CEA President Rashad Byrdsong tells residents at a Sept. 18 Homewood meeting it is futile to wait for outside help to stop rampant neighborhood gun violence. (Couruier Photo/Rossano P. Stewart)
In an effort to address a recent increase in gun violence in Pittsburgh’s Homewood neighborhood, Rashad Byrdsong, CEO of the Community Empowerment Association, called an emergency meeting for stakeholders, officials, residents and community leaders, and was disappointed with the response.
“I equate this to a natural disaster where foundations, nonprofits and agencies like FEMA come together. There have been 30 shootings and seven homicides in Homewood in just two months—not the year,” he said. “The biggest public health emergency in this city is the killing of young people in our streets, and we need to address it.”
Though 15-20 people voiced concerns about the violence and anger over the loss of loved ones at the Sept. 18 meeting, they did not hear solutions, said Byrdsong, nor did the issue get the attention of key entities: universities, foundations and the clergy.
“There is a church on every corner in Homewood, and they are all losing parishioners to this violence. Yet only Father David Taylor of Holy Rosary Church attended,” he said. “It should have been standing room only with a line around the block. But it wasn’t. So now we probably need to have a conversation about that.”
Though Pittsburgh Police Assistant Chief Maurita Bryant attended, as did representatives for City Councilmen Bill Peduto and Rev. Ricky Burgess, and US Rep. Mike Doyle, D- Pa., state Rep. Ed Gainey, D-East Liberty, was the only political leader to attend in person.
“There were no representatives from the universities, that gets funds for intervention and prevention so I was a bit disappointed. So, Superman is not coming to rescue us. We have to demonstrate some self reliance.”
Gainey said he understands Byrdsong’s frustration, because stopping the violence will take a multi-pronged approach that deals with education, employment, and human and economic development. No one agency can do it all.
“Rashad’s meeting was timely because when we have the homicides, we have to come together,” he said. “The community needs to know we’re paying attention. Is it enough? No. We need city resources, county resources, and we need to engage the universities and foundations. We need them here.”
On the positive side, Byrdsong said the meeting did allow people who were not aware of CEA’s Urban Agenda, to learn about it and sign on to committees to coordinate strategies on the multi-pronged attack Gainey mentioned.
“At least we’re moving ahead on that and adding people,” he said. “So, hopefully we’ll be able to have those conversations about bringing resources to the table that we didn’t have this time. But for now, we have to do this ourselves.”
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