A Post-Gazette op-ed last weekend prompts me to resume my occasional posts about moving forward with the Manifesto for a New Pittsburgh.
Larry Davis and Ralph Bangs, both at Pitt, wrote:
A study released last week by the University of Pittsburgh's Center on Race and Social Problems confirmed, yet again, that African Americans in our region remain at the bottom of every measure of the quality of life, which include indicators of economic status, educational achievement, family stability and violence.The key phrase in that key paragraph is "yet again." The Center's findings can come as no surprise to anyone who pays even casual attention to the shape of Pittsburgh's economy. This is a long-standing problem.
But I don't want to dwell on the history here; Davis and Bangs and their colleagues have that work to do. More important for my purposes is this question: As the engines of Pittsburgh's new economy groan slowly to life, what will be done to ensure that racial and ethnic populations in Pittsburgh, and especially, as Davis and Bangs point out, members of the African-American community, are included in efforts to reform the educational system, build stability in communities and neighborhoods, and grow the numbers of jobs in the region?
Davis and Bangs write that they want to work
to inspire government, philanthropic, educational, neighborhood and religious leaders to create and implement policies that are equitable, smart andI wrote "what will be done" in the paragraph above, a passive construction that is answered only in part by this quotation. Lots of institutions and individuals have to work long and hard at addressing this problem. What will they do? Concrete proposals are needed. Here are only two in what should become river of them:
courageous. We also will call upon the black community to take ownership of this initiative, just as they took center stage in the civil rights movement a generation ago.
Republican mayoral candidate Mark DeSantis needs to find a way to get traction in pre-election news coverage. He needs to find issues beyond competence and cronyism in city government; otherwise, he not only won't get even 30% of the vote, but worse, he won't get anyone to listen to him. How about urban poverty? That's not usually a leading issue for Republicans, but with the incumbent already acting like he's won the race, Pittsburgh isn't facing a real election.
Are there Pittsburgh diasporan resources that can be called in? Take a look at the Board and the Steering Committee and Funders for the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, which will in time have a new facility Downtown. How many of those individuals and institutions are publicly linked to African-American communities and resources -- outside of Pittsburgh? How many Pittsburgh-area African-American alumni are represented?
This isn't my area of expertise. I'm simply throwing out possibilities. My point is this: optimism about Pittsburgh requires optimism about success for all of Pittsburgh, and then finding ways to ensure that success is just that broad.