Pittsburgh Gets Real

Impactful 2020 included widespread calls for social justice

PITTSBURGH — The seas of change could be seen nationwide throughout 2020, including on Pittsburgh’s streets as protests erupted following the death of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. Those protests came just two months after the death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky.

“Those deaths, and the others that became national, added an urgency,” said Tim Stevens with the Black Political Empowerment Project.

Stevens found BPEP in 1986, but said it wasn’t until 2020 when he saw change really begin to take hold.

“The passion in the streets, I think, gave additional urgency to the Peduto administration to look at what we had already been proposing,” he said.

We are getting real about the important issues in our communities – from racism to housing and healthcare inequities to policing reforms. We bring you stories that tackle the tough issues and give a voice to the often marginalized voices in our city.

Stevens held a news conference to highlight commitments the city made related to police reform, including what some see as bias in the bureau and the increased recruitment of Black officers.

It wasn’t just the Black community where calls for social justice took place. Monica Ruiz is the executive director of Casa San Jose, a non-profit in Beechview working with Pittsburgh’s Latino community.

“They want affordable housing. They want good schools. They want to live in safe neighborhoods. They don’t want to be harassed by the police. Once we were able to tie some of those things together, we were able to work with other groups to demand those things as well,” Ruiz said.

She said the COVID-19 restrictions on small businesses and restaurants is having a major impact on the people she helps. But she hopes a renewed collaboration among activists will lead to more change.

Both Stevens and Ruiz served together on Mayor Bill Peduto’s Police Reform Task Force and said they plan to meet again to discuss more changes that can be made.