Originally published on June 30 by WTAE News

For two days, community leaders in Pittsburgh, dedicated to making change for marginalized communities are coming together to share ideas and strategies.

The Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh is holding its annual State of Black Pittsburgh in conjunction with the inaugural Youth Changemakers Conference at the University of Pittsburgh.

“Today we’re going to talk about solutions, and violence is a big thing that people are concerned about, but you have to look at poverty and the determinants, like education, health and things like that,” said Carlos T. Carter, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh.

“How people are doing, do we feel safe, are we recognized, is there adequate housing? Is there adequate employment to support the Black community? I think all of those things will be a part of the discussion,” said Andrea Clark Smith, chair for the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh.

The annual “State of Black Pittsburgh” event is accompanied this year by the inaugural Youth Changemakers Conference, led by Jaime Martinez.

“The beauty of this is that we’ve been able to wrap up the State of Black Pittsburgh, this highly anticipated annual event, along with our conference. We’re trying to make sure that our attendees can get in there, that young people have a voice in these conversations because that’s how we’re going to transform the city for the better, by making sure that everyone has a seat at the table,” Martinez said.

One issue that was top of mind Thursday night was the U.S. Supreme Court decision that fundamentally changed affirmative action policy in higher education. The decision essentially means race can no longer be used as a factor in admissions.

The 6-3 SCOTUS vote stems from two cases, which challenged the admissions policies of Harvard and the University of North Carolina.

President Joe Biden opposed the decision, saying justices unraveled decades of precedent and that race-based discrimination continues to exist in America.

The University of Pittsburgh released a statement saying in part, “We are evaluating our admission practices to ensure that they continue to be inclusive, fair, and fully compliant with the law.”

In the majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts clarified that students could still include their experiences about race in admission essays but schools couldn’t use those essays to circumvent the ruling.

“The University of Pittsburgh is committed to diversity, and we can continue to be committed to diversity,” said Clyde Pickett, the university’s chief diversity officer.

Pickett moderated the “State of Black Pittsburgh.”

“It’s critical to talk about experience, and how especially our young folks are experiencing our city, and the ways in which we can continue to make places like the University of Pittsburgh and our city better for young people,” Pickett said.

Ron Idoko is the associate director of the Center on Race and Social Problems for the Pitt School of Social Work. He helped facilitate the Youth Changemakers Conference.

Idoko said despite the SCOTUS decision, he’s hopeful universities will remain focused on equity.

“My hope is that we think very thoughtfully about the ways in which we can continue to ensure that Pitt is accessible for people who are from marginalized communities, realizing again we have a responsibility to ensure that everyone, and particularly folks who are experiencing systemic challenges have the ability to achieve and access real, meaningful higher education,” Idoko said.

Mayor Ed Gainey delivered the keynote address of the Youth Changemakers Conference Friday night.

Students attending the Youth Changemakers Conference got to ask the mayor questions about how to lead at a young age and how to promote and uplift diverse voices in their communities.

“I’m inspired because we got a chance to change the world. We got a chance to change America. People say, ‘Why do you say that?’ Because my ancestors did it with nothing. We got much more than my ancestors ever had, and we changed America,” Gainey said.