YWCA honors racial justice champions

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On Nov. 14 at the Westin Convention Center Hotel, several local community leaders were honored during the YWCA Greater Pittsburgh’s 21st Annual Racial Justice Awards Dinner.

“It’s a pleasure to honor your work tonight, your work toward social justice,” said YWCA CEO Magdeline Jensen.

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RACIAL JUSTICE HONOREES—From left, sitting: Paula Davis, Epryl King, Alexis Werner and Rev. Dr. Moni McIntyre. Standing, from left: Chauncy Smith, David Harris, Tim Stevens and Jeremiah Jackson, accepting for honoree Michael Sutton. (Photo by J.L. Martello)

The Racial Justice Awards are presented by the YWCA Center for Race and Gender Equity, which seeks to promote a society in which all people receive equal treatment. The awards recognize community leaders that have made a substantial commitment to racial equality.

“When you look at the list of past award winners, the winners tonight should be very proud because it’s an impressive list,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “To the award winners, thank you for the work you do on behalf of our community in various endeavors.”

The award in the category of Community Engagement went to Tim Stevens, chairman and CEO of the Black Political Empowerment Project. Over the years, Stevens has founded a number of activist organizations including the Coalition Against Violence and the Black and White Reunion, and previously served as the president of the NAACP Pittsburgh Branch for 10 years.

“Yes I do a lot of work, but I have no choice because that’s what my parents put in my heart to do. Anytime you win an award, you don’t win an award,” said Stevens before asking several members of his organizations to stand and be recognized. “If I didn’t have the people in this room, work wouldn’t be done.”

Recognized for 50 years of service in the category of Company/Business was Chauncey Smith, retired director of equal employment opportunity for H.J. Heinz Co. Smith, who currently works as a management and diversity consultant with Pope & Associates. He has also championed for employment equity through the boards of several organizations he serves on.

“I accept this award on behalf of those who have given all their time, determination, and hard work to repair the past,” Smith said.

Epryl King, president and co-founder of Raising Achievement, was recognized in the Education category. Her nonprofit organization is focused on raising awareness about the racial achievement gap.

“It’s very difficult to do work you’re passionate about when the very reason you have to do the work is because people aren’t passionate about it,” King said.

The award in the Faith category was given to Rev. Dr. Moni McIntyre of the Church of the Holy Cross in Homewood. Through her ministry, McIntyre promotes the contributions of African-Americans throughout history

“Eliminating racism is an imperative of any person of faith,” McIntyre said.

The award in the Health category went to Paula Davis, assistant vice chancellor for health science diversity for the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Health Sciences. Davis has played a key role in implementing programs to teach medical students about cultural and racial differences in health behaviors.

“Diversity and inclusion matter everyday, but diversity and inclusion in healthcare saves lives,” Davis said.

For his work in attempting to improve the relationship between law enforcement and the community, David Harris was recognized in the Legal category. Harris is the distinguished faculty scholar at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and is considered the leading national authority on racial profiling.

“I have always believed that what I am here to do is to work for the freedom of everyone,” Harris said. “I believe that the job of working toward racial justice, that job is not an issue for Black people; that is not an issue for Brown people. It’s an issue for all people.”

Youth Achievement awards were also given to Alexis Werner of Shaler Area High School and Michael Sutton, a graduate of Sewickley Academy.

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