MAYOR ED GAINEY
“Everybody’s looking for someone to blame. Look in the mirror, and if you want to change the game, change self.”
Nearly 20 homicides in Allegheny County already this year
A 15-year-old just leaving school at Oliver Citywide Academy on the North Side, gunned down while in a school van in broad daylight.
A 28-year-old just leaving work in Bellevue, gunned down in a domestic dispute minutes before she was to board a Port Authority bus.
An 18-year-old, a 25-year-old, in a car in Homestead, when shots are fired, killing both.
Unfortunately, as common as the sun rises and sets, there is gun violence in the Pittsburgh-area’s Black communities. It’s become so prevalent that oftentimes, the sound of a gunshot fazes no one; it is merely part of the sounds of the outdoors, mixed in with the sound of traffic, construction work, emergency air horns or the chirps of a bird.
In cities nationwide with African American mayors, that person alone cannot stop the violence in their cities, nor should the blame be placed solely on them. For the first time, Pittsburgh has a Black mayor, Ed Gainey, and while he should not be tasked with stopping gun violence in the Steel City alone, either, he knows it’s a topic that must be addressed—by him.
On Feb. 11, the South Pittsburgh Coalition For Peace held a citywide prayer vigil, where a variety of people spoke on the continuous gun violence plaguing the community. Mayor Gainey, for his part, outlined a three-part message addressing the shootings happening in the region, and he let it all hang out
JASON CHAVIS, top, pictured with his father, and AMARI MITCHELL. Both were shot and killed in a triple shooting that occurred in Homestead on Feb. 24. Mitchell died a few days after the shooting. Police are still searching for those responsible for the killings.
“The first thing is that there’s nobody coming in our neighborhoods to stop the violence except for the ones who live in the neighborhood,” Mayor Gainey said. “If we are going to stop the violence in our neighborhood, it’s not going to be because Downtown, an elected body or anybody else is coming into our community. It’s because we do what we do every day. See, we greet each other in love, but we gotta stop greeting and make love the action that says, ‘I’m going to show you how much I love you by uplifting you and not keeping it a secret if I know what’s going on,’ but to be protective and save each other’s life because if we’re not into the business of saving each other, then there is no healing. The only ones that can heal us is us.”
Mayor Gainey continued: “They can bring the guns in, but that doesn’t mean we have to use the guns. We look for everybody else to come in here and save us. But let me be real about why that will never happen; because we have always been the ones to save us.”
The mayor then discussed that if one understands the history of African Americans, one would understand how much the race has overcome, from slavery, to discrimination and racism, to Jim Crow laws, to what Mayor Gainey referred to as an unjust criminal justice system, but still getting a Black president in office Barack Obama in a country that’s just 12 percent Black.
“You are the answer,” Mayor Gainey exclaimed. “No one can save our kids but us. You want to stop this killing, don’t look around, look inside.”
The final part of Mayor Gainey’s message focused on the actual streets in Black communities.
“The reason why were losing our kids is because of the corner,” he said. “These kids are out here looking for love, and when they look for love, they’re not coming through these (church) doors. We only deal with the people that come through our doors; the corner accepts everybody and the ones on the corner are not my faith-based institutions.”
Mayor Gainey, speaking at Lighthouse Cathedral Church on the South Side where the prayer rally was held, continued: “If that child is hungry and they’re standing on the corner, it’s that gentlemen that has bad intentions for them that’s coming up and saying, “Are you hungry?’ I know this because I’ve been there. ‘Are you hungry? Here’s five, six dollars, go get you something to eat.’ You know what that child’s going to do? Go back to that corner,” Mayor Gainey said, and that’s when the person with bad intentions offers the youth a chance to “make some money.” Mayor Gainey said that’s how some youth end up in fast-money situations that could result in more dangerous crimes and even death.
“How can we let the corner be run by anyone other than those that claim to have the faith of Christ?” Mayor Gainey said. “…Someone knows what’s happening in these killings. We look to Downtown, ‘Please solve it, please solve it,’ but we won’t cooperate. But you’ll hug a mother who lost a child and say, ‘I feel for you.’ How do you feel for me if you aren’t answering the call for my child? It’s time for us to step up. The healing begins with you, not the police, not Downtown, not the DA.”
The first two months of Mayor Gainey’s tenure as Pittsburgh mayor have seen eight homicides. There were 55 homicides in 2021, Bill Peduto’s final year as Pittsburgh mayor, four more than the 51 in 2020. It seems like eons ago that Pittsburgh Police officials were touting a drop in city homicides to 37 in 2019. Pittsburgh is on pace to have around 50 homicides in 2022. The vast majority of homicide victims in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County are African Americans, although Blacks account for just 14 percent of the county
Mayor Gainey, who was born and raised in Pittsburgh, concluded his message with: “Everybody’s looking for someone to blame. Look in the mirror, and if you want to change the game, change self.”