Just Sayin’ …Connie Parker, Geri Allen helped make Pittsburgh a better place (Ulish Carter's Column Aug. 9, 2017)


I was really sad to read about Connie Parker’s death in last week’s Courier (Aug. 2). She wasn’t able to accomplish all she wanted to but she gave it an all-out effort.
Connie was one of those people who was deeply concerned and committed about the overall living conditions of Black people, but because she wasn’t a great speaker and a modest person, she served in the background most of her 25 years with the Pittsburgh NAACP.
Even though her death was a shock, it wasn’t unexpected because of the strokes and other health and physical problems as a result. But she hung in there to the very end, fighting for Black people’s rights.
She often complained about the lack of participation by the youth, not only with the NAACP, but with all organizations and groups fighting for our rights. When she took over as president in 2012, getting youth involved was her primary goal, but her health and the lack of interest in the NAACP by youth blocked her path.
However, she was already fighting an uphill battle because of the national NAACP’s lack of leadership. The national chapter has done nothing the last several years to attract the attention of older people, let alone young people in any walk of life. The last big effort was by Ben Jealous, national president, asking people to march to Washington D.C. to protest conditions of the Black masses. People are tired of marching —give them something concrete to do to better conditions for the masses of Blacks which is getting worse. The local branches could be a whole lot more effective if they had some kind of guidance and money from the national.
My suggestion to the local and national chapters is, find out what the number one problem is facing Blacks today. I will give you a hint. It’s employment.
We either don’t have jobs, or our pay is entry level, making it a necessity to have two jobs or more in the household to make ends meet. And if President Trump and the conservatives have their way it will be the first one, lack of job opportunities. They are already beginning to challenge affirmative action and diversity in the colleges and then they’ll target businesses.
The NAACP, Urban League and any other groups or organizations in Pittsburgh or nationally that are concerned about Black employment should create an employment office that works directly with the local and national businesses as well as government—city, county, state and federal—to assist people in finding jobs. And I’m not talking about just manual construction jobs, because there’s a lot of college graduates who can’t find decent jobs.
Someone needs to take a close look at the city, county, state, federal, as well as private businesses.
More could be done in one month in finding Black folks jobs, and finding where the jobs are, than a year of marching and protesting.
Hopefully someone with Connie’s determination and commitment to the Black community will not only take her place in Pittsburgh, but also the national branch of the NAACP, because no matter how committed they are, unless something changes at the national level, it will be hard to accomplish anything at the local level.
My condolences also go out to Geri Allen’s family and friends. I really didn’t know her personally very well but I did talk to her every year leading into the jazz seminar/concert.
Having covered the very first Pitt Jazz Seminar/Concert by Professor Nathan Davis in 1973, I made sure the Courier covered all the preceding events and got as many features as we could of the nationally-known jazz artists he brought in. I thought it was going to drop off once he retired in 2012 but it didn’t skip a beat with Allen taking over in 2013. She did a brilliant job. It’s going to be hard to replace her.
“She embedded her presence in the Pittsburgh Jazz community in the very short time she was with us and will be remembered by all who were fortunate to have known her in one way or another from students, colleagues and community,” said Nelson Harrison of the Pittsburgh Jazz Network to the Courier in a July article. You can find the article on www.newpittsburghcourier.com, reporter Denise Johnson wrote an excellent piece.
(Ulish Carter is the former managing editor of the New Pittsburgh Courier.)
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