Looking at the top stories of 2013 and the top challenges of 2014.

The top story of 2013 was without a doubt the charges against Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper to which he later pleaded guilty. This headed off what I believe was beginning to be a breakthrough year as far as Black on Black crime reduction, as well as police community relations. Once he was brought down, everything else went out the window.

One big story, which most will not say is, was the multi-million dollars given to the Larimer area for development. To me, community development is far more important than most of us give it credit for being. We are still caught up in killings, kidnappings, political elections, etc. when we talk about top news stories. They are the must read, but not the most important. Community development creates jobs, housing, business and stability for a community, which is critical for a city to grow. Larimer is probably the worst area in Pittsburgh.

Other top stories are the police shooting of Leon Woods. The case  is still up in the air as nothing has been done yet, with no decision on the horizon.  Connie Parker, the new Pittsburgh NAACP president has been much more active making the group a noted group again.

Mayor Ravenstahl stepped down after the police scandal, but the question is will the Black community gain or lose from this.  Bill Peduto has been much more accessible, but that means nothing. Will he implement programs that will benefit the Black communities and Black people as a whole?

To me one of the biggest positive news stories, if not the most, is the growth of the Pittsburgh Promise and the support it is receiving from the Pittsburgh business community. This program is awesome, and is really helping Pittsburgh Public School students go to and finish college. The Pittsburgh Public school system is still struggling but the Promise is just fantastic. I can’t say enough about it. I’m somewhat surprised that more parents who say they want their child to go to college or a trade school don’t have their kids in public schools.  How many of them can foot the bill for college? And if you can’t foot the bill, it doesn’t matter what kind of grades your kids make in the Charter and Private Schools, they still have to pay tuition, which is rapidly going up, along with college loan interest rates. They are becoming so high that many college graduates can’t buy houses or move forward because of their student loans.

Black on Black violence has not let up but there are far more groups, families, victims, and organizations becoming involved in the Stop the Violence educational movement through marches and rallies, candlelight vigils, tutoring programs, various entertainment events and even church gatherings. All in an effort to educate our youth against violence and how important education is, to help them stop trying to solve problems through violence.

The Affordable Care Act is going to have a great impact on the Black community in the coming years. Why? Because it requires all people to have insurance, and the people that generally don’t have it, but need it most are low income individuals.  Once the ACA kicks in full force it is going to save thousands of lives, while helping thousands of others from getting into a lifetime of debt that they will never be able to pay.

There are also a lot of Black people in their 40s and 50s who have worked low paying jobs all their lives, who don’t have insurance because they couldn’t afford it. How many of these people either died because they couldn’t afford medical care, or couldn’t afford the medication that comes with medical care. Yes they have to take you in the Emergency Room, but you still have to pay the bill, and if you can’t afford to pay doctors or for the medicines, you end up back in the emergency and this time it may be too late. How much pain and suffering will ACA prevent?

In 2014 we now have a new mayor in Pittsburgh, hopefully for the best. Development has been in progress throughout the city, from Downtown to the various communities.

The biggest challenge for 2014 will be turning Homewood and Larimer around, keeping the Hill District and the North Side growing in the right direction, while growing businesses throughout the city.

On the national front Wall Street is up 30 percent and booming, and unemployment is hovering around 7 percent. The biggest issues along with Affordable Health Care Act, appear to be keeping the economy growing, extending the unemployment payments, and extending the debt ceiling. In the Middle East, which is receiving a lot of the publicity, I say if there is a group we can feel comfortable with, give them weapons and supplies, but under no circumstance should we send or keep troops over there. This is a messed up area that needs to be left alone to solve its own problems. We have enough problems here.

The challenge for the Black community and organizations is to take a closer look at the colleges and trade schools and businesses serving our communities and make sure they are serving our communities. And how we can best prepare our children to take advantage of what we have in Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania and the United States? And how they can best serve our children as far as education, employment and stopping the violence?

(Ulish Carter is the managing editor of the New Pittsburgh Courier.)

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