Our Response to Mayor Ravenstahl

Statement from Ravenstahl in response to Our Demands:

“Now is a time of intense reflection in America and I understand many of the emotions that have flooded our hearts and minds over the past week. Tragic gun violence, nationally or locally, is something that we are all too familiar with and we need to take this time to ask ourselves what we can do to stop this pain that plagues our communities.

To those who wish to demonstrate, I have heard and read your concerns. I wholeheartedly believe in the right to peaceful assembly, however that does not give anyone the right to damage private property and to frighten people’s young children.

I want to stress that we have done much to address many of the points raised — increased hiring opportunities for our residents, made college more attainable and affordable with the Pittsburgh Promise, invested millions of dollars and leveraged funding to revitalize our neighborhoods, and worked with law enforcement to decrease crime across the city. There is still so much more to be done. I ask the residents of our city to continue the dialogue and to work with us as we strive to ensure that Pittsburgh is America’s Most Livable city for all of our families.”

Pittsburgh for Trayvon Responds:

Dear Mayor Ravenstahl,

Your actions and statement have made it clear that you are more interested in deflecting responsibility than actually addressing the issues we have presented to you. Allegedly testing our letter for poison and giving false reports about the destruction of private property are all intentional distractions from the real threat: white supremacy, institutional oppression and racialized violence. These actions mirror the very dynamics that led to the murder of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of George Zimmerman ─ painting the prey as predator, attempting to delegitimize us for simply wanting to feel safe and supported in our own communities.

Let us state the facts so that you and the mainstream local news media are clear. Pittsburgh for Trayvon organizers did not come to your home in the middle of the night – it was 7:00am. We did not destroy any of your property nor did we threaten you or your family’s lives. The only threat we pose lies within our deep passion for justice. Are you threatened by our declaration that Black lives are valuable and worthy of support and respect? Perhaps you are threatened by our demand that you fulfill your obligations as a public servant and address our demands for an equitable and livable city for all. Please forgive us for presuming that you, as a person who is still paid by public dollars, would be invested in equality and self-determination for your Black constituents. Instead, you have taken this opportunity to dismiss us and our outrage at the injustice that plagues this city as threatening to you. While your response is extremely disappointing, it comes as no surprise.

You claim to have taken action to “address many of the points raised.” If this is your impression, you either have not read or understood our demands. By “increased hiring opportunities,” are you referring to making backroom deals and giving tax breaks to corporations to occupy our neighborhoods, exploit our labor and turn our communities into shopping malls for wealthy Pittsburgh?

Do you expect us to be grateful for your empty Pittsburgh Promise when our children are displaced following the closing of their neighborhood school and shuffled around like chattel? Do you expect us to not demand the support needed to actually pursue the education our children desire and deserve?

Do you expect praise from us for “revitalizing” communities without the community’s consent or input? Because that is one of the very manifestations of white supremacy that we stand against, contributing to the experience of Black Pittsburghers being neglected and devalued. City government and the Urban Redevelopment Authority has never worked in the interest of Black communities and should be ashamed of the continually devastating effects of their reckless “development”.

It is this investment in property rather than the lives of your constituents that also contributes to the criminalization of people like Trayvon Martin, perceived as a threat to white-owned private property. While you are working with the Pittsburgh Police to “decrease crime”, who in city government is working to address racism and stop the criminalization, brutality and murder of Black people at the hands of “law enforcement” and the (in)justice system in Pittsburgh? Who is treating the emotional trauma Black people experience while being constantly watched, followed, profiled, hunted and dehumanized?

Your refusal to recognize the ineffectiveness of your policies and your choice to avoid us is yet another manifestation of white supremacy that we stand against – to continue to receive the pay and many benefits of being the mayor, yet ignore any call to action. Unsurprisingly, you have also failed to respond to our demands with any plan or commitment to action. You have clearly demonstrated your inability to meet the basic expectations of a Mayor – to respond to the needs of this city and fulfill the moral obligation to pursue racial justice as defined by those whose lives depend on it. If Pittsburgh wants to honor Trayvon Martin, address the injustices that resemble this tragedy and create a city that is worthy of the title as “America’s Most Livable City”, we must look to ourselves. We will no longer be attempting to engage with you.

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