‘Military Tribute Banner Program’ honors local African Americans who served their country
by Rob Taylor Jr.
Courier Staff Writer
No matter if you’re driving up Centre Avenue or driving down Centre in the Hill District, you’re sure to see Pittsburgh’s Black Veterans, illuminating the Hill from Herron to the Hill House.
In towns like Munhall, Sharpsburg and Etna, banners flying on light poles saluting local mostly-White military heroes have become the norm. Now, the Hill District has the same aerial texture, only with African American military heroes.
The local organization No Hero Left Behind spearheaded the efforts of the more than 30 banners of Black Veterans the New Pittsburgh Courier counted along Centre Avenue. No Hero Left Behind’s partners in the project were the Honorable Edna Council & Family, the Hill District Consensus Group, I Am So Hill Committee, Holly Douglas, Neighborhood Allies, A1 Business Center, New Voices Pittsburgh, Rug Lab, Airborne Promotions, and the Pittsburgh NAACP.
Dubbed the “No Hero Left Behind Military Tribute Banner Program,” the plan is to have the banners fly in the Hill District until Veterans Day, celebrated on Nov. 11. In 2021, the program is hopeful in extending to communities like Homewood, Garfield, Beltzhoover, the North Side and Wilkinsburg.
THE BANNER OF ERIC HOWZE, an Army Veteran and co-founder of No Hero Left Behind, on Centre and Kirkpatrick in the Hill District. (Photos by Courier photographer J.L. Martello)
“The Military Tribute Banners are a small way we can acknowledge the sacrifice many of our neighbors have made serving our community and our country,” Christina Flewellen-Howze, co-founder of No Hero Left Behind, said in a statement. “Our local veterans and active duty service members are our true heroes, and this program allows Pittsburgh to proudly honor them all representing a new image contradictory to social perceptions throughout the region.”
Flewellen-Howze co-founded No Hero Left Behind with her husband, Eric Howze. Both are Post 9/11 Military Veterans. Eric Howze’s story is well-documented, experiencing extended periods of homelessness after serving in the military, before turning the obstacles into opportunities, and now giving back to homeless veterans and making sure Black Veterans in Pittsburgh are appreciated for their service to the country.
When one heads into the Hill District on Centre Avenue from the Oakland/Shadyside area, you’ll notice the banners of Black Veterans Myron Little and Mager Ely Sr., near the historic Lavelle Real Estate offices on Centre and Herron avenues. A little further up are the banners of Andre Patterson and Craig Williams Sr. The banners continue along Centre, as you’ll find Eric Howze’s banner on the corner of Centre Ave. and Kirkpatrick St., across from the Carnegie Library. A bit further up is the banner of Christina Flewellen-Howze. The banners end near the Hill House Building, with Terrence Bennett. Interspersed between Herron and the Hill House are the banners of Michaella Holts, Jeremy Pugh, Louise Walker, James Ballard, Saloam Bey, Edward Sneed, Gail Manker, and others.
Manker, a freelance photographer for the New Pittsburgh Courier, served six years in the Army beginning in 1980. She learned photography while in the Army—“84 B,” as she was known. She spent two years at the U.S. Army post Camp Zama, in Japan, three years at Fort McClellan, in Alabama, and a stint at Fort Bragg, in North Carolina. After the Army, she later moved to Pittsburgh.
She told the Courier that during her time in the Army, it was “peacetime,” during the Cold War, but Manker was well aware that at any time, she could be called overseas.
“You didn’t live with fear,” Manker told the Courier. But Manker and her colleagues were always prepared for anything.
The demographics of the U.S. Military have been diversifying. In 2004, minorities made up 36 percent of the active duty forces. Fast forward to 2017, and that percent has increased to 43. In 2017, African Americans made up 51 percent of all minorities on active duty, and 16 percent of all active duty forces. With roughly 1.3 million current active duty military forces, Blacks account for about 208,000.
Christina Flewellen-Howze, co-founder of No Hero Left Behind: “Our local veterans and active duty service members are our true heroes, and this program allows Pittsburgh to proudly honor them all representing a new image contradictory to social perceptions throughout the region.”
Jeremy Pugh and Michaella Holts are two of the more than 30 Black Veterans featured on military tribute banners in the Hill District. (Photos of the banners by J.L. Martello)