Joined by Pittsburgh Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak and Assistant Police Chief Maurita Bryant, local members of Black Women For Positive Change, Rev. Carol Milligan and Diane Powell, and the organization’s national chaplain Rev. Dr. Barbara Reynolds, held a press conference outside council chambers, July 29, to announce their second National Week of Non-Violence initiative.
The group, formed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, is dedicated to the goal of “changing the culture of violence in America.”
“The violence we are experiencing in America is not normal,” said Rudiak, who also issued a proclamation commending BW4PC. ”So I am honored to join Black Women for Positive Change, to take a stand, and to create a space for sanity, peace and resolution.”
Reynolds, a former Chicago Tribune reporter now based in Washington, D.C., said violence is part of the culture, blindly promoted in the media. She said it is so bad, people call her old hometown “Chiraq” because they statistically are more likely to get shot there than in Bagdad.
“A few years back in Philadelphia, Beyoncé and Jay-Z did a routine dressed up like Bonnie and Clyde where they shot each other. We’re asking celebrities and composers to change their tune,” she said.
For the Aug. 16-23 National Week of Non-Violence, the group is reaching out to schools, community organizations and churches to hold events promoting conflict resolution and anger management. Powell said the group is also asking parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles to speak to their young family members about the non-violent philosophies of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi.
“We’re asking pastors to preach non-violence, and celebrities to film public service announcements to get young people talking about alternatives to violence,” said Powell.
Though formed and led by women, BW4PC counts several men’s groups as allies. Among those who attended Tuesday’s press announcement were Jay Gilmer, director of the Pittsburgh Initiative to Reduce Crime; Melvin Hubbard El, chief of staff to state Rep. Ed Gainey; and George Spencer, president MAD DADS and a member of the Black Political Empowerment Project’s Coalition Against Violence.
“I’m honored to have 60 men participating in MAD DADS mentoring and street patrols,” said Spencer. ”We’d like to expand further throughout the county, but we can only do that if men in violence-ridden community get off the couch and get on board.”
Reached by phone at her Washington office, BW4PC President Stephanie Myers said the problem is simple, but the solution is not.
“We have a lot of young people with a lot of problems and nobody’s talking to them,” she said. “We feel as citizens, parents, business owners and neighbors that we must take personal responsibility for talking to young people and violence-prone adults to stop domestic violence, gang violence, family violence and violence committed during criminal activity.”
Immediately following the national Week of Non-Violence Aug. 24 summit in Washington, D.C., BW4PC will host an online Harmony Jam featuring musical, dance and visual art performers age 14 to 24 conveying a positive message.
“We’re getting a good response from young composers, so I’m looking forward to that,” said Myers. “We’re using music and art to transform violent thinking into non-violent thinking. We’re trying to mobilize communities and I think we will.”
For more information visit www.blackwomenforpositivechange.org.
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