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New LGBTQIA+ Commission Aims To Address Community’s ‘Specific Challenges’

Carolyn Kaster
Pittsburgh's LGBTQIA+ Commission looking for applicants with experience in workforce development and employment, education, homeless community and housing barriers, and more.


On today's program: The city is seeking applicants for a new LGBTQIA+ Commission that hopes to make Pittsburgh more inclusive; a Nigerian disability rights advocate makes a virtual journey to Pittsburgh to mark the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act; and in a divided Pennsylvania town, three women are organizing anti-racist protests and bringing people together.

New commission to offer more support to LGBTQIA+ Pittsburghers
(00:00 — 6:28)

Pittsburgh’s new LGBTQIA+ Commission is looking for members. The Commission’s aim is to create a more inclusive Pittsburgh for LGBTQIA+ residents seeking education, employment, health, and housing, saysTiffini Simoneaux, the Youth and Education manager for the Office of Equity within the Mayor’s Office.

 “The LGBTQIA+ community does face specific challenges in those areas and we want to make sure that we are best supporting that community in the city,” she tells The Confluence.

The Commission will replace the mayor’s LGBTQIA+ advisory council, which future mayors could have disbanded. The City Council approved and Mayor Bill Peduto signed the LGBTQIA+ Commission legislation last week, giving the LGBTQIA+ community in Pittsburgh a stronger voice ensuring that they are included in the city’s future plans, says Simoneaux. 

Simoneaux says members of the Commission will work closely with other commissions and departments in the city, including the Gender Equity Commission and the ADA Coordinator, on issues including employment, homelessness, and public safety. Commissioners are expected to start working virtually by late fall.

People who live or work within the City of Pittsburgh and are interested in applying to be a part of the LGBTQIA+ Commission can fill outthis interest form by August 28, 2020.

The U.S. still has work to do with the ADA, says Nigerian disability rights activist
(6:31 — 12:16)

The Americans with Disabilities Act turns 30 on Saturday, July 26. In observance of the anniversary,David Anyaele, a Nigerian disability rights advocate and the State Department's International Visitor Leadership Program liaison, made a virtual visit to Western Pennsylvania.

Anyaele’s campaign for disability rights began two decades ago when he was brutally attacked by rebels in Sierra Leone. The attack culminated last year in the passage of Nigeria's first disability rights act. He says the difficulties people with disabilities experience in public places influenced his activism.

“It was born out of frustration, out of anger, lack of protection by the state,” he says. “Legislation—you know, programs and activities of the state—are designed at the exclusion, by the erasing of your condition.”

Expanding access to education and healthcare will be particularly important to improve people’s quality of life, says Anayele. “The level of access to your environment—what that means is your level of contribution.”

He says that while both Pittsburgh and the U.S. have had successes with the ADA, legislation without accepting attitudes towards people with disabilities hamper real change. “You may have environmental support in terms of citizen access to public places, but one attitude is backward. It hinders enjoyment of government provisions. And I think the ADA needs to synergize, to learn good practices up and down, to make progress.”


Meet the women organizing anti-racist protests in a divided PA town
(12:19 — 17:41)


Between 15 million and 26 million people across the U.S. have participated in protests in the wake of George Floyd’s killing, current polling suggests. If the data is accurate, the protests would be the largest movement in American history. Demonstrations have happened in big cities and small towns, bringing together people of many generations and races.


As part of the America Amplified project, WITF’sAlanna Elder profiledthree protest organizers in the very starkly divided city of Lebanon, Pa.


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.

Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm
Marylee is the editor/producer of The Confluence, the daily public affairs show on WESA. She got her start in journalism at The Daily Reveille and KLSU while attending Louisiana State University. She took her passion for audio journalism to UC Berkeley's graduate program and worked in public radio at WPR in Madison, WI, and WOSU in Columbus, Ohio.
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.
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