more worried about money than a better quality of life for the people in the community. We have allowed ourselves to become manipulated and forget about what’s important.”
While some of the same struggles as were in the ‘60s and later still remain, the increasing Black on Black violence is a new one being added to the list. Guy agreed that the violence plaguing the Black community is out of hand and said, “at one time we were worried about White people attacking and killing Black people. We were worried about lynchings and hate crimes and now it’s about Black on Black Violence. Now they have us to where we are now killing ourselves.”
Although Guy sees some division, she also has hope that the community will grow and become united. She said she’d like to see more people coming together and opportunities to grow new leaders, not just corporate leaders, but community advocates as well.
“We are our own champions,” she said.
Although Guy says she does not consider herself a leader, she does have advice for future leaders, especially young people.
“Get out there, do the work. Get into the community. Look for things that you see need done and do them,” she said, “We need their new visions and new perspectives. We have a responsibility to make young people aware of our history and the victories locally, nationally and around the world.”
While she may not think she is a leader, her continued passion, dedication and commitment to the cause are certainly proving otherwise.