Divisiveness in country‘at a level I’ve never seen,’says B-PEP’s Stevens
by Rob Taylor Jr.
Courier Staff Writer
President Donald Trump, during a recent bevy of remarks, called the upcoming November Presidential Election the “most important election in the history of our country.”
And on Thursday, Sept. 3, nearly 50 local organizations came together on Wylie Avenue and Kirkpatrick Street in the Hill District, feverishly urging Pittsburgh’s Black community to vote in the upcoming election, Nov. 3. Problem for Trump is, the more that Pittsburgh’s Black community turns out to vote in the upcoming election, the better the chances are that Trump could lose Pennsylvania, making way for Democrat Joe Biden to become the next U.S. president.
“This election is pivotal,” said Tim Stevens, Chairman and CEO of the Black Political Empowerment Project, the organization that hosted the unified press conference at Wylie and Kirkpatrick. “The divisiveness in this country is at a level I’ve never seen. And it’s troubling, it’s sad, and people need to look at that. Is this the direction that we want to continue in as a nation? If it is, keep moving. If it isn’t, move in a different direction.”
CELESTE TAYLOR, WITH B-PEP
You name the organization, and they are involved in the “Campaign For Power,” urging Black residents to vote: The Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh; Pittsburgh NAACP; YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh; Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh; Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.; Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.; South Pittsburgh Coalition for Peace; League of Women Voters; Pittsburgh Chapter of the Links; the Voter Empowerment Education and Enrichment Movement; and many more.
Take a look at the Port Authority Buses rolling around town; 20 of them are sporting a B-PEP banner urging people to apply for a mail-in ballot now, or vote at their usual polling location on Nov. 3. Unlike the June Primary Election, Allegheny County will have all of its usual polling locations open for the Nov. 3 General Election.
And beginning Oct. 1, there will be 17 billboards plastered high in the sky in Pittsburgh and Wilkinsburg, with the same information from B-PEP.
THIS BANNER is already on the sides of Port Authority buses around town, and beginning in October, will be on 17 billboards across the city. (Photos by Courier photographer J.L. Martello)
“We don’t want anyone to wake up (after the election) and not feel that they did what they needed to do to get into office who they wanted elected,” Stevens told the New Pittsburgh Courier in an exclusive interview. “If they like what’s going on, put him (Trump) back; if you don’t like what’s going on, you take him out. But we have to be in the polling place to make our decisions, individually and collectively.”
Across the U.S., 750,000 fewer African Americans voted in the 2016 Presidential Election than in 2012, when Barack Obama was re-elected. Why did less African Americans vote in 2016 than 2012? Was it because there wasn’t a Black candidate for president? Did Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, not appeal enough to Black voters?
“Is this the direction that we want to continue in as a nation? … If it isn’t, move in a different direction.”
CHAIRMAN AND CEO, B-PEP
No matter the reason, most African Americans are unhappy with Trump as president. National polls suggest that 83 percent of Blacks favor Biden, and just 8 percent favor Trump. African Americans have watched Trump criticize iconic civil rights figures like the late John Lewis, and rebel against Colin Kaepernick, the NFL player who originally took a knee during the national anthem to protest racial injustice.
WILLIAM ANDERSON, with B-PEP
African Americans have watched Trump seemingly side with police over police brutality against Blacks; they’ve watched Trump visit Kenosha, Wisconsin, to see the damage rioters caused, but didn’t meet with the family of Jacob Blake, the Kenosha Black resident who was shot seven times by a White police officer on Aug. 23.
ESTHER BUSH, President and CEO of The Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh.
Many of the speakers who represented local organizations at the Hill District press conference stayed non-partisan, including Stevens. But Stevens did tell the Courier: “What’s at stake for the Black community is so drastic in terms of the whole direction (of the country). How many Supreme Court rulings have been 5 to 4 (vote)? And the courts have been going in a certain direction, so if people don’t like that direction, they need to correct it.”
Stevens added: “The whole direction of the country and the priorities of government are determined, to some degree, by the president and their administration. That’s just the way it is.”
MOMS DEMAND ACTION, one of the many organizations collaborating to urge African Americans to vote in not just the Nov. 3 Presidential Election, but all elections.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, residents are being urged to mail their ballots in rather than going to the polls in-person. Many Allegheny County residents applied for a mail-in ballot for the Primary Election in June, and voted in that manner. However, for the upcoming General Election, you must apply again to receive the new ballot, which is for the Nov. 3 election. To apply online for a General Election ballot, visit alleghenyvotes.com. To download and print out a paper copy of the mail-in ballot application, you can also visit alleghenyvotes.com, and then send the application via the regular mail. If you’d like to apply in-person for a mail-in ballot, visit the County Elections Office at 542 Forbes Avenue, weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. The deadline for all mail-in ballot applications to be received by the County Elections Office is Oct. 27. The deadline for all completed mail-in ballots is 8 p.m. on Nov. 3. Officials are urging residents not to wait until the last minute to apply for a ballot or in mailing their completed ballot.
“There’s a drastic difference in the philosophy, the style, the orientation at the top of both tickets,” Stevens told the Courier, referring to Trump, the Republican incumbent, and Biden, the Democratic contender. “Very different approaches to government, very different approaches to interacting with its citizenry…the pandemic…on race…this is a pivotal moment.”
TIM STEVENS, Chairman and CEO of the Black Political Empowerment Project, wants Black residents to vote in the upcoming General Election, Nov. 3; and better yet, vote in every election. (Photos by J.L. Martello)