In 1998, a group of women in the Northside Associates Properties joined together to fight the potential mass eviction of over 300 families. In an effort to gain control of the properties, the women formed the Northside Coalition for Fair Housing.
Now, more than a decade later, NCFH has grown into a certified community housing development organization with the capacity to create housing and economic development opportunities for low-wealth individuals and families. The organization also engages in a number of advocacy efforts including their landmark event, the Women’s Walk for a Peaceful Community, which was held Sept. 8 in West Park.
|WALK FOR PEACE—250 women venture out into the rain for a two-mile walk. (Photo by J.L. Martello)
“When we first acquired the (Northside Associates Properties), the attitude and the spirit of the neighborhood was so down,” said Ronell Guy, executive director of NCFH. “So I try to use these events to give women an opportunity to come out and connect to something that’s going on in the community.”
This year’s theme, “Women of Purpose, Women of Power” is what NCFH was founded on, the idea of empowering women to take control of their lives and affect change. Over the years the annual event has grown to include a resource fair, live entertainment, and networking.
“What I know is in the Civil Rights Movement, it was women, women who stepped up,” Guy said. “Nobody can afford to sit in the house anymore. Superman ain’t coming.”
Now in its fifth year, the Women’s Walk for Peace sets the tone for NCFH’s advocacy focus over the next year. In line with this year’s focus on women’s issues such as reproductive health and equal pay, the advocacy groups represented at the event included the ACLU, New Voices Pittsburgh, and the Alliance for Police Accountability.
“We really emphasized that women get engaged and get involved because things are getting serious for women,” said Angel Gober, an organizer with NCFH. “I know it’s difficult to get engaged when you’re dealing with domestic violence in the home of the loss of a loved one due to gun violence.”
Despite this year’s focus on women’s issues, NCFH remains committed to reducing both domestic violence and the Black-on-Black violence plaguing the area’s African-American communities. Throughout the day, it seemed like almost every woman had a story to share about a son or relative lost to gun violence.
“We have boys killing other boys. We need to get rid of all of it,” said Sharmese Zeigler, a member of the planning committee. “We’re trying to start with the youth. We need to change their minds because they don’t value life.”
More than 750 people were registered to take part in the two-mile walk that ended in West Park. However, because of the rain only 250 people participated.
“It’s important to let the community know we care and to save our kids,” said Emma Coleman who has been involved in the organization since it was founded. “For a rainy day, we had a great turn out.”
This year’s entertainment featured a performance by two–time Grammy award winning hip-hop group Arrested Development. Popular in the early 1990s, Arrested Development is a positive alternative hip-hop group with an Afro-centric focus.