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Small Biz Owners Need A More Level Playing Field, African American Chamber Of Commerce CEO Says

Black entreprenuers represent just 2 percent of Allegheny County's contract recipients. It's a small marker, says local Chamber of Commerce CEO Doris Carson Williams, but indicative of the challenges faced by African American business owners nationwide.

Small business owners need help to grow, but often the people who could help them most aren't accessible, or don't know someone is looking.

Credit Kiley Koscinski / 90.5 WESA
90.5 WESA
Doris Carson Williams, president and CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce of Western Pennsylvania, stands outside of the 90.5 WESA studios on Monday, Jan. 7, 2019.

Doris Carson Williams, president and CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce of Western Pennsylvania, says black-owned businesses employ thousands of workers in the region, but Pennsylvania's business climate still scores poorly. She joined The Confluence to talk about the chamber's history, membership and goals for 2019.

Later in the program, Dr. Nosakhere Griffin-El explains how his son's experience with a speech delay inspired the Young Dreamers Book Club, which promotes early childhood literacy. 

And international travel provides a unique experience that can help cultivate greater tolerance, cooperation, and understanding between cultures. 

Credit Courtesy of CISV Pittsburgh
Courtesy of CISV Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh kids and young adults travel to many different countries, but it’s not just for fun. Students say it’s about developing more nuanced cultural awareness and understanding before prejudices are formed.

CISV Pittsburgh, a local branch of the Children's International Summer Villages, has provided more than 800 students in the Pittsburgh area the chance to visit and learn about countries like Israel, Denmark, and Germany. Through this program, students as young as 11 travel abroad to learn about other cultures and gain leadership skills.

Advocates and alumni of the program joined The Confluence to discuss their experiences, including:

  • Amy Raslevich, PhD candidate at the Graduate School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh, former CISV Chapter President, and CISV parent;
  • Laura Kelly, junior at Pittsburgh Obama Academy of International Studies; and
  • Dighan Kelly, junior at the University of Pittsburgh majoring in urban studies and French.

The program offered access to a variety of new perspectives before prejudices can be formed, according to the students. Applications for their next round of trips are open now.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators join veteran journalist Kevin Gavin, taking an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.   

Kiley Koscinski covers city government, policy and how Pittsburghers engage with city services. She also works as a fill-in host for All Things Considered. Kiley has previously served as a producer on The Confluence and Morning Edition.
Julia Zenkevich is a general assignment reporter for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at jzenkevich@wesa.fm.
Megan Harris is a writer, editor, photographer and curator for Pittsburgh's NPR News station. She leads editorial coverage for The Confluence, 90.5 WESA's live, one-hour, daily morning news show.
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