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Voters Will Decide On PA Victim's 'Bill Of Rights'

Matt Rourke
A proposed amendment to Pennsylvania's state constitution has passed the state House and Senate in the required two consecutive legislative sessions. It's now headed to the ballot box.

On today’s program: Artworks by artists of color open in a new exhibition Saturday; Carnegie library workers take steps in unionize; and a debate between the ACLU of Pennsylvania and the Center for Victims about Marsy’s Law.  

New exhibit allows black experience and art to BREATHE   
(0:00 – 16:25)

City Books will unveil an exhibit this weekend curated by local artist Grits Capone and co-produced with Deeper Than Grits Studio. Capone, whose real name is Corey Carrington, says his latest curation BREATHE will feature works made exclusively by artists of color. He says Pittsburgh's art legacy is dominated by people like Andy Warhol, despite the contributions by black men and women like August Wilson.

Among the featured artists is Patience Lee, who says the project offered her a space to embody her full self. 

“In my past, being a part of shows where it was mixed, white and black people, I kind of felt like I was too black,” she tells The Confluence. “It’s a good chance to be a part of something, and just go full force with it — with my blackness.”

The exhibit holds paintings, photographs, music and other visual displays depicting a range of black life. Capone says he hopes when people leave the gallery, they feel the freedom, joy, individuality and power captured by the artists, but most of all, that they acknowledge each other’s humanity.

BREATHE opens this weekend at the iamb gallery at City Books. The exhibit’s opening reception begins at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Unionization effort by Carneige library staffers moves forward
(17:46 – 23:37)

Abuot 350 clerks, library assistants, librarians and other employees at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s 19 branches took their first steps Monday towards forming a union. Julia Mente, a reader adviser with the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, says the library doesn't offer equitable wages or benefits that allow workers to live sustainable lives, and lacks diversity, particularly on the administrative level. Mente says she hopes unionizing will help address these problems, allowing the workers to better serve their communities.

A look at victims' rights as Marsy’s Law heads to the PA ballot
(23:38 – 38:43)

Pennsylvanians will weigh in on a new amendment to the state constitution in November. Marsy's Law would enshrine the rights of crime victims, similar to the way defendants' rights are now, and ultimately give victims stronger legal standing for lawsuits when certain rights are violated. But groups like the American Civil Liberties Union are concerned about potential unintended consequences of the law.

Laurie MacDonald, president and CEO of the Center for Victims, says that currently, the rights afforded to victims can be changed at any time, because they're not protected under the state constitution. The amendment would effectively create a bill of rights for victims and allow them to be a part of the legal process, according to MacDonald. She says the center will support passage of the bill ahead of November.

Elizabeth Randol, legislative director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, argues that many of the issues included in Marsy’s Law could be better addressed through statutes. Randol says the ACLU is concerned that a constitutional amendment puts the rights of victims in conflict with the rights of the accused and could interrupt someone's right to a fair trial. 

The amendment passedPennsylvania's General Assembly last week.

90.5 WESA's Julia Zenkevich, Julia Maruca and Hannah Gaskill contributed to this program.

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 take 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.
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