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Building Innovation is a collection of stories by 90.5 fm WESA reporters about the Pittsburgh region focusing on efficient government operation, infrastructure and transportation, innovative practices, energy and environment and neighborhoods and community.

Black Women For Positive Change Kicks Off Nonviolence Week In Pittsburgh

Black Women for Positive Change

Pittsburgh community leaders, educators, pastors and police officers met with students to discuss violence and how it affects growing children at the Community College of Allegheny County's North Side campus on Thursday. 

The gathering occurred just days after two teens and a third man were arrested in the September homicide of a Carrick High School freshman.  

Police Chief Cameron McLay asked students how Pittsburgh officers can work with the community in a more productive way. Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak and Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Linda Lane also attended. The group kicked off the National Week of Nonviolence, coordinated locally through #YouthSpeakPgh.

“First, I think that our young people need as many opportunities to express themselves as possible. There was a real, real need and an urgency that some of the young people had to be heard,” said Stephanie Myers, an event host and the national co-chair of Black Women For Positive Change.

Myers said she sees the necessary change coming from both the top-down and the bottom-up, especially in regard to community policing, a method of integrating officers into a neighborhood so they may become familiar and comfortable with residents. Right now, biases held by both law enforcement and residents create roadblocks to change, Myers said.

“Cops look at a young black male and they see something negative," she said. "Young black males look at cops and they see something negative. And in that, we have confrontation and polarization. And this has gone on for decades, if not hundreds of years.”

Myers preached the Black Women for Positive Change’s message of “On Second Thought” to attendees. When an individual meets a confrontational environment, "before you pick up that gun, before you pick up that knife, before you start to get involved in violence – think twice,” she said.

“We know the cultural change is possible in America; we have seen it in our lifetimes," Myers said. "So now we want to see it again. We want to see it in this whole issue of violence. We want to see the cultural change.”