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Remembering Black Stories And Black Lives, 400 Years After African Americans Arrived Enslaved

The African American History Commission Act was signed last year to recognize and highlight the resilience and cultural contributions of Africans and African Americans in the 400 years since they first landed in Virginia, by force as slaves. 

Samuel Black, director of African American programs at the Heinz History Center and immediate past president of the Association of African American Museums, joins 90.5 WESA's The Confluence to discuss the commission’s goals, Pittsburgh’s African American heritage and the cultural and historical impact on our region.

Credit Kevin Gavin / 90.5 WESA
90.5 WESA
Samuel Black, director of African American programs at the Heinz History Center, stands outside the WESA studio on Monday, Feb. 18, 2019.

Later in the program: 

Allegheny CleanWays is a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit that focuses on cleaning up illegal dump sites across Allegheny County. Their various programs with more than 13,000 volunteers helped clean up over five million pounds of garbage since the group was founded in 2000. 90.5 WESA’s Brian Cook reports on Allegheny CleanWays’s efforts to clean up Homewood and other Pittsburgh neighborhoods.

After Jordan Robarge was arrested, it was difficult for him to find employment because of his record. Now he’s helping others re-enter society by hiring veterans, people with gaps in their employment history and those who recently got out of jail to work at his two businesses, Revival Chili food truck and Nancy’s Diner in Wilkinsburg. “The goal of this is not just for my personal benefit,” Robarge says. “We want to be able to spread the wealth and say ‘we are all brining each other up together.’”

And when Mike Fincke saw the first astronauts land on the moon, he knew what he wanted to do when he grew up. The now veteran astronaut and Pittsburgh native was recently called up to serve on NASA’s next manned mission, Starliner, which will launch later this year. Although space travel has changed drastically since private companies like Boeing and Space X jumped into the fray, Fincke says he still sees the same excitement for space travel he once did. To children, he says, “Stick with it. If I can become an astronaut then I see lots of future Pittsburghers becoming astronauts, too.”

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 reports on Allegheny County government 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
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