The Community Empowerment Association made a stop in Duquesne Nov. 20 along their nonviolence tour that has hosted emergency town hall meetings in several neighborhoods in greater Pittsburgh.

"The purpose of this meeting is to develop a pledge between city/county officials, community leaders, faith-based organizations, schools, colleges, businesses, fraternities, sororities and community citizens to work together to develop a citywide prevention/intervention plan to reduce violence in our communities," said CEA founder Rashad Byrdsong.

Though no concrete pledge was developed, Byrdsong and members of the community engaged in what he called "a kitchen table discussion", with each participant pledging to dedicate themselves to the task of curbing violence.

"Collectively, as a community, we have to take ownership of these kids dying in the streets," Byrdsong said. "So part of this, brothers and sisters, is to sit down and develop some dialogue."

Several people said the church was not doing its part to stop the violence. CEA outreach coordinator Lee Davis said that although the church is working with children, the children they should be working with are not in the church.

Some people said they sent letters about the emergency meeting to several churches, but no church leaders attended. Al Good of the Duquesne Men's Ministry said the problem with the churches was that they do not want to join with each other.

"The churches aren't doing the job. The churches are not out in the street talking to these young men and women," Good said. The churches want to be separate entities, but they are not. We need to come together."

This sentiment extended beyond the churches to the various community organizations as well as neighborhoods in the greater Pittsburgh area.

"Are we that much different that we can't come together as a community, as river towns and realize that there is a huge problem?" asked Marcel Smith. "It's happening everywhere, not just here in Duquesne. We all are interconnected."

Smith highlighted the statistic that three out of five Black men will be incarcerated in their lifetime by having five young men in the back of the room stand and then having three sit down.

"Look at the three out of five. Put a face on it and ask yourselves, are these things happening in my community?" Smith said. "You know how the enemy is attacking us? It's taking away our future, that three out of five."

One of these young men, Rashaun Jones emphasized the important role family plays in a young man's life. Jones pointed to the shooting of one of his Mends by the young man's father as an example of a lack of family support.

"I think a lot of support should come from the family and the mothers and fathers," Jones said. "I feel like I don't have a lot of support from my mom or dad either."

In pledging support of CEA, everyone said that the next step was to put the talk into action. They agreed they must get all levels of the community involved.

"You can't have a meeting and then go home and say, 'well, I went to a meeting,' There has to be an' after the meeting in terms of what you're gonna do and how you're gonna do it," Ronald Bennet said. "It's going to take some time in order to galvanize resources. The city officials are not here, the school board people are not here and they are going to have to be brought to the table."

New Pittsburgh Courier

November 26, 2008

by Nutall,Rebecca
Courier Staff Writer

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