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A community meeting on gun violence

Posted by Elwin Green on April 18, 2013 at 2:30 PM

Homewood artist Vanessa German addresses the audience at last night's meeting on gun violence at the Carnegie Library-Homewood.

About 50 people came out last night for a community meeting on gun violence sponsored by the Black Women's Empowerment Institute.


Speakers for the program included Zone 5 police commander Timothy O'Connor, Tim Stevens of the Black Political Empowerment Project and Dina "Free" Blackwell, of House of Manna. Lucille Prater-Holliday moderated.


When a pair women in the audience spoke of losing loved ones to gun violence at a Larimer club know at different times as the Traveler's Club and as Trapper's, and now as Serenity, Commander O'Connor explained that the owners have avoided being shut down by changing the legal ownership of the business.


"Every time they change the name - this is a flaw with the state of Pennsylvania - they start with a clean slate."


He also expressed his own frustration, saying, "If I could get away with it legally, I'd burn it to the ground," evoking laughter and applause.


Artist Vanessa German challenged O'Connor and the audience by asking, "What if the solution doesn't look like anything that we've ever seen before? What if the solution doesn't look like people being arrested?"


Ms. German, who created the "Stop Shooting - We Love You" signs that have spread beyond Homewood into other parts of the city, said that children who come to her Art House "have taken 'Stop Shooting, We Love You' up as a slogan. These are 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds and 5-year-olds who repeat it to each other and ask each other, 'What does this mean?'"


Mr. Stevens announced the Coalition Against Violence's completion of aa 135-page document detailing action steps for a range of problems facing Pittsburgh's Black community.


Ms. Blackwell spoke of how House of Manna has taken 19 men off the street and employed them as painters or other contractors.


Unscheduled speakers included Bill Neal of the Champions Association, who lamented the lack of funding available now for his agency, which has worked with young people for 38 years.


Councilman Ricky V. Burgess, who was invited to the event, took some heat for being absent.


"Where's Rev. Burgess?" asked Homewood resident Raqeeb Bey. "Are you kidding me? With all the violence going on in our neighborhood, he doesn't even have the decency to show up today?"


I didn't see any other political officials there, either; nor any candidates, save for independent candidate Les Ludwig (Ms. Prater-Holliday is running for the District 1 seat on the school board). Mr. Ludwig also ran for mayor in 2005, at the age of 72. When I submitted questions from readers of my Post-Gazette blog, "My Homewood," to mayoral candidates, he gave some of the most detailed responses. 


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Reply Queen Lucille
2:39 PM on November 16, 2013 
Thank you Mr. Green for the story! I really appreciate it! There were no other elected officials invited to the meeting because it was an emergency meeting in response to the seven (7) shootings, which included a Pittsburgh police officer, within a 72 hour period that occurred in Council District 9. I personally called Councilman Burgess' office the previous Thursday to invite the Councilman to co-facilitate and spoke with Shawn Carter. Due to the urgency, we originally wanted to schedule the meeting for the following Monday, but Mr. Carter informed me that the Councilman would not be able to attend because he teaches class on that night. I asked if the Councilman would be available that Thursday, and Mr. Carter said that he would check and "get back to me". I waited until the following Monday to hear from the Councilman's office but still had not received a response. Due to the need to get fliers out, notify the community and secure the space, we couldn't wait any longer and scheduled the meeting for that Thursday. We also wrote on the fliers that Councilman Burgess' office did not respond to an invitation to attend. Once this information got out, I received a call from Marita Bradley regarding the statement on the flier about the Councilman's lack of response . She stated that she was unaware of the meeting, and I informed her that I had spoken with Mr. Carter the previous week. ALL of the Public Safety officials that were invited were in attendance. Also, Councilman Burgess was across the street at his church DURING THE MEETING, yet did not have enough respect for his constituents to cross the street and at the very least, poke his head in! Even with the late notice, we still had a good turn-out, and people were able to express their views and receive valuable information. I want to thank Commander O'Connor for his candidness and the information he distributed to those in attendance, and would also like to thank all of the Public Safety officials, residents and community members for attending.
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