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Nation Loses 'Its Civic Identity' By Failing To Preserve Black Historic Sites

Jared Murphy
90.5 WESA
The August Wilson House in Pittsburgh's Hill District.


On today's program: Newsroom employees at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette vote to walk out after three and a half years of negotiations failed to produce a new contract; groups in Pittsburgh and across the country work to preserve historic sites significant to communities of color; and amid the pandemic, some museums worry about their futures. 

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newsroom members vote to strike
(00:00 — 4:36)

Reporters, copy editors, photographers and artists at the Post-Gazette have been without a contract for years. On Monday, union members in the newsroomvoted 88-31 in favor of a strike after negotiations stalled. Block Communications, which owns the paper, unilaterally imposed portions of its last contract offer at the end of July.

“It’s been never ending these three and a half years the indignities that we’ve suffered,” saysMichael Fuoco, president of theNewspaper Guild of Pittsburgh.

He is hopeful management will return to negotiations, but says union members will go on strike if necessary. “It’s not an idle threat, it’s real. And nobody wants to go on strike but if forced to, we will do so.”

The union’s executive council and the national president of the Communication Workers of America must approve the strike for it to go forward. 

WESA reached out to Block Communications for comment but did not receive a response.

Local and national groups look to preserve “overlooked and undervalued” historic sites in communities of color
(4:39 — 13:38)

Across the country, groups work to preserve historic sites and landmarks, but some landmarks significant for Black and other communities of color have been left untended for years. Now, historic preservation groups are stepping in to save important pieces of history.


“It is critically important that African American historic places and other diverse places stand to tell their story,” saysBrent Leggs, the executive director of theAfrican American Cultural Heritage Action Fund.


In Pittsburgh,Matthew Craig, the executive director of theYoung Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh, says people have stepped up to save the childhood home of renowned playwright August Wilson, among other historic sites that help tell the story of the African American experience in Western Pennsylvania.


Both agree the local and national efforts are integral to preserving the nation’s history. “Our service to the nation is to tell the stories that have been overlooked and undervalued,” Leggs says. 


According to Leggs, the Action Fund has invested more than $5 million in the last two-and-a-half years to help preserve 65 Black historic sites around the country.

"Our nation loses its civic identity when we don't preserve African American historic sites. We lose an understanding of the full contribution of Black America."


During the pandemic, museums could  be at risk
(13:42 — 18:03)


Anew national survey from theAmerican Alliance of Museums suggests many museums worry they won’t survive the coronavirus pandemic. A majority of institutions surveyed said they expected operating revenue this year to drop by at least 20 percent, and more than half said they had no more than six months of operating revenue left in their coffers.


90.5 WESA’sBill O’Driscoll checked in with some Pittsburgh-area museums to see how they’re faring.


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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