Throughout Allegheny County T. Rashad Byrdsong can mobilize more people than any other person. There has to be a reason for it. Allow me to expound on why I believe he has that capability.
First he has a sense of commitment, which will not allow him to be intimidated by those in the community who deem themselves to be powerbrokers, and based on principle he is willing to challenge even those with the purse strings. He also is one of those who took incarceration and made it positive. It provided him with a sense of compassion, caring and understanding that too many of us lack. We all understand the unemployment statistics among Blacks who have no police record, and also the fact that unemployment among those who have run afoul of the system is staggering. Byrdsong has taken this tragedy head on.
The programs at Community Empowerment Association, Inc., which have been in existence for 16 years run the gamut. They lost two contracts for questionable reasons, but still sign paychecks for about 50 people.
They have occupied and maintained the lower part of the Rite Aid building for the last seven years, and they stated to me that they attempted to purchase it three times, but for whatever reason never received a response.
CEA works toward stabilizing not just the youth but the entire family. How? They have a construction company, gang intervention and summer programs, after-school and dropout programs, community gardens and works to make the neighborhood green. They also have a recording studio and are able to provide job experience for a number of college graduates.
There is no question in my mind that Byrdsong rubs some people the wrong way. He is not the most eloquent speaker, but makes up for it with compassion. He is not a frat brother, he is a man of the people who has mother wit and a grasp of common sense. He is not a Christian he is Muslim, and sometimes gets loud, but in the ’hood if you speak too softly it is sometimes taken falsely as a sign of weakness.
I conclude this column with no reservation of saying if Homewood had a couple of Byrdsongs there would be no need of a dozen studies about the dismal condition of Homewood.
Once again please remember Kingsley Association needs your financial support.
(Louis “Hop” Kendrick is a weekly contributor to the Forum Page.)