Originally published: New Pittsburgh Courier
June 14, 2023

This month’s health page highlights gun violence and recognizes the overwhelming complexity of this nationwide problem. As we continue our discussion around the Social Determinants of Health, we are centering gun violence as a crisis of public health. Carlos T. Carter, President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, shares his thoughts:

What are some of the root causes and social drivers of gun violence? 

There are many social drivers that contribute to violence in our community. This is a country with an obsession with guns and, unfortunately, guns are valued more than the lives of our children. We claim to be a civilized country, but America ranks second in the world for gun violence deaths.  You can probably get access to a gun faster than achieving a true living wage job. It is not lost on me that structural racism also plays a major role in the rampant gun violence, which includes redlining and underinvestment in our communities.  These forces of evil facilitate hopelessness and self-destructive behavior. We can and must do better!

What is the Urban League doing to address them?

Through our various programs and services, the Urban League works to remove barriers that perpetuate poverty.  Through our Center for Economic Self-Reliance, we are committed to connecting people to training opportunities and helping to remove barriers that impact their ability to thrive.  We provide support for our neighbors to obtain suitable housing and provide home ownership counseling to prepare them for homeownership. We also support the wellbeing of families through our Family Support Centers.

Additionally, we leverage our Black Male Leadership Institute (BMLDI) and Black Female Leadership Institute (BFLDI) to build upon the strengths of our teens by empowering them to be productive citizens who love and value themselves and their communities. They are mentored by caring adults who guide them towards being strong civically minded leaders who create positive change in their community. Finally, we continuously support responsible and evidence-based gun legislation that will make our communities safer.

This summer, the Urban League’s annual State of Black Pittsburgh is returning after a brief hiatus due to the pandemic. This year’s edition of the conference will both highlight the good work being done by organizations such as ours to address systemic poverty, including gun violence, while also identifying possible roadmaps to tackle these issues even more effectively. This edition will also coincide with the first-ever Youth Changemakers Conference which will be uplifting Pittsburgh’s emerging generation of leaders, equipping them with the skills they need to tackle our region’s biggest challenges today. The Conference and the State of Black Pittsburgh will be June 29 and 30. To get involved with the Conference, anyone can visit our website: https://ulpgh.org/event/youth-changemakers-conference-featuring-state-of-black-pittsburgh/,

Why should we all consider gun violence a public health crisis?

Gun violence is a literal cancer on our community that continues to eviscerate the minds and bodies of our people. The fear and trauma it creates is devastating and all too tangible. Gun violence is taking away the mothers and fathers of our community, perpetuating the cycle of poverty. Finally, it creates a level of stress and desolation that is unparalleled. It is killing our bodies and spirits. Enough is enough!