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Pages from NPCourier10-15-14o

Over the last few days it was gunshots, police sirens and cries for lost loved ones that resounded through many communities within the city of Pittsburgh. The recent rash of shootings in three days that left four dead and five wounded has many residents concerned, on edge and just plain fed up.

On Oct. 11 there were shootings in Homewood, Arlington Heights and Beltzhoover; then another shooting in Arlington Heights on Oct. 12; followed by shootings in Carrick and Glen Hazel on Oct. 13. One of those killed was Omar Hodges, a 29-year-old City of Pittsburgh Environmental Service employee who was fatally shot near the intersection of Birmingham Avenue and Brownsville Road, in Carrick, as he began his morning shift.

While Mayor Bill Peduto and the new Pittsburgh Chief of Police Cameron McLay are meeting on how to “regain community trust” and address the issue of violence in the Black community, many residents are speaking out.

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“It is just a spirit of murder gripping the city,” said Adrienne Young, founder of Tree of Hope, an organization that provides help, hope and healing to Pittsburgh families of homicide victims. Young said she knew Hodges’ family personally and could not understand who would do this or why it happened to him.

“We have to come together and we have to be brave enough to tell who these people are (committing these acts). We know who these people are and we have to root them out of our communities. If we don’t, we’ll let a small percentage of people take over our city and we can’t allow that,” Young added.

Many of this week’s homicides occurred in the Hilltop communities of Pittsburgh. City Council President Bruce A. Kraus, and the council representative for the Hilltop neighborhoods, said, “We all of us are deeply concerned about this senseless loss of life in our City of Pittsburgh. Such violence diminishes us as a family; it diminishes us as a city; it diminishes us as a society. It is incumbent upon us all to stand up and to stand against the wanton brutality that is gun violence.”

Like Young, Brenda Tate, a retired Pittsburgh police officer from the Hill District, also spoke out against the violence. On Oct. 14 Tate took her outrage to Facebook with a post that read, “Please stop the violence! If you are not responsible, but you know someone who is, beg them to stop… I have raised my children in the same block. I remember a time in my community (when) we did not live under the threat of violence ever, why do we now?”

She went on to say in her post, “The Hill District is your community, I know you want to raise your children just as I (raised) mine, without fear. Let’s start at home, call them out! Let them know they are not welcome in this community. This will not be easy because some of them could be our family and friends. Today I am calling out any of my relatives that may be a part of this violence. If you don’t stop, I will do everything in my power to help the law bring you down and put you where you belong, behind bars!!!”

Tate’s post comes just one day after Hill District teen Eric Young was laid to rest at Wesley Center AMEZ Church in the Hill District. Young was shot to death last week on Morgan Street, in the Hill District, as he was leaving his house, with his mother, to go to school.

State Rep. Jake Wheatley (D-Hill District), who represents the area where most of the homicides that took place earlier this week occurred, said, “I think it’s always problematic when we have a loss of life, especially when it is senseless and avoidable. A lot of young African-American males are getting caught up in the system, looking for some place to find themselves, whether that be mentally or economically.”

He added that as a community, we need to redirect our focus to re-establishing a healthy community, along with focusing on the foundational issues of poverty and what we can do about it.

Community activist and co-founder of One Hood Jasiri X said incidents like what happened to Hodges is what he and his organization have been working for years to stop and why they work with young Black men.

“When we hear about things like this it’s sad but it steels our resolve to work harder, and ask what are we doing to show people opportunities beyond acting in an illegal capacity,” he said.  “Who knows why (Hodges) was targeted—we have to get to the point where that’s not an option, that the idea of taking someone’s life can’t be an option. There has to be something we can do before it gets there. We have to invest in them, let them know they can use their talents to get out of situations that seem hopeless. We have to show them they are valuable they are loved and to provide opportunities for them.”

As of Oct. 14, there have been approximately 85 homicides in Allegheny County in 2014; with 54 of them taking place in the city.

(Chris Morrow contributed to this article.)

 

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