The Community Empowerment Association, Inc. held an Action Alert Community Meeting in response to the shootings at Homewood Field. The purpose of the meeting was to bring together residents, community organizers, city officials, concerned citizens and families not just from the community of Homewood, but from all over the Pittsburgh area. The theme for the meeting was “As human beings we must stand together and stop the insanity. No one should be shot at a family sports event and the community must come together to stop the madness.”

Rashad Byrdsong of the Community Empowerment Association, Inc. organized and chaired the meeting while members of the audience gave their opinion on how to solve the problem.

Pastors, Pittsburgh police officers, community activists and concerned citizens were present to help solve the problems of the Black youths in the community. The consensus was that there is more crime because there is more poverty, unemployment, not only due to the economic conditions, but also due to a serious racial disparities and inequities.

“Our issues dealing with our communities are multi-layered. We have had these problems since the days of slavery,” said community activist Walter Shaheed. “Every time we start to come out of the muck and mire there is another attack on our people. This is a very complex situation that we are dealing… We are looking at a situation in which our problem essentially is lifestyle. It’s based on the way that we think and what we think is what we believe. If we can become consistent on many levels and deal with our problems in the right manners, we will have something to fight with for our children’s sake. We don’t have the strong family values that we need to establish strong family life. We need to be shocked because a big part of our problem is economics and the other is identity. When we look at the household situation in our community, a lot of our men are not there. We are looking at 80 percent African-American households that are run by African-American women. Unless we address it now, it will continue to happen. We lack self-responsibility and we must change the way we think. “

Finding solutions was the key to holding this community meeting, Byrdsong said.  Instead of having the usual meetings where everyone talked about the issues and nothing gets done, this meeting wanted to be different and have action behind it, he said.

“We need to come together as a community, especially in Homewood,” said Martell Covington of the Community Empowerment Association, Inc. “ There are many individual organizations in the area, but rarely have we come together as a whole for the community. This is the first time we have had a meeting of this sort in a while and I hope that we can inform people to start making things happen for the youth. A lot of reasons why the violence happens is because of employment and lack of money. This meeting will be the beginning of a lot of different things to be addressed such as economics. The parents need to be parents to the youth and we also need to help them in that effort. A meeting needs to be started because you cannot go without a plan.”

For most youth living the inner city, sports is an outlet in terms of gathering young men and giving them something positive to do.

“Using sports and building a relationship between the players and coaches holistically will be build awareness that is needed,” said Nate Brown. “I believe that sports have the power to create the culture that is lacking. We have coaches that have dedicated to changing their lives and helping these young brothers. The community needs to get behind the coaches and help out also.”

The Pittsburgh police attended on behalf of Chief Nate Harper who could not attend because he was at another community meeting.

More community meetings are scheduled for the month of September and the rest of the year. The community is encouraged to bring a friend or family to the next meeting.

(To find out more about the Action Alert community meetings call the Community Empowerment Association, Inc at 412-371-3689.)

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