Pittsburgh Advocates Push for Justice as Answer to Police Brutality

Jasmine Peterson | Urban Agenda

After the recent deaths of black men at the hands of police officers, several civil rights advocates in the Pittsburgh area see value in the Black Lives Matter movement.

For community activist Brandi Fisher, the movement means strength in numbers

“Power! When I hear it (Black Lives Matter) in my head, I hear like a soulful cry from the pit of someone’s stomach trying to convey to everyone around that they’re human,” she said.

Debate over the Black Lives Matter movement_IsabellaBrandi Fisher is the founder of a Pittsburgh nonprofit organization, Alliance for Police Accountability, or APA.

According to its website, the APA’s mission is dedicated to criminal justice reform, specializing in bettering community and police relations through advocacy, education and policy

The Black Lives Matter movement stems from what members see as excessive use of force from police officers, which recently led to the deaths of 37-year-old Alton Sterling and 32- year-old Philando Castile.

The movement’s mission is to make it known that just like all lives matter, black lives matter just as much.

It was created in response to the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was killed in Florida on Feb. 26, 2012.

His shooter, George Zimmerman, was found not guilty.

Black males’ risk of being shot by police is 21 times greater than their white counterparts, according to ProPublica, a non-profit newsroom that produces journalism in the public interest.

From 2010 to 2012, blacks aged 15 to 1
9 were killed at a rate of 31.17 per million, while the rate for whites in that age range was 1.7 per million, ProPublica wrote.

Esther L. Bush, president and CEO of Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, described the Black Lives Matter movement as, “A group of people who have said enough is enough.”

Bush made it very clear that in order for blacksto stand strong against racism and discrimination, they need to be prepared.

“The biggest weapon we have is being prepared. Don’t give others the excuse to treat you differently,” Bush said.

 

The Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh continues to accomplish its mission statement which is, “Enabling African Americans to secure economic self-reliance, parity and power, and civil rights.”

Some ways Urban League lives up to its mission is by offering mentors, tutors, housing services, family services and direct social purposes, among other things.

Their mission is similar to that of NAACP located in Penn Hills.

The president of the Penn Hills location, Joyce Davis, described what she thought was the biggest race-based issue faced today.

“There is a mistrust of people who are different. Hate and bigotry is now being expressed openly.”

Instead of feeling like police officers kill people of color intentionally, Davis would much rather look at it from all sides.

None of the evidence from these cases is really looked at carefully, Davis said.

Davis would much rather base her belief on something after all the correct evidence is presented.

Tim Stevens of Black Political Empowerment Project, or B-PEP, said the only thing people want from police officers is to do what they said they were going to do — protect and serve.

People want police officers to operate, while doing it with respect.

When asked what he thinks about when he hears the term Black Lives Matter, Stevens responded, “The phrase merely means black lives matter too, we have not been treated equally. We should matter the same way everyone else does.”

Connie Parker, president of the NAACP branch in Pittsburgh, said the police officers who kill young black men don’t understand them as a race.

“Why do they look at us like animals?” she asked.

The YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh fights to eliminate racism and empower women at the same time.

When Senior Director Chaz R. Kellem described what the Black Lives Matter movement meant to him, he said, “Just, faith, courage, dignity, trust are words that come to mind when I think about moving forward. Black lives matter. All lives matter. Right now, black lives matter a little more differently.”

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