Category: 'Y' Written by Associated Press
WORK TO DO--First lady Michelle Obama exercises with children from Chicago Public Schools, in her hometown of Chicago, Feb. 28. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
by Darlene Superville
Associated Press Writer
CHICAGO (AP) — Michelle Obama says people worried about youth gun violence have to do more than simply tell children they care about the problem and then wind up "going to these funerals and mourning with these kids when there's still work to do."
Last Updated on Thursday, 28 February 2013 19:41
Category: 'Y' Written by Nikki Coffee Denton
DANCE—Hill District Dance Academy Theatre Ju. B. Lation performed a spirit filled feet dance under the artistic direction of Ayisha Morgan Lee. (Photos by J.L. Martello).
In a celebration of our talented youth, Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force Fighting AIDS Inspires the Heart (FAITH) Initiative held the fourth annual Youth Gospel Explosion, Feb. 3, at Destiny of Faith Church.
The FAITH Initiative was formed in 2010 to further the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force’s mission by building and sustaining relationships with area religious communities to address stigma, awareness, education and prevention of HIV/AIDS.
“Our youth represent not only faith in the future and all that is beyond each of us individually, but also hope that this future will be brighter and endowed with health and happiness,” said Charles Christen, DrPH, MEd, executive director, the FAITH Initiative.
Reverend Brenda Gregg, pastor, Destiny of Faith Church, welcomed those in the audience, saying that churches must come together in ministry to move past the stigma of AIDS and assist in the educating of young ones about AIDS and prevention.
Under the theme of the Bible verse Isaiah 11:6, “And a little child shall lead them,” the program included moving performances from the Boys Choir of the Afro-American Music Institute, a liturgical dance by Precious Jordan, mime performances by the Spiritual Up Lifters Mime Group of Baptist Temple Church, and the Hill Dance Academy Theatre’s Ju. B. Lation Spirit Filled Feet exploded with their inspiring dance ministry.
As Mistress of Ceremonies, Kezia Ellison, founder and president of Educating Teens about HIV/AIDS Inc., kept the audience informed citing sobering HIV and AIDS statistics:
•From 2005 to 2008 African-Americans have the largest increase in rates of HIV diagnoses than any other race or ethnicity. The rate has increased from 68 per 100,000 to 74 per 100,000.
•There are 1,000 youth between the ages of 13 and 24 infected with HIV every month.
Betty J. Tilman, FAITH Initiative member, spoke about the Obama Cash Incentive competition, urging the audience to take the matter of HIV seriously. The Obama Cash Incentive Competition challenges young people to get tested and encourage their peers to get tested as well. “HIV was the fourth leading cause of death for Black men and third for Black women between the ages of 25 to 44,” Tilman said. “Why, because we don’t talk about it. We don’t talk about AIDS and safe sex in our communities.”
“The wall of stigma that surrounds HIV AIDS need to be eradiated which in turn will eradicate this deadly illness,” Shennod Moore, director, Community Outreach, Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force said. Referring to the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child,” Moore said “We are that village. From politicians to church leaders to janitors, we are that village. We can not let our youth down by letting something that is 100 percent preventable if we educate. This is our future we are talking about.”
Last Updated on Thursday, 28 February 2013 10:22
Category: 'Y' Written by Courier Newsroom
FROM THE MOUTH OF BABES—Paige Vannoy reads her award winning speech to the attendees.
by Abdul Al-Nakhli
(Beaver Falls)—Dr. Martin Luther King’s mission was remembered, as The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee held their annual Oratorical Banquet Sunday evening at the Holiday Inn.
“Dr. King’s vision lives through the youth and in the community,” said Eugenia Waldron Priest, coordinator. “Our annual banquet is our way of showing our appreciation and support for the youth and members who continue to live what Dr. King always dreamed would come to fruition.”
This year’s festivities began with the introduction of the student winners and their parents, followed by the Negro National Hymn, conducted by Teresa Massey from First Baptist Church in Freedom, and a youth welcome and prayer from Destiny Smith and Niko Amir Simmons.
Following an entertaining puppet ministry from Second Baptist Church, Minister Bobby Jones, who served as the student leader, welcomed each of the student winners to give their winning speeches to the attendees. Through the speeches, it was apparent not only did they understand the importance of King’s vision, but realized it is far from fruition.
“Even though Dr. King accomplished, his dream is not quite complete,” said Joziah Council, the first place winner of the 8th grade category. “He (King) is not present to stand up for these things, and this means we have to take a stand for these things and approach it with the same willingness and courage as Dr. King did. We should make it our own responsibility to complete his dream.”
Continuing the dream of King was a shared theme amongst the winners, and carried to those honored with awards of excellence from Sen. Elder Vogel and State Representative Rob Matzie. For Stacey Brock, who was honored with the Teacher of Excellence Award, it is vital for the vision to continue on.
“Dr. King said you don’t fight darkness with darkness, only light. I hope that I can continue to be a light as a teacher,” said an honored Brock.
Other members honored were Gospel quartet the Sons of Thunder with the Spiritual Song Bird Award, and Mayor Dwan Walker, Aliquippa, with the Coordinator Award.
It was a night of remembrance and continued building of the future. There was a room filled with hope, love, and encouragement. In a night that honored the oratorical contest winners from last November’s competition and leaders of the community, the essence of Dr. King’s dream was very much alive.
Last Updated on Monday, 18 February 2013 08:35
Category: 'Y' Written by CNN
‘BECOMING MEN’--In this photo taken Feb. 15, in Chicago, President Barack Obama speaks about the nations struggle with gun violence at an appearance at Hyde Park Academy.
by Gregory Wallace and Adam Aigner-Treworgy
CHICAGO (CNN) -- To these young men, President Barack Obama is a model of what they could become -- if they can avoid violence, unemployment and other pitfalls that have derailed some residents in their communities.
High school students enrolled in the Chicago schools' "Becoming a Man" program sat down with the president Friday in their school before he delivered a speech about the blight of gun violence on communities and the economy.
Student Vontate Stewart said Obama described his own struggles of the past and how he overcame them.
"He told us how he grew up and the situations he had been in and how he handled them," Stewart told CNN after their meeting. "And he just gave us ideas how to handle situations and let us learn from the situations he had been in. "
Their conversation "was helpful and very motivating," Stewart said.
His peer, Ronald McCormick, joined this program after a conversation with a teacher when he landed in detention. He was not a chronic troublemaker, but has seen his grades improve and said the conversation with Obama resonated with him.
"I got good advice about how he talked about how he dealt with his anger issues, his problems. So we had a good experience with him today," McCormick said.
That teacher, Marshaun Bacon, said Obama gave the young men in his program an "example of the power of hard work, self-determination."
"So now I'm going to challenge the group to say, now that the president has spoken to you, now that you have seen the best in what you can do, how are you actually going to go out and do those things?" Bacon said. "Each man will have that challenge and will work at it individually, but also as a group. 'What is our next move?' 'How do we continue to exemplify the best of what we can do?'"
Obama was born in Hawaii but raised his own two daughters within a mile of the Hyde Park Career Academy where he spoke.
"That's really what I've come here to talk about today -- raising our kids," Obama said. "I'm here to make sure that we talk about and then work towards giving every child every chance in life; building stronger communities and new ladders of opportunity that they can climb into the middle class and beyond; and, most importantly, keeping them safe from harm."
The president spoke about the "hole in that child's heart" that comes from gun violence. In neighborhoods across the country, "it can feel like for a lot of young people the future only extends to the next street corner or the outskirts of town -- that no matter how much you work or how hard you try, your destiny was determined the moment you were born."
Chicago saw more than 400 gun deaths last year and just last month, 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton was gunned down near her school a week after she participated in the festivities around Obama's inauguration. His wife, first lady Michelle Obama, attended the teen's funeral and two men have been charged with her murder.
Obama introduced the "Becoming a Man" program students in his speech and called them "exceptional young men" -- especially so, he said, because of their own struggles.
"What I explained to them was I had issues, too, when I was their age. I just had an environment that was a little more forgiving," he said. "So when I screwed up, the consequences weren't as high as when kids on the South Side screw up.
"But these guys are no different than me and we had that conversation about what does it take to change," Obama continued, later adding that "for a lot of young boys and young men, in particular, they don't see an example of fathers or grandfathers, uncles, who are in a position to support families and be held up and respected."
Student Allen Ester said Obama told the group, "if we gonna change it's gotta start within ourselves."
"I had lost a couple friends due to gun violence and you know to the streets, or whatever, so I really think it's time for a change -- not just me but with a lot of people ... in Chicago," he told CNN. "It really ain't safe out here right now."
Bacon, the teacher, said he hoped the students who met with Obama would carry the conversation with them.
"He talked about the fact that he had to make a commitment to stay the path that he was on. He talked about times where he was discouraged and he thought about giving up but it stuck to it, and he's done pretty well for himself," Bacon said. "So I'm hoping our guys can emulate that same example, and who knows what is in store for them.
"Maybe we're looking at one of the next presidents."
Last Updated on Monday, 18 February 2013 18:35
Category: 'Y' Written by Courier Newsroom
PROUD WINNERS—From left: Ruthanne Pilarski, 8th grade winner and Dyonna Hall, 7th grade winner of the Martin Luther King Jr. essay contest. (Photo by J.L. Martello)
The Girls Coalition of Southwestern Pennsylvania honored the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., by holding its first annual Martin Luther King Essay Competing of girls in grades 6-12 in January.
Entrants were asked to write a 300 to 500 word essay that answered one of the following questions: How can I change the world? What does it mean to be a part of the beloved community? And How am I a leader for justice, equality and fairness for all people in Pittsburgh and beyond? Winners and finalists were given a chance to read their essays at the Union Project’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration on Martin Luther King Day. In addition each winner was awarded a gift basket and gift card.
“The Girls Coalition looks for meaningful ways to engage girls in our work; giving girls an opportunity to think about how they might change the world,” said Girls Coalition of Western Pennsylvania’s Program Director Heather Mediate. “Putting that into words seemed like a great way to hear from the girls about the challenges they see today and how those challenges might be overcome. Using the work of Martin Luther King, Jr, as a prompt for this contest was a natural fit because of the vision he had for the future and his fight for equality in this country.”
The Girls Coalition of Southwestern Pennsylvania strives to build a strong group of providers that serve girls to address and remedy the issues that face all girls in the areas of education, physical and mental health, violence and crime, economics, and essentially help organizations connect, collaborate and create a better place for girls to grow up in.
Winners of the contest were 12-year-old Pittsburgh Carmalt seventh grader Dyonna Hall and 12-year-old Pittsburgh CAPA eighth grader Ruthanne Pilarski.
“Our hope for this contest was to hear not just about why girls are inspired by the work of Martin Luther King, Jr., but what they are inspired by on a daily basis and ways in which they are already changing the world,” Mediate said.
Essay winner Dyonna Hall is changing the world on a local level by volunteering at recreation centers in her Brookline neighborhood and working with youth and teaching them about being positive and giving one another respect regardless of race, gender or age.
“I believe that everyone is put on this earth for a reason and can possess a special gift,” explained Hall, a 12-year-old Pittsburgh Carmalt seventh grader in her essay entitled “I Was Chosen to Change the World.” “Although Dr. King suffered by the hands of his fellow man, I believe he lived his life to the fullest by doing what he believed was right and still continuing to move forward by raising his family. He did not let the fact that man will always fall short of the glory stop him, for he knew that work and determination could make this life better for everyone.”
Pilarski believes that improving one’s self is a step in the right direction in making the world a better place for all to live in.
“I believe that everything big starts from something small. I believe that if we want to achieve greatness, it’s not about one big thing, but about everyone doing their individual part to change what they can,” Pilarski said in her essay titled “How Can I Change the World?” “It may be about working together, but if we start small, and if we start with ourselves, the rest will come easily.”
Mediate said the passion with which Hall and Pilarski wrote their essays spoke to the judges of the contest.
“The winning essays were passionately written and really spoke to how MLK’s legacy can be lived out today and how important his commitment to nonviolence was, especially in light of everything going on in the world today,” Mediate said.
“We felt this was a great way to connect with a historical figure that young people often learn about, but may not be given the opportunity to apply to their own life,” she continued. “Plus, the work started by MLK remains unfinished in our country and it is important for young people to become the next generation of change makers.”
The parents of both girls are proud that they entered and won the contest.
“I’m so very proud of her,” said Dyonna’s mother, Natasha. “I don’t think I could have asked for anything else in a daughter. I thought she did a very good job of going by the guidelines of the contest and explaining how she would be able to carry on the legacy of Dr. King.”
David and Colleen Pilarski agreed with Hall.
“I think this is fantastic. She is a good writer and I am excited to see her getting awards for it,” said Ruthanne’s father, David Pilarski. “I found her insight to be remarkably mature for a 12-year-old young lady. Perhaps if more adults followed her simple philosophy, the world would truly be a better place.”
Last Updated on Monday, 18 February 2013 08:35
Digital Daily Signup
Sign up now for the New Pittsburgh Courier Digital Daily newsletter!