Two local community organizations announced new support to take their strategies of change “from paper to possibility…from planning to implementation.”

At a press conference at the Hill House Association April 26, the Black Political Empowerment Project and the Coalition Against Violence announced the hiring of a new Community Liaison and being the recipient of a three-year $150,000 grant given by the Pittsburgh Foundation.

COMMITTED TO CHANGE—Kenneth L. Huston, center, discusses his commitment and goals for making a change using the coalition document created by the Coalition Against Violence.

“We are thrilled and very appreciative of the Pittsburgh Foundation and their faith in the work we do,” said Tim Stevens, chairman of B-PEP and co-convener of the CAV. “We feel the foundation is recognizing and rewarding the work and passion that has been put into the Coalition document.”

The coalition document, which was unveiled in July 2008, is a document of more than 300 strategies for long-term solutions to the deep-rooted problems such as the violence and crime that plague many of the neighborhoods and communities throughout Allegheny County. Stevens says the document is specific and on May 10 there will be additional strategies added.

“We’re pleased to partner with the Black Political Empowerment Project and the Coalition Against Violence. They are a community organization that is working (to better) the Pittsburgh community,” said Kevin Jenkins, senior program officer and director of community initiatives for The Pittsburgh Foundation. “We are proud to make this contribution.”

Along with the grant, the organization announced the hiring of Kenneth L. Huston, their new Community Liaison. Huston is the CEO of Huston Trust Inc.; former interim Director for Employment Training and Entrepreneurial Development Department at the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh; and former owner and operator of Bailie Avenue Express in McKeesport.

Huston says that even though his new position carries a great deal of responsibility, he applauds the challenge because B-PEP and CAV are very serious aspects of our community and these are serious issues they are dealing with.

At B-PEP and CAV, Huston’s main responsibilities will be implementing change in five specific areas that are outlined in the coalition document, which are Education; Youth Leadership and Empowerment; Civic Engagement “The Role of the Citizen;” Juvenile Justice, Restorative and Rehabilitative Justice and Gun Violence Reduction; and the Role of the Media.

“My goal is to take the document that CAV has put together and get it implemented. And not just in the city, but regional,” says Huston. “I want to see change in our community when it comes to violence and economic issues. This is a passion for me.”

He adds that people have grown tired of the same old conferences and meetings and now its time to put the stuff that is talked about (but never implemented) to use.

Huston began his new position two-weeks ago and has already been meeting with principals and vice-principals of various schools.

Stevens said these are just five major areas the organizations want to focus on and work to implement with the grant over the next three years. “By nature this is a slow process, but will pay off in the long-term. We must have patience,” Stevens added. “We want this document to become the culture adopted by institutions, organizations, business and churches. This document was written by a wide range of people and written for people with D’s to PhDs.”

With the upcoming election, Stevens says that the Black community must participate in the voting process and stay focused because he says, “The stronger we are together as a people, the more positive action we’ll get from our (political) leaders.” And the Black community and its needs will have to be heard and met.

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