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.

Reza Aslan on The Life & Times of Jesus of Nazareth

Sep 12, 2013
RezaAslan.com

Religious scholar and best-selling author, Reza Aslan challenges many long-held assumptions about the leader of the Christian religion in his book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.

He has received criticism for his frank examination of the 1st century Jewish leader because he does not paint Jesus as a celestial “deity on earth.”

Instead, Aslan has illustrated the political and social importance of his life. “When you’re ushering in the rule of God, you’re ushering out the rule of Caesar,” he explains.

What to Do in the Dwindling Days of Summer

Sep 11, 2013
Flickr user the justified sinner

School has started, Labor Day has come and gone, and for many, that means summer is over. 

Local Universities to Mark Sept. 11th Anniversary

Sep 10, 2013

A pair of local universities will mark the 12th anniversary of the attacks of September 11th in very public but very different ways. 

Chatham University will gather Wednesday afternoon on the quad for a moment of silence, a short speech from the Dean of Student Affairs office, remarks from a representative of the Wounded Warrior Project and a performance of the National Anthem by the Chatham University Choir. 

The goal of the event is not only to remember the lives lost on Sept. 11, 2011, but also to salute the growing number of students on campus who are also veterans. 

The Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa. will honor the 40 crash victims of United Flight 93 on the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Events begin 3 p.m. Tuesday as crews break ground on a visitor center. The 6,800 square-foot facility will try to tell the full story of Flight 93 and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. The building is expected to be completed September 2015. The Flight 93 National Memorial Capital Campaign announced it raised $40 million dollars to complete the national memorial.

September is “National Preparedness Month” in Pennsylvania – but how prepared are you?

Glenn Cannon, director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA), said there are many potential emergencies the commonwealth faces: flooding, winter storms, tornadoes and the threat of issues with one of the nine nuclear reactors.

Diocese of Pittsburgh to Honor Saturday as 'Day of Prayer for Peace'

Sep 6, 2013

Pittsburgh Catholic Bishop Zubik will celebrate mass Saturday to honor Pope Francis’ proclamation of a universal day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria.

The crisis in Syria has been making headlines ever since an alleged chemical weapons attack on a Damascus suburb. U.S. and U.K. intelligence reports blame the Syrian government led by President Bashar al-Assad for the attack and indicate that more than 1,400 people were killed, including at least 426 children.

There were 141 domestic violence-related murders in Pennsylvania last year, 10 of which occurred in Allegheny County.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Duquesne Place, a subsidized housing complex in Duquesne, has had some rough years.

In January 2012 a 16-year-old boy was shot and killed, and a 14-year-old was injured. The previous year, a 17-year-old boy was shot there. Overall, there was a high level of crime.

Over the past year the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office has been working with the Allegheny Intermediate Unit (AIU) and the Duquesne City School District to boost education opportunities and build a stronger community at the complex.

Bow Hunting To Be Allowed On Airport Land

Sep 3, 2013

Get your inner Katniss Everdeen ready.

The Allegheny County Airport Authority is opening up land for archery-only hunting in the coming months.  The pilot program will allow bow hunting in designated zones, but it will be limited to a certain number of hunters.

“There will be an online lottery in mid-to-late September,” said state Sen. Matt Smith. “People can go to the airport authority website right now, put their name in for the lottery and there will be 157 individuals selected.”

Flickr user LugerLA

Nearly 11 years after it was created, the Flight 93 Advisory Commission is disbanding. 

The commission formed to help develop a national memorial at the site of where a hijacked plane crashed in southwestern Pennsylvania during the 9/11 attacks.

Grownups Get to Play Saturday in Downtown Pittsburgh

Aug 30, 2013

A few hundred Pittsburghers are expected to gather downtown this weekend to make some new friends, get a little sweaty and play some of the best new games invented this year. 

It's all part of the Best Games Festival put on by City of Play.

“You don’t have to be a hyper-athlete to show up to what we do,” said City of Play Director Adam Nelson.  “That’s one of the foundations of the organization and the festival.”

Eighteen people alleged to have ties to a violent drug gang based in Wilkinsburg have been arrested in what is being called a major bust. The suspected drug dealers were taken into custody as part of a joint effort involving the PA Attorney General's Organized Crime Section and the Allegheny County Police.

The "Operation Wilkinsburg Crew" was launched, according to Attorney General Kathleen Kane, in reaction to a series of homicides and shootings in Wilkinsburg believed to be related to heroin trafficking.

Why the "I Have a Dream" Speech Endures

Aug 27, 2013
Wikipedia

When the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I have a dream” speech in 1963, he brought the Civil Rights movement into the homes of mainstream white America.

As the first big integrated protest to be staged in the north, PR counselor and executive speech writer Bob Oltmanns says at that point in history, the speech was a breakout PR moment.

A Moment Of Peaceful Integration in 1963

Aug 27, 2013
US Marines / Wikipedia

Greensburg native, William Severini Kowinski was 17 years old when he participated in the March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom on August 28th, 1963. He had been campaigning for John F. Kennedy since the age of 15 and was inspired by Kennedy’s views on the civil rights struggle.

Kowinski went by train with a group called the Catholic Interracial Council. It was only his second train ride and his most vivid memory of the ride involved a train car packed with young people.

Michael Lynch / 90.5 WESA

There is a growing national movement, spurred at least in part by a federal mandate, to build playgrounds that are designed to include children with disabilities.

In 2011, the Department of Justice adopted revisions to the American With Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for Accessible Design. One of the changes by the Justice Department to the ADA involves playgrounds that are used by children ages 2 and older in a variety of public settings, including school yards.

Comemmorating the March on Washington

Aug 26, 2013
U.S. Marines/Wikipedia

Nelson Harrison is a Pittsburgh musician who teaches jazz and played with numerous groups including the Count Basie Orchestra. He was at the March on Washington in 1963 and talks about how the march shaped who he is today.

Michael Lynch

Garfield residents, lead by members of the activist group Action United, marched and chanted their way down Hillcrest Street Monday calling on city officials to maintain the neighborhood’s overgrown trees.

According to the group, many of the community’s sidewalks have started to “crack, slant and crumble” thanks to roots growing underneath the concrete.

Residents said the sidewalks have become dangerous for the elderly, children and those with disabilities.

Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

Long-time civil right activist and former Pittsburgh City Councilman Sala Udin recently spoke with WESA Senior News Editor, Mark Nootbaar about his memories of the 1963 March on Washington.

American Jewish Congress records / wikipedia

The group One Pittsburgh is commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington by staging a protest at the Strip District McDonald’s drive thru, Saturday. Protest organizer, Calvin Skinner says people often forget that the 1963 March on Washington was titled, “the march for jobs and freedom.”

“The March on Washington was always about Civil Rights,” says Skinner “But also about economic rights and economic justice and that’s a story that is not told. It’s a place where we’ve lost significant ground in this country.”

Recreational Opportunities Abound in Pittsburgh

Aug 23, 2013
Lindsay Dill / City of Play


San Francisco-based researchers, NerdWallet recently released a study that puts Pittsburgh in the top ten of best cities for recreational activity in the nation.

According to NerdWallet senior analyst Divya Raghavan, Pittsburgh’s high standing is due to a number of recreational opportunities.

Raghavan specifically notes Pittsburgh’s Parks and Recreation Department, which she says “values providing options for its residents.”

Sala Udin Remembers the March on Washington

Aug 22, 2013

Fifty years ago, Sala Udin was a 19-year-old living with his aunt and cousin in New York. He was involved in the civil rights movement but was not as active in the struggle as he would soon become.

The Fort Pitt Block House is almost 250 years old, yet archeologists discovered something “new” on its grounds last weekend.

The Fort Pitt Block House was built in 1764, making it the oldest building in Pittsburgh, and it's survived the Revolutionary War and the Industrial Period. It has been a Block House, a trading post, a residence and is a national historic landmark.

A Block House is basically a guardhouse, where soldiers would go to fend off attacks on the fort.

Casey Premoshis / The Allegheny Front

Romero, the odorous corpse flower, has finally bloomed at Pittsburgh's Phipps Conservatory.

Standing approximately five feet tall with a wrinkly central staff and purple and green petals, Romero started releasing its noxious fragrance Tuesday evening. Nature has designed the flower’s smell to attract beetles and flies, but Romero immediately started attracting human onlookers.

Ending LGBT Discrimination in Pennsylvania

Aug 21, 2013
Michael Lokner / Flickr


Although protections exist in Pittsburgh and in Allegheny County, there is currently no comprehensive protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression throughout Pennsylvania. Democratic State Representative Dan Frankel aims to provide that protection to LGBT individuals at the state level. Frankel has authored a bipartisan bill with a record number of cosponsors to amend Pennsylvania’s Human Relations Act.

According to Frankel, there needs to be a uniform statute to provide protections across the commonwealth.

“It’s the last vestige of legalized discrimination that Pennsylvania still embraces,” says Frankel.

A lawsuit by a visiting professor who suffered permanent hearing loss when Pittsburgh police used a Long Range Acoustic Device to disburse Group of 20 summit protesters has formally ended.

The city agreed last year to pay Karen Piper, the visiting University of Missouri professor, $72,000 to settle her claims. But city officials also agreed to meet with a consultant selected by Piper's lawyers who could advise the city on how to use the device, which produces high-intensity sounds and amplifies commands to disburse.

The Allegheny County District Attorney called for an increase in the use of video cameras in law enforcement Monday.

Stephen Zappala said cameras add an extra level of objectivity to the police force.

Zappala said video cameras in police vehicles reduced legal complaints against police officers across the county by 90 percent.

“Every time that somebody sues a municipality on a one-on-one stop,” he said, “it costs us money as taxpayers. We refer to it legally as contingent liabilities … When you introduce objective evidence, that changes substantially.”

Jessica Straus / Millenial Train Project


There’s a pervading image of those in the millennial generation being selfish, uncaring youths. With his Millennial Trains Project--in which 18- to 30-year-olds travel across the nation with the goal of aiding and understanding the cities they visit--founder Patrick Dowd hopes to battle that image.

“Young people have the most at stake and the most potential to be agents of change in our world,” says Dowd. “Millennials sometimes get a bad rap for being lazy and narcissistic…and we want to go against that.”

The "No More Names: National Drive to Reduce Gun Violence"  bus tour stopped in Pittsburgh Friday.

The event was meant to highlight the need for laws that mandate background checks for gun purchasers. The effort comes in the wake of legislation that failed to pass in Congress.

In the aftermath of the shooting rampage at Sandyhook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. in December, U.S. Senators Pat Toomey (R) and Bob Casey (D) pushed for a bipartisan proposal that would have extended background checks to cover private gun sales.

Penn State Master Gardeners of Allegheny County want you to stop and smell the roses (or garlic and basil).

They will be hosting their annual “Garden in the Parks Field Day” Saturday at the gardens in North and South Parks.

“We get to show the garden to guests as well as talk to them about native pollinators and proper composting, and we also have garlic tasting, tomato tasting and basil pesto tasting, and really just get to educate the public,” said Philip Bauerle, Interim Master Gardener Coordinator in Pittsburgh.

Homestead got another store Thursday, but it’s not number 74 at The Waterfront.

Bottom Dollar Food opened a new store on East 7th St. on the other side of the tracks. Borough officials are calling it an effort to revitalize the community.

When the U.S. Steel’s Homestead Works closed in 1986, the borough was in financial distress. The approximately 256 acres of abandoned steel mills sat unused until 1999 when developers first broke ground on The Waterfront, an outdoor shopping center housing more than 70 stores and restaurants.

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