Roy Blankenship, Jr., Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP) & Shayla Holmes, Greater Pittsburgh Coalition Against Violence (CAV) 

by | May 19, 2023 | News | 0 comments

After this past week’s Call for Community Solutions, thanks to your active participation and engagement on a weekly basis, The Forbes Funds has now hosted/facilitated more than 4,714 virtual engagements with more than 39,735 participants. 

“Community Engagement can be a challenging process, especially during election periods, because we engage people to promote them voting and then we disappear. Our community deserves more. As we move forward, I hope we create conditions that are mutually beneficial and our communities see us as a reservoir of support and not a reaction to a political situation. What people need is a sustained engagement that keeps their mind close to the problems in a way that they understand them intuitively and as they rise up they have a disposition and not a reaction. We should find comfort in creating sustainable pathways to do just that and also use the nonprofit sector as a bell weather to help residents understand what’s being worked on, what state a particular bill might be in, what lobbying activity is taking place so they understand nothing is being microwaved, and there’s many processes that have to be undertaken. Voting is just one of the many levers that need to be pulled.”  

– Fred Brown | President & CEO | The Forbes Funds

In Step With B-PEP and the Greater Pittsburgh Coalition Against Violence (CAV) 

We were joined on our Call For Community Solutions this past Monday by Roy Blankenship, Jr. from the Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP) and Shayla Holmes with the Greater Pittsburgh Coalition Against Violence (CAV) as we continued exploring our theme of community engagement. This week’s conversation took a deep dive into grassroots, political activism, and community engagement courtesy of our presenting tandem which carries deep roots, a rich history, and a long-standing commitment to community organizing, political action, and unified systems engagement.  

Roy has dedicated his lived experience toward community empowerment and is currently working to effect systemic change and foster deeper levels of community engagement for the Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP). In that capacity, he leads community organizing and outreach efforts for this civic and social justice nonprofit legacy institution. Roy is purposefully driven toward creating equitable solutions for marginalized communities through political processes and systems in critical areas such as housing, education, and workforce development.  

Roy is also active in the community through civic engagement, sitting on several boards, including the Knoxville Community Council and Sto-Rox Community Health Center, in addition to serving as a member of Mad Dads and Vice President of the Zone 3 Public Safety Council. Roy is also a newly appointed Commissioner on the City of Pittsburgh Shade Tree Commission. He is a graduate of former Mayor Bill Peduto’s 2017 Civic Leadership Academy as one of the chief architects of U.N.I.F.I.E.D, Urban Neighborhood Initiative for Integrity, Education, and Development, a transformative movement designed to address the plight and hopelessness of urban communities. 

Shayla Holmes is a respected and influential figure within grassroots community organizing and activism circles. Recognized for her unwavering commitment to improving the lives of young people and creating safer, more equitable communities, she currently works on behalf of various organizations throughout the City of Pittsburgh, including the Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP), Greater Pittsburgh Coalition Against Violence (CAV) and the Corporate Equity and Inclusion Roundtable. 

Shayla has been instrumental in changing various narratives and systems impacting disenfranchised communities, with an emphasis on violence prevention, youth mentorship, diversity, equity, and inclusion, along with mental health advocacy.  

Empowering African-Americans In Their Communities Since 1987 

The Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP) was created with the belief that all African-Americans in Pittsburgh should have the resources to empower themselves and their communities. As are many organizations and movements, the Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP) was born out of upset, in this case, the absence of Blacks on the City Council of Pittsburgh in the mid-80s.  We have gone on, since our launching of May 21, 1986, to launch the Greater Pittsburgh Coalition Against Violence (CAV) and the Corporate Equity & Inclusion Roundtable (CEIR) which were also created to counter some of the dire situations facing the African American community of Pittsburgh and the broader region.  B-PEP seeks to “move from Complaint to Possibility…from Planning to Implementation and Mobilization” in all that they do. 

During our call, our presenters discussed how their Equity playbook has been adopted by our local sports teams – both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pirates – as well as had a direct, positive impact on the city’s hiring practices. In addition, they shared how their advocacy efforts persuaded former Mayor Bill Peduto and his Chief of Police to examine and adopt new measures for their stop-and-frisk procedures. 

The Greater Pittsburgh Coalition Against Violence (CAV) was born out of a need to address the senseless violence plaguing the Black community with a Mission to create long-term solutions to deep-rooted problems to build more peaceful communities. On Thursday, February 8, 2007, the Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP) and One HOOD responded to the alarming report that Pennsylvania led the nation in homicide rates for African Americans in a standing-room-only news conference in the lobby of the James F. Henry Hill House Center. Numerous community and religious leaders, the Mayor of the City of Pittsburgh, and other area politicians joined them.  As a result of the news conference, members of the community were brought together to form the COALITION AGAINST VIOLENCE, a broad-based coalition consisting of community and religious leaders, police, representatives from education and government institutions, and concerned citizens of Allegheny County. The coalition now stands as an independent anti-violence collaborative with some administrative support from the Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP). Central to the CAV’s community engagement efforts have been the successful Community Peace Summits  

Dual Framework Alignment 

In terms of our dual frameworks, the transformative work of B-PEP and CAV demonstrated broad alignment with the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This week’s presentation was most clearly aligned with goals #3 (Good Health & Well-Being), #8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), #9 (Industry Innovation and Infrastructure), #10 (Reduced Inequalities) and #11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), really centering on #16 (Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions), and #17 (Partnerships for the Goals).  

4 Points to Consider from Our Presenters 

  • What does TRUE equity look like in practice?  
  • With anti-violence measures, how do we create a unified system of whole collaboration between government, Faith leaders, schools, CBOs, law enforcement & the people all moving together?  
  • Where does accountability lie within government and organizations when it comes to laws & our very constitution?  
  • What adaptive changes can be made to our grant system for those who do so much, with so little? 

Key Takeaways 

  • Unified Systems Change Mindset – in order to effect systems change, our presenters underscored the importance of creating a unified system, inclusive of law enforcement, government, education, faith leadership, community-based organizations, and the community all working together. 
  • Sustained Action – B-PEP’s motto of “we vote in every election” captures the heart of the organization’s mindset toward creating change through sustained, grassroots activity. 
  • Personal Agency & Lived Experiences – More than prescriptive solutions, our presenters embody the power of leveraging personal agency and lived experiences to produce solutions and address the community’s most pressing challenges from within. 

View the full recording from this week’s call with Roy & Shayla here: 

To get involved/learn more about B-PEP & CAV, please visit: 

Home | Black Political Empo (b-pep.net) 

HOME | cavpgh (coalitionagainstviolence.net) 

Please join us next Monday, May 22nd for an important conversation with Jodi Segal from Big Change Consulting around leveling up nonprofit HR supports and making sense of all of your benefits options while streamlining operations to mitigate risk, increase efficiency and produce peak performance so you can focus on the critical work of fulfilling your mission. 

As always, feel free to reach out to emily@forbesfunds.org or erin@forbesfunds.org  with any questions! 

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