Identity & Justice

The identity and justice desk explores how the makeup of the Pittsburgh community is changing, and digs into issues of diversity and equity.

If you’re looking to work off some of Thursday’s turkey and pumpkin pie with a nice walk, you might consider adding in a healthy dose of history as well. Historic Harmony is offering a series of hikes along the Connoquenessing Creek Saturday with none other than George Washington leading the way.

The focus of the hike will be to commemorate the 260th anniversary of Major Washington’s mission to Fort Duquesne to ask the French to leave the area. It comes on the exact date that the 21-year-old George Washington stayed on the north shore of the creek at a Delaware Indian Village.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

One of Pittsburgh’s most popular bicycling events turns 30 years old this Saturday.

The Dirty Dozen bike race challenges cyclists to climb the 13 steepest hills in the city. The 50-mile route takes riders from Highland Park, through the North Hills and the North side, across the Roberto Clemente and Smithfield Street bridges, through the South Hills and the South Side, ending in Hazelwood.

Winter weather advisories and storm warnings have been posted for much of Pennsylvania as a storm bearing a wintry mix of precipitation rolls into the commonwealth.

The National Weather Service says snow, sleet and areas of freezing rain and ice are expected later Tuesday in areas from western to northeastern Pennsylvania.

Jessica Nath / 90.5 WESA

When 260 local families answered their doors Monday afternoon, they were greeted with brightly colored laundry baskets filled with their Thanksgiving dinner.

An assembly line of volunteers from the Light of Life Mission and 10 local non-profits filled and delivered the baskets to local families who would not be able to purchase food for the holiday.

Flickr user Corey.Cousins

While it may not officially be winter yet, winter driving conditions may be experienced as temperatures drop and snow begins to fall. AAA is recommending drivers take precautions for winter driving.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Visitors to the Allegheny County Courthouse this holiday season will see a few new festive embellishments. 

Along with the colorful globes that normally adorn the county’s official tree, nearly 100 ornaments created by local school districts have been added to the boughs. 

Every district in the county was invited to use recycled scrap material to create an ornament representing the district itself and one for each of the communities within its borders.

2011 photo courtesy Flickr user jiuguangw

The winter season in Pittsburgh offers plenty of opportunities to discover the city — or, for you native Pittsburghers — to remember why you love your city. Here’s our rundown of seasonal festivities to get you out the door and fill you with holiday spirit.

Flickr user rwoan

Nearly 200 couples from as far away as California will be renewing their wedding vows at Heinz Chapel’s 75th anniversary celebration on Saturday.

Pat Gibbons is the director of Heinz Chapel, located on the University of Pittsburgh campus. She said the response to this weekend’s festivities has far exceeded her expectations. Including 196 married couples, she is anticipating around 560 guests for the vow-renewal ceremony.

Caring Place Celebrates Special Day With New Tree

Nov 21, 2013

When the Highmark Caring Place marks its annual Children’s Grief Awareness Day Thursday, it will be looking back as much as it is looking forward.

The Caring Place is a peer support group for kids dealing with the loss of a loved one, but that grief is just the beginning of what the 700 volunteers and staff at four locations help the children overcome.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

The ACLU of Pennsylvania has filed a federal lawsuit against Pittsburgh police officer Jonathan Gromek, who last summer arrested a black teacher after a community meeting on police/community relations in Homewood.

All charges against Dennis Henderson were withdrawn by the district attorney, but Henderson said that the damage that was done can’t be undone.

Google's traveling "Good to Know Roadshow" program presented at an assembly Monday at Pittsburgh Obama Academy to teach middle school students about the importance of using the Internet safely.

Google spokeswoman Jamie Hill said it was their first time making the presentation in Pennsylvania. Google has an office at Bakery Square in the Larimer section of Pittsburgh. Hill said research shows 93 percent of teenagers are using the Internet.

Pittsburgh Nonprofits Ready to Take Seat at Main Table

Nov 18, 2013

Pittsburgh Mayor-elect Bill Peduto says he wants to give nonprofits a seat at the main table in his administration. 

He made the comments Monday before about 500 Pittsburgh area nonprofit organizations gathered for the annual Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership meeting. 

Allegheny County District Judge James A. Motznik is calling on Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala to investigate two issues relating to incidents at Pittsburgh Brashear High School.

One of the incidents, an assault and robbery at the school, is believed to be related to this week’s shooting of three students outside of the school. Motznik said he believes a new policy in place is preventing school police officers from issuing citations as they would have in the past.

Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

Update: 7:39 a.m. Thursday

Pittsburgh police have charged a 16-year-old student with shooting three others outside a high school, allegedly in retaliation for a drug-related robbery inside the school last month.

None of the students wounded minutes after Brashear High School dismissed classes Wednesday has life-threatening injuries. Police say two were grazed by bullets, while one was shot in the arm and foot. Police say a fourth was targeted but not hurt.

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala said in a news conference Tuesday that the Monroeville police officer who struck and killed a pedestrian in early October will likely not be charged with a crime.

According to the DA’s office, Michael Barnes, 49, was struck by a police car driven by Sgt. Edward Lewkowicz at around 7:23 p.m. on Oct. 3. Zappala said Barnes was crossing Monroeville Boulevard, a four-lane road under the jurisdiction of Allegheny County.

The turkey hasn’t yet been served, but an iconic sign of Christmas will start popping up outside of stores and other locations – the Salvation Army’s red kettles.

“The goal for Western Pennsylvania is $2.7 million and the goal for Allegheny County is $687,500,” said Major Mark Mackneer, general secretary of Salvation Army in Western Pennsylvania.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Thousands of people converged on downtown Pittsburgh Monday for the annual Veterans Day parade. Many of them were watching, and even more were marching.

Dozens of high school bands provided entertainment while veterans from every generation marched down the length of Smithfield Street.

Onlookers greeted the vets with cheers and applause, shouting “Thank you!”

Paul Kennedy, western vice commander for the Pennsylvania American Legion, lives in the North Hills and said it was great to see so many people come out for the parade.

The city of Pittsburgh will hold its 94th annual Veterans Day parade on Monday.

Tony Filardi of Overbrook served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War and has been the chair of the Veterans Day parade committee since 1990.

Filardi said the parade is an important tradition that pays tribute both to veterans and to active duty military.

“It’s to honor all the veterans who served in the service and also the military people who are serving currently,” Filardi said. “After all, without them, our nation would not be free, because freedom is not free.”

Brother's Brother Rushes Help to Philippines

Nov 8, 2013

A local foundation known for rushing medical aid to developing nations in the wake of natural disasters is asking for help in its effort to offer short- and long-term assistance to the Philippines. 

Brother’s Brother Foundation is working with the Philippine American Medical Society of Western Pennsylvania to move medical supplies to areas impacted by Typhoon Yolanda.   

Brother’s Brother is asking for cash donations to move the supplies.

Pittsburgh’s most iconic — and speediest — deliveryman, Mr. McFeely, helped kick off the 14th annual Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood Sweater Drive Thursday.

McFeely, played by David Newell, brought his puppet friends, Don Quixote, King Friday and Daniel Striped Tiger, to teach the 72 students from Crescent Early Childhood Centers and the Children’s Museum Pre-K Headstart Programs the value of sharing by donating sweaters.

To kick off its 20th anniversary celebration as the National Aviary on Pittsburgh’s North Side, the facility is opening a new permanent exhibit Friday entitled “Canary’s Call.”

The display showcases four signature bird species including the rainbow lorikeet, Guam rail, rhinoceros hornbill and the canary, as well as one of the world’s largest fruit bats, the 2.5 pound Malayan flying fox.

According to Patricia O’Neill, director of education at the National Aviary, “Canary’s Call” shows how birds can be indicators of environmental change.

Thousands of people came downtown to see the Knit the Bridge project and the Rubber Duck earlier this year. Civic and corporate leaders hope thousands will also come to Light Up Night and will visit Holiday Market.

Light Up Night consists of big trees getting decorated throughout downtown, live music, other festive activities such as ice skating at PPG Place and, you guessed it, fireworks.

Jeremy Waldrup, who runs the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, said he expects more people than ever before to be a part of this years festivities.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

The Community Builders held a ceremonial groundbreaking Monday at the site of the new East Liberty Place South development.

The building will feature 52 units of mixed-income housing, as well as 11,000 square feet of commercial space. Thirteen of the one- and two-bedroom apartments will be priced at market value, with a tenant income cap of $55,000-75,000, depending on family size.

Six of the apartments are geared toward very low-income residents, including people with physical disabilities who live off disability benefits.

John Loo / Flickr

Starting Monday November 4th, applications will be accepted for winter heating assistance through the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP.) An estimated 1.5 million Pennsylvania households are eligible for LIHEAP grants.

Halloween, the scariest night of the year, is always filled with plenty of things that go bump in the night, but there is one thing trick-or-treaters shouldn’t have to be afraid of - a speeding car.

The Polish Hill Civic Association (PHCA) is launching a project to help protect trick-or-treaters this Thursday night in that Pittsburgh community. Drivers going through the historic neighborhood will be met by volunteers at intersections, holding signs and giving out treats to safe drivers.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane has joined top prosecutors in San Francisco and New York in a nationwide initiative to thwart smartphone thefts by rendering the devices useless after a robbery.

The “Secure Our Smartphones” initiative was introduced in Pennsylvania by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman this week. It’s a collaboration among attorneys general and municipal leaders asking cell phone manufacturers to develop a “kill switch” for stolen phones.

Teresa Heinz Kerry says family members weren't fully aware of a controversial decision by the Heinz Endowments to partner with major energy companies on natural gas drilling standards, even though the organization approved two pilot grants for the project last year.

The Heinz Endowments, with assets of $1.4 billion, is the 49th largest foundation in the United States. Heinz Kerry is chair of the Endowments, and she told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that she was never involved with the Center for Sustainable Shale Development.

A state lawmaker is proposing legislation that would help taxpayers know more about what they’re paying their teachers.  

State Representative Fred Keller (R - Snyder) is introducing a bill that would require a two-week period of “openness” before school boards could approve any proposed collective bargaining agreements with teachers.

The board would be required to post the proposed contract details to its publicly accessible website, as well as in a local newspaper of general circulation at least two weeks before the agreement is put to a vote.

Preventing Homicides Through Early Intervention

Oct 24, 2013
Matt Niemi / Flickr

Each year, the city of Pittsburgh sees more than 100 homicides.

A new study by the University of Pittsburgh suggests that 30% of last year’s homicides could have been prevented by early intervention.

Richard Garland, M.S.W., visiting instructor in the Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences and Steven Albert, Ph.D., chairman of the department, co-authored the study and say most of the criminal activity was a result of peer violence, not gang-related violence.

East End Charity Set to Open $15.6 Million Facility

Oct 24, 2013

For 43 years the East End Cooperative Ministry has been providing services to less fortunate members of the community.  Currently, clients are shuttled among as many as 14 locations to get all the services they need, but as of November 4th everything will be under one roof.

That roof is over what was once a gas station and a pair of parking lots on Penn Circle in East Liberty, and it will be covering a platinum level LEED certified building.

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