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Black Pittsburghers Challenge Mayoral Candidates on a 'Black Agenda'

Mark Nootbar
90.5 WESA

A newly formed group hoping to improve the political clout of Pittsburgh’s black community is calling out the four remaining Democratic mayoral candidates to respond to what it is calling a “Black Agenda.”

The Pittsburgh Black Political Convention was formed this year and will send to each candidate its “Black Agenda” later this week. The candidates will then be asked not only for a written response, but also to appear for what will amount to an oral test before a community gathering in the Hill District on April 19.

“Although the African Americans in Pittsburgh make up over a quarter of the population, too many black Pittsburghers live in conditions that are unacceptable to us, and they should be unacceptable to the mayor of the City of Pittsburgh,” said convention member and former city council member Sala Udin.

Udin went on at the convention’s first public event to say black men struggle under Depression-era unemployment rates and too often live in islands of poverty “in the shadows of rising skyscrapers providing offices and living quarters for the well-to-do.”

All black Pittsburghers who are registered to vote in the city are being asked to assemble to cast their vote for mayor the day after the candidates appear at the community gathering. The candidate with the most votes will get the endorsement of the convention.

“A unified black voice may well determine the next mayor of the City of Pittsburgh,” said Udin, who noted that convention members are demanding that the black people of Pittsburgh become visible to the city’s political leadership. 

Candidates A.J Richardson and Jake Wheatley are black while front-runners Bill Peduto and Jack Wagner are white. When asked if it would be possible for a white candidate to win the endorsement, Udin said, “Absolutely … We’ve been waiting for white candidates to speak up for black people for a long time.”

Udin said the convention will hold the candidates accountable for their promises, and he put other elected officials on notice that this effort will not be limited to the mayoral race.

Fixing unemployment will be high among the priorities in the “Black Agenda,” according to Udin, who said there is a great deal the mayor can do to give people a chance to work.

The convention will eventually post its agenda on its website.