Pokemon Go Causes Controversy

By Taylor Szczepaniuk | Urban Journalism

Mobile game Pokémon Go is a summer sensation, with more than 75 million downloads and counting.

According to SensorTower, the number of downloads is growing every day, by people of all different ages. Although people all over the world seem to love Pokémon Go, there have been many accidents and injuries while playing it.

Businesses and police stations all over the United States are issuing warnings for those who play the game.

In a tweet, Kennywood Park informed people that they would be removed from the premises for entering restricted areas while attempting to catch Pokémon.

Other facilities and business have released similar warnings.

The Pennsylvania Utility Commission recently issued a warning encouraging people to stay away from its facilities.

The agency’s website is advising people to be aware of their surroundings: “The commission also urges players to avoid trespassing on railroad tracks, or playing the game in other potentially hazardous locations.”

The Allegheny Health Network recently banned people from playing Pokémon Go at its facilities. According to an article written by Ben Schmitt, reporter for the Tribune Review, the health network contacted Niantic, the manufacturer, and demanded that all of the hospitals be removed from the app.

AHN advises people to report any sighting of individuals playing the game in its facilities.

Pokémon Go player Mark Vollmer, 23, said that the game was a good way to exercise and draw people out of the house.

The Export resident said he has never gotten hurt playing the game, because the app has pop-up reminders that serve as warnings about driving and trespassing while playing.

Vollmer shared how he would feel if the app were deleted from the app stores: “I would be devastated. It’s the Pokémon game I always wanted.”

Many Pokémon Go players stood behind the game and blamed the people for recent accidents and people getting hurt.

Nick Fmura, 20, said playing Pokémon Go is like reliving his childhood. He said he grew up playing Pokémon games, and seeing Pokémon continue to thrive makes him happy.

Muriel D’Alessandro, 18, said she only knew about people getting hurt because of the news.

She doesn’t think that Pokémon is a threat, because people are not wise playing the game: “People are always going to be (expletive) idiots.”

Chad Wertley, assistant professor of communication at Robert Morris University in Moon, talked about how technology has a certain control over people.

Wertley doesn’t believe that Pokémon Go is a threat to society and argued that it actually helps build communities.

He said there have been some instances of people taking advantage of the positive effects of Pokémon Go and turning it into something bad, but for the most part, people are getting more exercise and meeting new people.

Wertley believes human error has caused injuries and accidents: “Technology determinism simply means that technology controls, and we are powerless against it. People often take this view when there is something new, and they don’t quite understand it, so they blame it for what happens.”

Experts: Social Media Builds Bonds

By Pretty Shongwe | Urban Agenda

Will sat at his computer desk, head down and eyes locked on the bright screen of his smartphone. The 23-year-old, who declined to give his last name, sat alone in the college computer lab, but he was not lonely, because he was connected to a social media community.

Will said he enjoys Snapchat because it is an “easy way to communicate with friends,” while Google Chrome satisfies his curiosity because he can look up anything on the Internet.

According to a study by the Pew Research Center, 92 percent of teenagers admit they go online daily; 24 percent said they are online constantly. Some experts and millennials agree that although an increasing number of young people are using social media rather than interacting in person, they are not disconnected and building social relationships.

“I believe that teenagers are becoming more social — in new ways — as they become more engaged on social media,” said Elizabeth Larsen, a sociology professor at California University of Pennsylvania.

AOL Instant Messenger and SixDegrees.com were early social media chatting sites and only the beginning of a whole new virtual world that would attract generations to come. Today, people use various social media platforms, including apps, which are popular because they can be downloaded on any type of handheld device.

Jess Paterchak, 19, said she got her first cell phone at the age of 11 but would have preferred to receive it at an older age.

Several students said they got their first cell phones at 14 and agreed that was a reasonable age.

Emily Sweitzer, a sociology professor at California University of Pennsylvania, believes that seventh-graders are old enough to have their own cell phones.

“If I was perfectly honest, I would say 13 or 14, because at that age, they are more independent, and (cell phones) can be used as a safety protection,” she said.

She added that teens at that age are mature enough to know the consequences of abusing their privileges. But she said that all teenagers should be told about the dangers of having a personal cell phone.

According to a recent report conducted by TechCrunch, an online organization that reports on technology, the average age for a child getting their first smartphone is now 10.3 years.

Emely Juzman, 21, said that while hanging out with friends, she spends a good percentage of her time on her phone using social media.

“It is addicting, but I would be able to stop,” she said.

Paterchak said she spends an hour day on social media, which is low compared to most millennials. According to a November report by CNN, teens spend a “mind boggling” nine hours on social media a day.

“It is beneficial to take a balanced approach to the use of social media in your life,” Larsen said. “I have been concerned (about the overuse of media) since the 1980s, when I began to see people crowding in on each other to film a baptism or school play rather than just enjoying the moment.”

Sweitzer used the chairs in the story “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” to describe the amount of time spent on social media. It can’t be too hard, too soft, but just right.

“There has to be a happy medium,” she said.

Will said that he tries to keep aware of how much he is on his phone while around his friends. When his friends are mainly on their phones around him, “for the lack of better words, I feel ignored,” he said.

When asked whether they prefer to text or call their family and friends, texting was preferred over calling by several students.

Chris Frank, 21, would rather call his friends over texting because he said there is a real connection. Paterchak, on the other hand, said she would only call someone if the situation were urgent.

“There is still ambiguity when reading a text and perhaps there is misinterpretation,” said Beverly Ross, another sociology professor at California University of Pennsylvania, “As far as teens go, social media has the ability to take impulsive and attention-seeking behavior and leave permanent negative associations, (such as) sexting for one.”

Sweitzer said basic conversations,“consciously making oneself speak to or with others,” are important because excessive use of social media causes youths to develop poor personal and social skills.

“When teens enter the workforce, they have a difficult time because of (their) social skills,” Sweitzer said.

The experts all agree that many teenagers are missing out on precious moments because their eyes are glued to the screen of their phones.

“(Social media) does this for everyone, but specifically young people. As a professor, even though I ask that they not use their phones during class, it is a lost cause. The moment that they are missing is my message,” Ross said.

Larsen said people enjoy the advantages of social media and new ways of staying connected. “But I do worry a bit that we may be losing something of value.”

Park Named After Hill District Playwright

By Sydney Barlow | Urban Agenda

Vintage photographs by Tennie Harris – a breathtaking view and renovated playground – are among the highlights of the newly renovated August Wilson Park.

The park, formerly known as Cliffside Park, is renamed after Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson, a native of Pittsburgh’s Hill District. The park is at 1801 Cliff St., and a grand opening ceremony is scheduled for this weekend.

Quotes from Wilson’s plays will appear along the playground walls, along with many other renovations of the park.august wilson park 1

“New entrance, a new pathway that is completely accessible, new trees and native plants, basketball court, opportunity to see water run through the park, and an overlook,” says Terri Baltimore, vice president of neighborhood development at the Hill House Association.

Despite the renovations, the project was delayed for two main factors.

First, the project organizers dealt with an extensive water pipe leak while they were raising funds for the park, said Cheryl Hall-Russell, president and CEO of the Hill House Association.

Before the park’s opening, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority had to repair a leaking pipe under the playground that allowed water to drain over a cliff onto Bigelow Boulevard.

The second factor was fund-raising efforts. Eventually, the park received $1.3 million in donations from local foundations and state and private sources, said Baltimore.

“Fifty-thousand dollars of that money was specifically given to future maintenance of the park,” says Scott Roller, communications and creative senior manager of Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.

Two main organizations that raised the money were the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and the Hill House Association.

“The Hill House has been with the project since the beginning,” Baltimore says. The community agency held many meetings about the park.

“We played a big role in bringing community groups together,” said Hall-Russell.

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy was also an important contributor to the renovation of the park.
“We were the project lead in the re-imagining of the park in partnership with the city of Pittsburgh that involved raising funds and being the group that leads the design and construction,” says Roller of the conservancy.

With help from his agency and the Hill House Association, the park is expected to thrive.

“It will benefit the community in two ways: It is a brand new play place with beautiful amenities and it’s a beautiful place where Pittsburghers can come and discover what they do not know about the Hill,” says Baltimore.

The park will also create a safe environment for children and families and is handicapped-accessible.
“It’s a nice safe and fun spot,” said Hall-Russell.

“Everyone wanted that space to be fully accessible, which is aligned with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy views,” said Roller.

Neighborhood residents are also excited.

“ I am excited because it’s a park that is in our neighborhood for youth to go and socialize, it’s a safe environment for children to play and the park will have a family atmosphere,” said Vonda Little. “August Wilson has done so much for being African-American, so its important to remember people who meant so much to the Hill. It is important that we keep August Wilson’s name around for youth and the older population.”

Marsha Kenny, another Hill District resident, says, “ I am excited because its something new and nice for the kids, it’s somewhere for them to go.”

After many years of hard work and dedication, the park has become very meaningful to residents and project partners.

“To me, the park is an example of the beautiful spaces that are in the Hill,” says Baltimore. “Places like Cliffside Park will help people think of the Hill in a new light.”

Adds Roller: “Just seeing a community love their park space is so inspiring.”

After working on this project with the Hill community, the conservancy plans to help renovate many other smaller parks in other neighborhoods. “Arsenal Park, McNeilly Park, and Allegheny Commons Park are among those in the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy’s projects in the coming years,” says Roller.

The conservancy and Hill District organizers are inviting Hill District and other Pittsburgh residents for the grand opening’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“The Hill deserves to be celebrated by not just people in the Hill, but everyone,” said Baltimore.

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.”

Pittsburgh Actor Recounts Struggles, Successes on Stage

By Pretty Shongwe | Urban Agenda

The bright ceiling lights were flickering on and off in the small, chilly auditorium when a man with salt-and-pepper hair walked in carrying a brown paper Panera bag.

The visitor was Wali Jamal, an African-American actor, playwright and journalist. From the moment he began to speak to workshop students, everyone’s eyes were fixed on him. It wasn’t the way he dressed that made him so enchanting, but the way he danced around the stage and manipulated his voice to sound like various characters in a play. He didn’t have to say that actingWALI Jamal is his greatest passion — he showed it.

“If you love what you do, it’s not work,” he said with a soft smile.

During the interview, Jamal brilliantly slid into the skin of King Hedley from August Wilson’s play “Seven Guitars.” He glided confidently across the stage in a manner that suddenly had everyone sitting up and focusing on him.

He shared a monologue from the show, in which the Hedley tells a listener why his father gave him the name King. There was a tangible change in Jamal’s posture and voice when he began the piece, juxtaposing the pride and shame Hedley felt. Fully in character, the actor recounted the tale of jazz legend “King” Buddy Bolden and his beautiful trumpet-playing with wonder and passion, then went on to effortlessly express his anger, wounded honor and optimism.

Jamal talked about other productions in which he performed, such as vintage radio productions of “Night of the Living Dead” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Displaying a range of acting skills, he went from bursting into the voice of a squeaky 7-year-old boy to a nagging old man to the sound of a helicopter.

Lately, Jamal has been studying his lines for “Seven Guitars” by Wilson, one of his greatest inspirations. The tragicomedy, which won a Tony Award and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, will be performed at Wilson’s childhood home at 1727 Bedford Ave. in Pittsburgh.

Jamal has performed in nine of the 10 Wilson plays famously known as “The Pittsburgh Cycle.”

Jamal grew up in public housing and attended a Catholic elementary school on Pittsburgh’s South Side, where he was the only black student. Back at home, other black kids often told him he was trying to be white. It became a burden that weighed on his heart.

“Don’t worry about fitting in; worry about being successful,” he said. “Learn to speak English properly to become successful. Ignore people who say otherwise.”

Jamal said he has been acting for as long as he can remember. In the seventh grade, he took the first step in his career by starring in the play “The Invisible Man” by H.G Wells.

Growing up, some of his biggest inspirations were Martin Delaney, John Travolta and Wilson. Jamal met Wilson and did a read-through of Wilson’s play “Jitney.” At the read-through, Wilson gave him some advice that still helps him: “Write what you know, and what you don’t know, research.”

Early in his career, Jamal said, it was difficult finding someone like himself in theater. He described struggles as a black actor and how a lack of opportunity for diverse roles often limited him to roles such as slaves or butlers.

“Anyone black wakes up acknowledging their color,” he said.

He explained that the theater world’s affinity for classics and traditional works leaves very few roles for black people outside of black production companies, roles that often are stereotypical and demeaning. He somberly recounted a time he played Tom Robinson in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a role that “traumatized” him but was also a learning experience.

With the passage of time and more productions such as the award-winning musical “Hamilton,” he said, more non-stereotypical roles for black people have become available.

Because being a theatrical actor usually is not a job that can be solely relied on financially, Jamal also supports himself as a builder and electrician.

“Make sure you have something to depend on,” he advised. “Theater is a very fickle and cruel profession. You often spend more than you make.”

Asked why he remained in the profession, he jokingly replied: “Because I’m an idiot.”

Jamal writes plays and is seeking a grant for one, “Tookie’s Games.” Based on a true story, it’s about an Aliquippa martial arts master whose father challenges him to a battle to the death. When the man won the battle and kills his father, he is put on trial for murder. A black lawyer, George “Tookie” James, represented him in court and won the case.

Jamal also is in the process of republishing a book written in 1852 by Delaney titled “The Condition, Elevation, Emigration and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States Politically Considered.” It is about life for African-Americans during that time.

At the end of the interview, Jamal smiled broadly and thanked students for treating him “like someone important.” He then reached into the crumpled Panera bag and handed out fliers for his upcoming show.

(Taylor Szczepaniuk and Ahmari Anthony contributed to this report.)

Workshop Continues Training Students in Journalism After 33 Years

Jasmine Peterson | Urban Agenda

From the current students to alumni, the Frank Bolden Urban Journalism Workshop aims to leave participants feeling well prepared for careers in media — or anywhere else.

Founded in 1983, the weeklong program trains up to 30 high school students in all facets of web, newspaper, TV, radio and photography every summer.

For Keith Alexander, it prepared him for the career of his dreams, he said.   WORKSHOP story 1 (Brian Cook)

“It was incredible and life-changing,” said Alexander, 47, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for the Washington Post who attended the workshop in 1985, 1986 and 1987.

The Pittsburgh Black Media Federation sponsors the program, hosted at Point Park University. This year the workshop ran from July 30 to Aug. 6.

Students from all around the country spend the week at the workshop where they are taught what journalism is all about by instructors who are journalists themselves.

Penn Hills resident Kyle Smith, an 18-year-old web reporter in this summer’s workshop, said the experience was challenging.

“I never did articles before, and I never blogged before, but I think I can overcome it,” he said.

When asked if there was any advice to be given to current and future journalists, he responded, “Don’t get discouraged.”

This fall, Smith will be attending California University of Pennsylvania, where he will major in marketing.

Ahmari Anthony, a 17-year-old Homestead resident who attends Shady Side Academy, said being in the workshop’s newspaper section is helping her toward her college goals, which would ultimately lead to her career in journalism.

When asked why she chose to attend the workshop, Anthony responded, “I love writing.”

Her top two choices for college are Howard or Hampton University

The goal of the Frank Bolden Urban Journalism Workshop is to increase staffing diversity in media by inspiring students of color to pursue careers in media, according to the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation.

Anthony Carlisle, a workshop alumnus and volunteer, explained what the workshop was like for him when he attended in 1986.

“It was fun. We didn’t stay a whole week; it was every Saturday for the whole day. I would catch two buses to get there,” he said.

Carlisle, 48, always knew he wanted to be a writer, so he studied journalism at Cal U.

Carlisle remembers feeling “confidently comfortable” in his college classes, due to lessons learned during the workshop.

Carlisle, who has a doctorate in English literature, worked as a reporter for 11 years before becoming a professor at Cal U.workshop story 3_Emoni-2

Workshop alumnus Alexander was part of a Washington Post team that was awarded the Pulitzer Prize this year for its coverage of fatal police shootings.

He and his colleagues were the first news reporters to ever look at and cover police shootings with such in-depth analysis.

Because of the workshop, he was able to join the newspaper at Howard University as a freshman, which was unusual. He advised workshop students to take advantage of all opportunities in the program.

“Do as much as you can in the workshop. Don’t limit yourself to one expertise,” he said.

Another person with a long history with the program, and the students, is co-director Olga George. An assignment desk editor at KDKA, she started with the program after Chris Moore, co-director and founder of the workshop, came to KDKA telling her about the workshop and how he needed a little help in certain areas. From there, she fell in love with the workshop. That was 20 years ago.

When asked what she admired most about the program she responded, “It gives students a purpose. It’s not just about journalism. It has assisted in so many kids finding friendship, lasting friendship, support and sometimes themselves.”