‘A Force for Change: Esther Bush and the Urban League’ to air on WQED-TV


On Thursday evening, June 30, at 8 p.m., WQED-TV will premiere a half-hour program on who many in the Pittsburgh region and nationally call a tireless advocate for civil rights.

Even better, she’s a Pittsburgher. A proud graduate of Westinghouse High School, who spent the final 27 years of her professional career making the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh into one of the top chapters in America.

“A Force for Change: Esther Bush and the Urban League” will take viewers back to Bush’s early days as a youth in Pittsburgh, after her family moved to the Steel City from Alabama. It chronicles Bush’s fight to better her African American community, from high school teacher to college administrator, to the Urban League in New York City, Hartford, and finally, Pittsburgh.

“When Esther Bush was a little girl, she saw the world as a place filled with possibilities. The way she saw it, we should all have the same rights and opportunities to be whom and what she wanted to be. It was that belief that inspired Esther to join the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh and become a force for change,” said WQED-TV marketing communications manager Delaney Healey, in a release announcing the Bush documentary.

Minette Seate, lead producer of the Bush doc umentary, told the New Pittsburgh Courier in an exclusive interview, June 27, that she often pitches ideas to profile African Americans to WQED management. Though now retired, Bush is a person, a figure whose life and career accomplishments couldn’t be summed up in a “digital short documentary” that would live, say, just on the  website. Seate and other producers agreed that an entire half-hour should be dedicated to the trailblazer, and it would air on WQED-TV.

To offset the cost of the documentary, major underwriting support was provided by PITT OHIO and UPMC, and also by Howard Hanna Real Estate Services, PPG, First National Bank, The Diocese of Pittsburgh, Koppers, Eckert Seamans, Urban Academy of Greater Pittsburgh, and Verizon.

“There were so many aspects of her personality,” Seate told the Courier. “The breadth of her commitment and how many years she spent working for the Urban League in various cities, and how many people she’d helped, I wasn’t aware of all those details.”

Bush shared with Seate her many photo albums, yearbook, “and stories of the people that she met who influenced her, and she, in turn, influenced…it was really a big learning experience and something grateful for her to share with me,” Seate said.

The documentary will explore the many relationships that Bush built as leader of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh. The Urban League proudly stands at the intersection of Pittsburgh’s corporate sector and Pittsburgh’s community outreach sphere. Bush was able to weave the two entities together to improve life for Black Pittsburghers.

But in true Esther Bush fashion, her work was never “done.” In the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh’s annual “State of Black Pittsburgh” program which airs on WQED, Bush was always championing the improvements that Black Pittsburgh was making, while still calling out the corporate community for not doing more to achieve true equity for African Americans in town.

Seate said the documentary spotlights Bush’s relationships with Pittsburgh prominent African Americans like Tim Stevens (of the Black Political Empowerment Project), Peggy Harris (of Three Rivers Youth), and Evan Frazier (formerly of Highmark, now of The Advanced Leadership Institute). “They all had these great stories to share about (their) experiences with Esther,” Seate said.

“Esther is a remarkable woman,” Seate said, as part of the WQED release. “Hers is a perfect example of just one of the many great stories of people who’ve done so much to make Pittsburgh a better place. And having the chance to help share those stories is an opportunity that’s just too good to pass up.”

(Editor’s note: A link to the Esther Bush documentary can be found at wqed.com/estherbush)



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