“BROTHA ASH” WOODSON, CENTER, WITH REV. GLENN GRAYSON SR. AND FORMER PITT BASKETBALL STAR DARRELLE PORTER (PHOTOS BY ROB TAYLOR JR.)
Celebration for ‘Brotha Ash’ turns into a celebration for others
There’s an old saying that reverberates around town…
If you’ve gone out to a party, nightclub or event in Pittsburgh in the last 20 years, there’s a good chance that “Brotha Ash” has taken your picture.
Ashley Woodson is his legal name, and documenting Pittsburgh’s African American entertainment scene has been his game since 2001 through his company, “Brotha Ash Productions.”
Woodson, who also is a part of the New Pittsburgh Courier’s freelance writing team and spent years covering entertainment for the Courier’s “Out and About” page, was recently recognized for 20 years of service in Pittsburgh during an event at Blaqk House Collections, Downtown. A crowd of about 100 of his closest supporters cheered Woodson on as a proclamation from Allegheny County Chief Executive Rich Fitzgerald was read by Rev. Glenn Grayson Sr., pastor of Wesley Center AME Zion Church.
“I want people to know that his heart is golden,” Rev. Grayson told the Courier exclusively about Woodson. “He’s very passionate about everything he touches and so I’ve grown to just respect his consistency of his heart, spirit; he’s all in and he’s a survivor, he’s inspiring and just good people.”
GRACE KIZZIE, WITH HER BROTHER, ASHLEY WOODSON
Woodson’s been there to capture Pittsburghers having fun with Pittsburgh’s own Wiz Khalifa, former Steeler Willie Parker, the opening of the August Wilson African American Cultural Center, R&B legends Howard Hewett and Lenny Williams, and R&B singers Monica and Al B. Sure.
He’s captured numerous moments from Hill District establishments like Tim’s Bar and Black Beauty Lounge. He’s captured many African American parades in Pittsburgh, funerals of prominent Black figures, and, in recent years, had exclusive interviews with newsmakers like Dannielle Brown, the mother of Marquis Jaylen Brown, the Duquesne University football player who fell to his death from a dorm room in 2018.
But, in a twist, when it was time for Woodson to take center stage at the event after the proclamation was read, Woodson began giving out awards to others. One award went to B. Marshall and Margo Doss for their contributions to Pittsburgh’s Black entertainment scene, as they are responsible for, among other things, the annual Juneteenth celebration at Point State Park. Another award went to Lee Davis, who continuously strives to uplift Black males in Pittsburgh. Charles Pitts-Bonner also received an award, as he is a local youth community leader. And he couldn’t forget about his sister, Grace Kizzie, who was given an award, as well.
B. MARSHALL, ASHLEY WOODSON, MARGO DOSS
“There’s some people who receive, there are other people who giveth,” Rev. Grayson said. “His (Woodson’s) love language is to give.”
“My brother will literally give you the shirt off his back if you need it,” added Kizzie. “He says I’ve been there for him but he’s also been there for me.”
Woodson, wearing a red sportcoat and red hat with a cross on his necklace, shed tears before he spoke to the crowd. What could have been going through his mind? His humble beginnings being born in East Liberty, then moving to the Hill District, making a few dollars here and there in his youth as part of the mini-globe steppers at Herron Hill? Or his solo act in high school, dancing as Michael Jackson, as many have witnessed? Was it everything he had to endure following the death of his mother when he was only 12 years old? Was it his service in the U.S. Army, and then returning to Pittsburgh, “starting all over,” as he called it, but finding a new calling when staff at the Bidwell Training Center asked him, “what do you want to do with your life?”
Being from the Hill District, Woodson said he always wanted to showcase African Americans who may not get coverage from more mainstream media outlets.
“I grew up in the ‘hood, and I’ve seen talented brothers and sisters who have a gift, whether it’s poetry, singing, dancing, acting, sports…that’s not being represented,” Woodson told the Courier. “I wanted to represent them.”
CHARLES DAYMAR PITTS-BONNER, ASHLEY WOODSON
After the tears, Woodson collected himself. He grabbed the microphone and thanked everyone for “20 years of support,” adding that he’ll still be going strong, covering Pittsburgh’s Black community, no matter the neighborhood.
“God is awesome,” Woodson said. “I’ve been through hell and back again, but by the grace of God I’m still standing here.”