An open letter to mayoral candidates Luke Ravenstahl and Bill Peduto:
I'm young, gifted and black. Why should I vote for you? What do you have to offer me?
You both have track records, but what have you done for me lately? I'm young, gifted and black, and there's one thing I know about most candidates in Pittsburgh: They must not know about me.
You say you represent me. But let's make it plain:
Most of the folks in my community live paycheck-to-paycheck and ride public transit to work and school. What are you going to do about the Port Authority's crisis before you take the mayor's office next year? (You are both in office right now!) Or must we be a sports team to get your attention?
What are you going to do to ensure that black people don't get exploited when Wal-Mart arrives in the East End? We've all heard stories about Wal-Mart's horrible employee relations. We all (should) know that Wal-Mart is facing the biggest corporate lawsuit in the history of sexism.
What are you going to do to make sure the New Granada Theatre, in the Hill District, is rebuilt immediately? As in, yesterday?
What are you going to do to make sure gentrification does not happen, and that every neighborhood doesn't have to change its name -- like East Side and North Shore -- just because white and/or rich folks want to live in the city again? And if you plan to do nothing, what will we rename Downtown once all the condos are built?
What are you going to do to ensure that, whether a citizen is disorderly or not, it will never be acceptable for a police officer to put a gun to a little girl's face?
What are you going to do to make sure the graduating class of the police academy is never again all white, and that each class actually reflects the ethnic makeup of the city?
We have a 50 percent black high school dropout rate, and a ridiculous homicide rate among black boys barely old enough to have a wet dream. What do you have to offer to the Pittsburgh Public School system? Would you push for the creation of an all-black-male city high school? (Since we're into comparing cities for arena deals and gambling opportunities, note that a school designed solely for black males worked tremendously in Milwaukee.)
You're not running for the school board. But really, if you all don't care enough about black life (or death) to declare a state of emergency in the public safety and school systems, we can find some people who do.
These issues are as much about race, class and gender as they are about the race, in which everyone is clamoring to prove how much they represent us.
I'm looking for the progressive Pittsburghers who are tired of racism, and who are not afraid to acknowledge that it still exists right here in this city.
I'm looking for the sisters in Pittsburgh who are tired of the absence of women in decision-making positions, and on boards that are not nonprofit organizations.
I'm looking for my South Asian, Latino and African brothers and sisters who are tired of the isolation of immigrant communities here. I'm looking for the citizens who are tired of our well-being and public services being sloshed off ... while promises of gambling revenue fill our ears but not our coffers, and cause more problems than solutions.
Many of us might be more willing to pay our taxes -- or even have them increased -- if it actually meant an increase in the public good. We need to see some results.
I am looking for the people who are going to get up in some folks' faces. And I am personally looking for all of the people who are ready to shift our collective history in another direction -- to vote. Vote people in, vote people out. No one is irreplaceable.
Many of us are young, intelligent and ready to rumble. We are not going to sit by and watch the city repeat mistakes from its past. So what will be our measure of those running for office this year?
And what, candidates for mayor, do you have to offer us?
Dr. Goddess says: Thou shalt not "ever, for a second, get to thinkin' you're irreplaceable."