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Identity & Community

Immersive Weekend Trains Young Anti-Racist Leaders In Pittsburgh

If a student misbehaves in a Pittsburgh Public School, the administrators are bound by a disciplinary code. But which reactions are punitive? Which are restorative? And what's more likely to help the student and his or her classroom culture?

A multi-racial group of up to 100 young people will spend a few days discussing these and other topics at Hosanna House in Wilkinsburg this weekend as part of Youth Undoing Institutional Racism. The two-and-a-half-day event, held twice a year in different Pittsburgh communities, gives students the chance to learn about the history of racism in the U.S. and Pittsburgh and how their reality is shaped by it now.

Credit Traisaun Leake / Hazelwood Youth Media Justice
At a YUIR Weekend in Pittsburgh's Hill District in 2015, participants worked to tease apart components of institutionalized racism.

Many of this weekend’s participants recently experienced the consolidation of Wilkinsburg and Westinghouse high schools, which American Friends Service Committee Pennsylvania program director Amanda Gross said is an appropriate jumping off point for conversation.

“So a lot of our focus has been looking at the school to prison pipeline, and how the education system is underfunded especially in poor communities and communities of color,” said Gross, “so it seemed like an appropriate time to take this analysis to that area and do it with folks are from that community as well.”

Sponsored by the AFSC PA, the training aims to create a shared language around these issues and build up a network of anti-racist leaders in Pittsburgh. Participants will also learn how to communicate these ideas with others and facilitate conversations in their own communities. 

Gross said many of the participants are already leaders in their respective neighborhoods.

“A lot of people don’t know it, but young folks in Pittsburgh are already organizing and educating their peers and each other on their own,” she said.