ACH Clear Pathways purchases Kaufmann Center in Hill District

Additions to building begin in July

by Rob Taylor Jr.
Courier Staff Writer

Lawrence Butler is far from a household name.

In fact, as the organization ACH Clear Pathways celebrated its groundbreaking of a new addition to the Kaufmann Center, the building in the Hill District now owned by ACH Clear Pathways, Dr. Butler joked about his moment to speak to the crowd, sandwiched in between well-known local orators like state Rep. Jake Wheatley and City Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle.

LAWRENCE BUTLER, M.D.,
Amon C. Harris’ pediatrician.

But it was Butler who may have had the most memorable statements. After all, he knew Amon C. Harris intimately. He was Amon’s pediatrician.

“I can’t help sometimes but to think of the profound and deep sadness that Tyian experienced at the loss of that young life,” Dr. Butler said. “And other times I can’t help but reflect on the exhiliaration and the hope that the memory of his life and the dedication to this project brings.”

Amon C. Harris, who died in 2009 at age 7. “ACH” are Amon’s initials. (Photo by J.L. Martello)

The crowd that gathered to the left of the Hill House at lunch time, June 12, was all ears as Dr. Butler spoke. “At some point in time, Tyian took that very deep grief and she turned it into the fire that has become the inspiration for this project. Tyian Battle and this project, this building, this center for the arts, is a testimony that anything can happen.”

TYIAN BATTLE, executive director of ACH Clear Pathways.

Tyian Battle is from the Hill District, and in 2009, her son, Amon C. Harris, died at age 7 from a rare heart condition. Over the past decade, Battle has honored her late son’s memory by providing opportunities for local children in the Hill and surrounding areas.

Amon loved martial arts, Battle has said, and martial arts, along with theatre, acting, dance, music, poetry, etc., are offered to kids via ACH Clear Pathways.

The organization has operated out of spaces such as the Blakey Center and Ammon Recreation Center, but last summer, ACH Clear Pathways moved its offerings to the Kaufmann Center, next to the Hill House on Centre Avenue.

ACH CLEAR PATHWAYS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR TYIAN BATTLE and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto go with the “elbow bump,” following proper guidance pertaining to the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Courier photographer J.L. Martello)

Fast forward to June 12, after Allegheny County had moved into the “Green Phase” during the coronavirus pandemic, and more than 150 people came out to celebrate (with masks, of course) not only the fact that ACH Clear Pathways was able to purchase the Kaufmann Center, but that 2,500 square feet of space would be added to the center for a digital media studio and an art studio.

“When I first met Ty two years ago to discuss a project she was advocating in the Hill District, I was immediately impressed with her motivation. Her motivation was to build a community and a better life for the underserved youth up here and their families,” state Senator Wayne Fontana, another speaker, said at the event. “I was so encouraged by her enthusiasm and detailed planning of her mission that I was motivated.”

TYIAN BATTLE speaks, as a photo of her son, Amon C. Harris, is seen in front of the podium.

“In the midst of all of this craziness that we have going on in the world, God always shows us an example of his power,” opined Rep. Wheatley. He said Battle’s ability to take a “vision that really started out of pain and turn it into something that’s going to benefit so many other families and children, and then to take this historic institution (Kaufmann Center) and continue to repurpose it…that many of our families in this community can continue to utilize, that is a special jewel, that is something that only the Creator could have foreseen. It’s indicative of your (Battle’s) testimony. God is using you for a testimony for other people to follow.”

Construction on the new addition will begin on July 1, and is scheduled to be completed in late November.
Battle said ACH Clear Pathways announced in August 2019 a campaign to raise $5 million for the organization to purchase the center and maintain sustainability. They’ve raised $3 million, to the delight of Battle, but she acknowledged that the fundraising efforts aren’t over. ACH Clear Pathways wants to raise the remaining $2 million, ensuring the organization’s ability to provide the necessary services for the mostly-Black youth in the Hill for years to come. Details on how to contribute, Battle said, would be on the organization’s website,
www.achclearpathways.org.

“The Hill is a very special place in the City of Pittsburgh and I don’t want to stop here,” Battle told the crowd.
Other political dignitaries that attended and spoke at the event included Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, who said that he loved “everything about this project,” particularly how, in the face of the Hill House Association dissolving in 2019 and the Kaufmann Center’s future in limbo at the time, “we found a way from within to be able to save it,” Peduto said.

But even before Pittsburgh’s mayor knew Battle, or before ACH Clear Pathways was ever formed, Dr. Butler was there, front-and-center with Amon, the boy whose life made it possible for all that’s been achieved in his namesake by his mother, Tyian Battle.

“This center is a reason for optimism,” Dr. Butler said at the event. “We must show our young people that there are many of us who refuse to be enemies. We refuse to let the actions of a few dictate how we conduct our lives with the many. Remind ourselves that even though bad things happen around us, we have to look for the good things and the people around us. ACH Clear Pathways, this project, this building, this center for the arts is a beacon here for the optimism that we need to share with our young people.
“I believe Amon is smiling down on this event today, beaming with pride with what his mother has accomplished, excited about the possibilities the kids will get at this center.”

The crowd listened intently as Dr. Butler continued. “You know, none of us can ever know exactly why somebody dies. Doctors and scientists sometimes later on can tell us how someone died. But no one knows exactly why someone died. Only God knows. But sometimes as time goes on, it becomes obvious why someone lived, and I think it’s obvious why Amon C. Harris lived. He lived because he became an example and an inspiration to his mother, to this community, to this city, and to this project. ACH. Amon C. Harris. Anything Can Happen.”

FEATURED IMAGE: A GROUNDBREAKING CEREMONY was held, June 12, at the Kaufmann Center in the Hill District. The occasion was to celebrate ACH Clear Pathways purchasing the center, and also to celebrate the amenities that will be added to the center. (Photo by Courier photographer J.L. Martello)

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