A GREAT EVENT—Event organizers, Luther and Roxanne Sewell encompass Honorable Vanessa Lowery Brown, Pennsylvania state representative and president of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus. (Photos by Diane I. Daniels)


Powerful and straight and to the point are adjectives that best describe the two-day Talk Magazine 2013 Pennsylvania African-American Network Convention;  with Esther L. Bush, president of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh and State Representative Vanessa Lowery Brown the first day, to Vera Cornish, president of Cornish and Associates and T. Rashad Byrdsong; CEO of the Community Empowerment Association the second day.

Throughout the event conversation addressed the significance of voting, being involved within the community, education and employment. “The theme for the convention is addressing employment and training in healthcare, finance, manufacturing and energy,” said Roxanne Sewell co-convener. “Our goal is to create networking and dialogue between African-Americans and other minorities across Pennsylvania in these topics to create potential to improve quality of life, prospects for growth, a properly trained workforce and readiness for our communities.” She said the hope is that the information is shared within the participants’ networks and neighborhoods.

Local politicians including Austin Davis representing Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Senator Jay Costa, mayoral candidate and  State Representative Jake Wheatley, mayoral candidate and Pittsburgh City Councilman Bill Peduto, and neophyte State Representative Ed Gainey enforced the significance of being an educated voter, reasons it is imperative to participate in every election and the importance of being involved.

“This is a critical election, you can’t be fooled thinking this is unwinnable,” said Wheatley. “People have to wake up and show up. We can’t continue being the laughing stock of Pennsylvania, we have to change things.”

Area political candidates included V. Fawn Walker for McKeesport City Council, current Clairton City Councilman Richard Ford now running for mayor and Rosemary Crawford running for Judge of Common Pleas.

Bush, pulling from the despair and hopelessness she often witnesses, relayed to the audience that children have to be encouraged and know that much is expected of them.

“Education and employment go together,” she pointed out outlining estimated salaries of dropouts and degreed people. She described the earning potential of a dropout as a little more than $17,200, a high school graduate $28,400, college degree $48, 500 and people with graduate degrees as $65,000.

Identifying the Marcellus Shale project as a potential source of employment, Bush said conversations should be taking place about educating people for jobs within the industry. Noting that Community College of Allegheny County is an educational source, moving expediently is essential, she pointed out.

“We have to work together to make a change,” emphasized evening keynote speaker, the Honorable Vanessa Lowery Brown, Pennsylvania state representative and president of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus. “We have to spark people to get activated and to reunite with the old guard. We have to get up and fight and it has to be more than just the politicians fighting. Communications and being engaged is key. We have to have each other’s backs.”

In accordance with the theme of the convention, Brown says the focus of the PLBC is education, children and families. “Evidence indicates that education serves as a gateway to independence, financial security and the sustainability of our nation,” she said.

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