Seventeen. This age is a time in a young man’s life that is filled with discovery. Senior year is on the horizon, sports, dating, volunteer activities, family trips, sleeping in, pushing for independence…it is a time rich with these rites of passage for many, but, too often, not for African-American boys. Our region now has another name to add to a growing list of Black children shot and or killed by sworn peace officers. That name is Antwon Rose II. Our hearts, minds and prayers are with his family.
The story of this boy’s homicide, the result of 3 bullets to his back as he ran from an East Pittsburgh police officer, has pricked a bubble of simmering pain and its contents are scathing the region. The cries of, “This has to stop,” “Never again!” and “Will there ever be justice for Black lives taken by blue bullets?” has reached a fever pitch. Looking at the handsome face of this young man, hearing his stories of accomplishment, looking at the devastating video of his last moment of life has sparked a flood of emotions. There are calls for both justice and policy changes that will staunch the flow of blood prematurely leaching into our soil. We are marching all over our city, we take in the anguished faces of youth, tears streaming, and rain drenched, emotionally spent yet with determined voices that demand change. They are however, unsure if their voices are being heard over the din of ginned up racial strife that is now so commonplace. We are in the midst of racial and class upheaval at a level most of us have never witnessed. We are unwilling to be spectators as our children our victimized by adult fear and hatred.
As women who have dedicated our personal and professional lives to the work of freedom, justice, and equity––as mothers, sisters, aunts, and grandmothers––we have come together in unity to raise our voices to say that enough is enough. We, too, want justice and we, too, want peace.
Many of us work in mission driven fields where we are constantly managing the results of inequity. Too often, race plays a significant factor in the challenges for which we are expected to come up with solutions. We have urgent discussions among ourselves, we strategize, empathize, we show up, we act up, but it is never enough to stem the tide. This region has a race problem and people are dying because of it. We are not afraid to speak the truth of this statement in one voice. We are not afraid to demand solutions and be a part of closing this widening divide. We acknowledge the terrible symptoms that this divide creates, and we call on our community to focus on systemic racism which is the architect of inequality.
We are committed to engaging on policy agenda, programs and community engagement efforts that lead to measurable change. Our youth have energy, they are smart and they are courageous. That doesn’t mean that they don’t need us to use our voices, eliminating the deafening silence of those who have the strategic advantages to make a difference. We will be in the room to listen, discuss, debate and most importantly––act. We will hold our officials accountable and we are willing to take risks, for we understand that our children are taking risks with their lives every single day.
The women who have pledged their commitment to action are signed below. We will no longer be satisfied to live in a region that is defined by its disparities. As women, we fully embrace our roles as change agents. As leaders, we have had to fight for every step we have taken forward. We now use our tools to fight for our children. All of them.
Dr. Trisha Gadson, Executive Director, Macedonia FACE
Celeste Smith, Co-Founder, 1Hood Media
Karen Abrams, Equitable Development Program Officer, The Heinz Endowments
Dr. Cheryl Hall-Russell, President & Chief Cultural Consultant, BW3
Dr. Kathi Elliot, CEO, Gwen’s Girls
Julie Butcher Pezzino, Butcher Consultants
LaTrenda Leonard Sherrill, Principal and Community Innovator, Pursuant Consultants
Carey A. Harris
Dr. Carrie Tancraitor, Researcher, Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management at RMU
Yvonne J. Maher, Executive Vice President, The Pittsburgh Foundation
Dr. Aurora Sharrard, Executive Director, Green Building Alliance
Jennifer Flanagan, Executive Director/Founder, Community Kitchen Pittsburgh
Nikole Brugnolis Sheaffer, Co-founder/CIO Officer, Environmental Charter School
Jenna Cramer, VP of Transformation & Community, Green Building Alliance
Julie L. DeSeyn, Community Volunteer
Peggy Outon, Executive Director of the Bayer Center of Nonprofit Management at RMU
Jennifer Cairns, Esq., Executive Director, Sarah Heinz House
Karris Jackson, Vice President of Programs, POISE Foundation
Tami Dixon, Creative Principal and Co-Founder, Bricolage Production Company
Karla Boos, Artistic Director, Quantum Theatre
Rosamaria Cristello, Executive Director, Latino Community Center
Dr. Jackie Wilson, CEO, Three Rivers Adoption Council
Dr. Cynthia M. Wallace, Executive Director, The Oasis Project
Dr. Sharon McDaniel, CEO, A Second Chance, Inc.
Dr. Shanna Tharp-Gilliam, Homewood Children’s Village
Dr. Lenall Thomas, CEO, Center for Family Excellence, Inc.
Carlene Parkinson, CEO, Touching Families, Inc.
Tiffany Wilhelm, Program Officer, Opportunity Fund
Brandi S. Fisher, Alliance for Police Accountability
Carmen Anderson, Director of Equity & Social Justice, The Heinz Endowments
(Paid for by 1Hood Media; Macedonia Family and Community Enrichment Center, Inc.; Gwen’s Girls; BW3; and community contributors)