In spite of all the changes and challenges occurring at Westinghouse High School, officials of Our House Development Inc. continue to acknowledge and say thank you to the local greats that have graduated from the iconic building or who have an affiliation with it or the Homewood community.

THANKS FOR YOUR SERVICE— Dawn Webb-Turner, right, is surrounded by her award recipients Jamil Brookins, Captain Vangerl Dupigny and Jasiri X, during Our House Development’s Community Appreciation Benefit and Economic Awareness event. (Photos by Diane I. Daniels)

“Westinghouse is an important part of our history and it should be preserved, and remembered,” said Dawn Webb-Turner, president and founder of OHD. If it were up to her the building would be a national landmark.

As her organization plans and sets goals for 2012, they are aiming to produce a huge “100 year Celebration of Westinghouse High School” for their fifth annual Community Appreciation Benefit and Economic Awareness events. “It will be a two- day event with activities in Homewood, a special ball (will be) taking place at the Westinghouse Mansion in Wilmerding,” Webb-Turner said.

As a prologue to next year, their recent fourth annual event held at the Savoy Restaurant recognized Arie Lee Kyser, known in the community as “Mama Kyser” for her 29 years of service at Westinghouse High School. The Salvation Army of Homewood-Brushton was recognized for its half of century of meeting the needs of the Homewood-Brushton, Wilkinsburg, and Penn Hills communities.

The Community Appreciation Benefit is OHD’s way of paying homage and saying thank you to people in the areas of service in education, community service and service in business. Mama Kyser fulfilled the education slot and the Salvation Army received honors for its service in community work. The service in community through the arts was awarded to Jasiri X and service in business went to Jamil’s Global Village.

Mama Kyser was head of security at Westinghouse for 25 years and played an active role of helping many students remain in school and graduate. The mother of five has helped, and still helps, many children throughout the community. She feeds the hungry, helps find shelter for the homeless and helps those who need other social services.

Operating as an outpost of the East Liberty Corps. since 1958, the Homewood-Brushton facility was officially opened as a corporation in 1963. In 1974, the current Salvation Army building was erected at 8020 Frankstown Ave. Since its existence it has provided programs, activities and services to meet the needs of its clients. Currently, under the direction of Captain Vangerl Dupigny, it provides a church home for over 100 individuals which include Christian Education Programs for youth. They reach out to the greater community with an Afterschool Program and a full-time social worker who works with clients in need to help them establish positive change to propel them out of the cycle of poverty. Services also encompass an emergency food pantry that provides many opportunities for community feedings and fellowship. The Homewood Salvation Army just provided Christmas assistance for over 500 families and conducts a Project Bundle-up that provides coats, boots, gloves and hats for seniors and children.

Known for his Emcee and hip-hop skills, Jasiri X uses hip-hop to provide social commentary on a variety of issues. The national and international hip-hop mogul is a six time Pittsburgh Hip-Hop Award winner and recently became the first hip-hop artist to receive the coveted August Wilson Center for African American Culture Fellowship. Jasiri X has performed from New York City to Berlin, Germany, and various cities in between, including recently in front of 30,000 at the Our Communities Our Jobs Rally in Los Angeles. He has toured colleges and universities across the country presenting his innovative workshop, “How to Succeed in Hip-Hop Without Selling Your Soul,” and is working on a book with the same name.

In business for 17 years, Jamil Brookins, the recipient of the Service in Business recognition award, said, “It has been a huge struggle for us and we say this without any reservations that it is truly by the Grace of God and our loyal customers that we have survived the many obstacles that have been thrown our way. Maintaining a Black business in America is no easy task and having a Black business survive in Pittsburgh for 17 years is nothing short of a miracle!” Jamil’s Global Village, located in East Liberty, provides its customers with African Art, books, clothing jewelry, and items from all over the world.

The Community Appreciation Benefit and Economic Awareness event is an annual fundraiser for the George A. Webb Sr. Learning Institute and Museum.

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