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This Juneteenth holiday, one Black church in Pittsburgh is advocating for reparations

Jake Savitz
90.5 WESA

On today’s episode of The Confluence: The regional library system is welcoming a new leader to the helm; and a local pastor tells us about his congregation’s efforts to seek reparations and build relationships with other churches during Juneteenth. 

Today’s guests include: Rev. Dr. Dale Snyder with Bethel AME Church; and Andrew Medlar, president and director of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

Hill District seeking reparations for the loss of downtown site, educates the community about Juneteenth
(0:00 - 9:21)

On Sunday, Bethel AME Church conducted a day of learning about the significance of Juneteenth. The historically-Black congregation also detailed the history of their site, and why they’re calling for reparations following the displacement of their congregation decades ago in the Lower Hill District.

The church was rebuilt on Wiley Avenue following the Great Fire of Pittsburgh in 1845. However, the city eventually seized that property through eminent domain, paying the congregation about $300,000.

“We had been a downtown church since 1808, so it fractured our community to be able to have to move away from downtown. It was devastating for us,” says Reverend Dr. Dale Snyder, pastor at Bethel AME.

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After relocating to the Hill District, he says the church lost two-thirds of its congregation. Snyder says the original location held up to 1,900 congregants. Snyder and his congregation are calling on the government to provide reparations to the church to make up for what it lost when it was relocated, not just the space, but the community.

New director of Carnegie Library looks to how the system can better serve community, adapt 
(9:24 - 17:28)

Andrew Medlar took over as Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh systems’ 12th president and director earlier this summer. The longtime library worker came from New York Public Library, where he was the director of BookOps, which leads the shared library services for the 152 library locations in New York City.

Medlar says the library is looking to how it can best provide information to the community, which means going beyond physical books to ebooks and other formats. However, these expanded services mean increased costs.

“The pie that we have of resources needs to get divided into even more pieces, and as we have increased [digital] formats, that's exactly what's happening,” says Medlar. “And yet, it's so important that we do so to be responsive to how our neighbors want to access the information.”

Medlar says one of his first goals is hiring a director of inclusion, diversity and equity to help make inroads with the community.

Poetry collection from City of Asylum artist examines homesickness
(18:07 - 22:49)

Dissident writer and poet from Bangladesh, Tuhin Das, who is living in Pittsburgh’s the City of Asylum recently published his first poetry collection.

Das spoke with 90.5 WESA’s Bill O’Driscoll about his book, “Exile Poems: In the Labyrinth of Homesickness” and his process of examining his life in the City and his life being thousands of miles away from everything he loves the most.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in Monday to Thursday at 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.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. 

I am a senior at Clarion University studying Integrated Journalism. I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, and enjoy covering Pittsburgh-related news.
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