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Publisher, Pittsburgh Current charlie@pittsburghcurrent.com PITTSBURGH CURRENT | JULY 28, 2020 | 3

STAFF Publisher/Editor: Charlie Deitch Charlie@pittsburghcurrent.com Associate Publisher: Bethany Ruhe Bethany@pittsburghcurrent.com Advisory Board Chairman: Robert Malkin Robert@pittsburghcurrent.com EDITORIAL

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Vol. III Iss. XXIV July 28, 2020

NEWS 6 | Update on Thomas Drake 8 | Handmade Arcade 9 | Rob Rogers 10 | Dannielle Brown OPINION 12 | Demonizing Blackness 14 | Larry Schweiger 16 | Aryanna Berringer ARTs & ENTERTAINMENT 17 | TRVSS 18 | Secret Life EXTRA 20 | Savage Love 21 | Another Night in Boston 22 | Parting Shot


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Climate Crisis and Corrupt Politics By: Larry J. Schweiger Free Shipping Paperback $29.95 or purchase an eBook for $19.00 (Read the first 25 pages for free) There is only one earth and our world is undergoing dramatic changes brought on by the climate crisis and other human-induced ecological disruptions. The world's top scientists studying these threats and the forces behind them have been warning us for decades to end the use of fossil fuels or face catastrophic consequences. Their long-ignored warnings have become more dire. Larry Schweiger has long been on the front line of efforts to enact rational clean energy and climate policies and has witnessed efforts to undermine our democratic system that has been rigged leaving America hoodwinked and held hostage to dirty fuels. Climate Crisis and Corrupt Politics pulls back the curtain on the central role of big oil, coal, and gas interests in American politics through the flow of money to fabricated entities for independent SuperPAC expenditures for mass deception through distorted advertising. Larry wrote this urgent message aimed at parents, grandparents and young adults who care about their children forced to live on the ragged edge of an unprecedented climate crisis. This book is especially for leaders who understand that we must act now with a "Green New Deal" scale response. Together, we must confront and overcome the many toxic money influences, reverse a failing democracy and retake the reins of government to enact policies that secure our shared future and the future of life on earth.





Exactly one week ago, Pittsburgh Current published a story by writer Brittany Hailer about people of color being mistreated in their own neighborhoods, “Would you be my Neighbor?” In that piece was the sad and frustrating story of Thomas Drake, a disabled veteran who served during the Vietnam War. He has lived in his house for years. The home and its yard are points of pride for him. However, for the past three years, Drake, the only black resident on the Churchill street where he lives, has been continuously harassed by a white neighbor who has made countless frivolous calls to the police about Drake and hurled racial epithets at Drake and his family. But a lot has happened since Hailer’s first story was published. Both good and bad. Felicity Williams, ESQ., a racial and economic justice advocate contacted Hailer to get contact information for Drake because she wanted to help improve his situation. “When I read the article, I was moved by the volume of police calls that had been made against Mr. Drake,” Williams says. “He’s the only black resident on the street, he gets along with everyone else, but nobody stands up for him. “It was important for me that he knew that he wasn’t alone. I wanted to do something for this man.” Williams called Drake and talked about what she and other activists could do to help him.


Thomas Drake (Current Photos by Jake Mysliwczyk)

At one point there was talk of protesting in the neighborhood on Mr. Drake’s behalf and through the community of Churchill. But Drake didn’t want that. He didn't want the situation to escalate, he just wanted some peace. Ultimately, it was decided to start a crowd-funding campaign on gofundme.com for several items (www.tinyurl.com/ drakefundraiser). First, Drake has long had playground equipment in his yard for all of the neighborhood kids to play on. The equipment, as well as Mr.


Drake’s boat in his yard, have been damaged, and there’s no proof of how it happened. So, the $5,000 being sought will go toward new play equipment, two mobile basketball hoops and security cameras to monitor the outside of Drake’s home. “It’s very comforting that so many people want to help me and help the kids,” Drake said Tuesday morning. “They’ve offered to help in so many ways, including protests. I initially said I didn’t want to do all that. I just wanted him to leave me alone. But then I got the letter and if they want to protest on my behalf, I’m glad to have them. “I’m so thankful that the story put light on the issue and people have responded to the story. But I still haven’t gotten the peace that I hoped for.” Drake says Churchill Police came and talked to Drake and said they wouldn’t allo the neighbor to use them as a way to get to Drake. Then late last week, Drake got a letter from the Allegheny County Health Department that said there was a complaint from a neighbor that Drake’s house was overgrown with weeds and crawling with rats. The complaints in the letter are not true and Pittsburgh Current can verify that because reporters have seen Drake’s property. “He can't use the Churchill Police against Mr. Drake anymore,” Williams said. “So, now he’s trying to use the health

department.” UNfortunately, the county health department’s complaint and notification system doesn’t include department verification of the complaint before a letter is sent. Lori Horowitz, Housing and Community Environment Program Manager, of the ACHC, says the letter is sent upon receipt of the complaint and demands action within 30 days. At the end of that time, the person who made the complaint is contacted and asked if the problem has been resolved. Horowitz says the current system allows the property owner to “disregard if the alleged conditions do not exist.” In the past, devices like health departments and building and zoning inspectors can be used as an easy way to escalate a dispute between neighbors. Horowitz says the health department understands that, “however, we must service complaints that we receive, and we communicate as much as possible with the complainants. To my knowledge, it has never gotten to the point where we refused to take a complaint because it has been identified as a neighbor dispute.” That means the next steps in this matter for Drake and his allies could be demonstrations. It wasn’t what Drake wanted but he’s starting to see few options. “All I wanted was for this man to leave me alone. But he hasn’t left me alone. So, if they want to protest as a way to get the point across, I won’t stand in their way.”



PA G E 7



With COVID-19 putting a freeze on large gatherings, creative communities across Pittsburgh have been negatively impacted. Some of the hardest hit are artists and craft makers, who often rely on large market events for their livelihood. Consequently, some have come up with virtual solutions to this problem. The Three Rivers Arts Festival, for instance, moved their festival completely online for 2020 in lieu of an in-person event. Handmade Arcade, Pittsburgh’s largest annual crafts fair, is following that lead. After cancelling all in-person events for 2020 due to the pandemic, they are opening a public call for vendors for “Digital DIY,” an all-online market of handmade goods. The virtual fair will begin on Small Business Saturday, November 28, and run through December 6. Handmade Arcade began in 2004, and sprang out of the nonprofit Construction Junction, which supplies surplus building materials to the community. Initially hosting around 30 vendors at Construction Junction’s Point Breeze homebase, the event grew significantly in popularity over the years. Interest became great enough that the event last year hosted 200 vendors and filled the David L. Lawrence Convention Center downtown. This year’s call for vendors is open to both Pittsburgh locals and those from out of state. The call is also open to many different kinds of makers, including

artists, jewelry makers, glass blowers, metal workers, and more. Applicants will have until August 22 to submit their work. “We are estimating approximately 150 vendors,” said Baron. “We are calling for vendors from a wide range of product types.” Vendor spots will be competitive, as Handmade Arcade regularly receives more applications than there are available spaces. “In the past, we’ve had close to 500 applications for 200 spots,” said Baron. Once the applications are submitted, a jury of volunteers will review the work. The jurors all come from various parts of Pittsburgh’s art and business community. “Our event is a juried event. Every year, we have guest jury members from the arts and maker community, crafts community, small business community, and cultural community,” said Baron. Handmade Arcade also makes efforts to raise up new artists through their platform, and artists who have not shown at the festival before will make up a significant portion of vendors. “We’re definitely very interested in having new makers every year,” said Baron. “We might have 70 or 80 makers who have never been in our event before.” Vendors will be announced on September 25. For the application, Baron recommends taking high-quality photos, writing a detailed description of the work


and process, and having a website featuring current work. Digital DIY will feature more than just shopping, as well. Artists will be participating in various video projects for guests to view. These will include Q&A sessions with the makers, art technique tutorials, and behindthe-scenes content. “It’s not just a website. We’re

going to have live interactive video and streaming experiences,” said Baron. With these elements combined, Digital DIY hopes to help support the arts and maker communities, while helping people find just the right thing for the holidays. Visit handmadearcade.org for more information.









ll it takes is one simple story. The narrative takes root and blossoms into an unforgiving truth. This news segment is no different and it’s delivery unnerves me: A brunette in a cobalt blue t-shirt and dangling golden leaf earrings faces the camera. Behind her tall beige grass waves in the wind as green hills of trees and a blue sky scattered with tuffs of clouds provide the perfect backdrop of Americana for her story to the Pittsburgh masses. She begins: “Lorenzo Rulli, whose legal name is Shawn Green was arraigned this morning for his involvement in three separate protests...he faces a long list of charges. He calls himself the People’s Protester...On May 30th when a protest turned violent [Ian] Smith, our cameraman...said he was filming when a group of large protesters surrounded him, grabbed and smashed his camera, and attacked him...Smith told police that Lorenzo Rulli livestreamed the attack on Facebook and in that stream you can hear Rulli saying “Stop that cameraman! Stop that cameraman!” On June 1...police say in a video shot by us, Rulli is trying to block our crew as they record a man smashing the windows of a Dollar Bank...police later showed up to arrest Rulli. On June 24th a protest was organized in Market Square in response to a new dress code put in place by the bar. Protesters rushed the bar keeping others from getting out. Protesters were screaming threatening messages to employees and security guards as they became trapped inside. Police say that Rulli was one of those protesters spotted on video and said to be damaging a parked security car nearby.”



Lorenzo Rulli (Current Photo by Ed Thompson)

The words “violent,” “attack,” “threatening,” vibrate through me. They resonate within and are disturbing. In the span of a two-minute news segment, another person of color is painted as radical, angry, and potentially dangerous. I am a helpless bystander. I am again a witness to an injustice and I am not OK. The most haunting thing about this video is the ease in which this story is told; the angle is palatable because of who is telling the story -- it's "Karen." We buy this woman’s words because her appearance visually feels safe. Carolyn Bryant Donham’s fabricated story led to the lynching of Emmett Till. Susan Smith and Amanda Knox blamed Black men as murderers for crimes


they themselves committed. Amy Cooper tried to call the cops on a Black birder because he had the audacity to ask her to leash her dog. History has shown that it is much easier to publicly name Black men as perpetrators because without proper video evidence we will never question the validity of a white woman’s story. History has also shown that these narratives often have omissions, and these omissions often come at a cost. This case is no different. What has failed to be mentioned is that in this same referenced Facebook video, Rulli is urging people to stay away from the police car. Before it is on fire he screams “Back up! There are live explosives in this vehicle! If you are hurt there is no one here to help you! Please

disperse!” There is no mention that the cameraman willingly walked towards the fire; the same place where Rulli pleaded for people to stay away and urged people to go home saying, “We ain’t here for this shit man! This isn’t what we’re about!” There is no interview, no his side of the story, just as I'm sure the news source would say all would prove to be “alternative facts.” Last week another prominent Pittsburgh community organizer Nique Craft was charged with a felony to incite a riot and a felony for committing terroristic threats on days that Craft weren't even in town. In a statement Craft made on Facebook they say, “The past 50 days have taught me I have a strength that is unwavering and I

OPINION have the support of a community that loves me...I just want to be the superhero everyone seems to think I am.” I know this protester. They spoke at my friend’s vigil after his untimely passing. I’ve seen them at countless protests hyping the crowd, protecting those who could not walk, or sometimes just being a hand to hold in solidarity. To many locals they are the very epitome of a superhero, especially in times where we all need protection and even I have felt unsafe. While with great power comes even greater responsibility, being publicly outspoken should never be a crime. After all being Black, especially in Pittsburgh, is hard enough. In a letter to his nephew, James Baldwin once wrote “you were born into a society which spelled out with brutal clarity, and in as many ways as possible, that you were a worthless human being.” Anytime I walk my 23 pound dog along the streets of Regent Square and see oncoming people prefer to cross the street than to engage with my presence, I am reminded that there is an imaginative danger that the Black body can manifest in this country. It’s existence for many bodies of color like my own, will always register as a threat. Anytime I am in a store where wandering eyes of clerks and their incessant need to ‘help me’ is only because I am statistically more likely to steal something in their eyes. Anytime I see someone die as a result of police brutality, where their life is reduced down to their proximity of alleged crimes I see the worthlessness that Baldwin prophetically pointed to. When Antwon Rose II was shot by Michael Rosfeld, Ann Coulter wrote in response to the media attention his death garnered by saying “I’m glad that Antown did charity work, but isn’t it rather more important that he had participated in a drive-by shooting of two other Black guys 13 minutes before being stopped by a police

officer?” Coulter goes on to point out that gunshot residue was found on Rose’s hand, where, obviously in the eyes of this white woman, must be plausible enough cause for an unarmed teenager being shot. When George Floyd was killed, Black Right-Wing Commentator Candace Owens went on Facebook live and stated: “Only Black people will organize to defend Black crime. Over the last 5 years it has become extremely fashionable to martyr criminals where some people like to compare George Floyd as the modern MLK.” Owens painted a story of George Floyd as a violent and criminal offender where her evidence stems from reading his arrest reports stemming from 1998. Owen’s testimony overlooks an economic truth where many Black men, like Floyd, are forced to become involved in selling drugs as a seemingly only possible career path if faced with a lengthy criminal record. delineates from the narrative that denied medical intervention needed for an addict. Owens’ platform against making martyrs of criminals fails to acknowledge a larger issue of the ways in which Black people are systemically positioned to face a life of crime. From selling drugs, not going to school, drug addiction, homelessness, or simply protesting, being Black in America is more likely to be potentially linked with incarceration. While Owens cannot be a Karen because of the color of her skin, she knowingly uses the same rhetoric: "Here is a Black man whom we must be protected from not rally behind." When Breonna Taylor was brutally shot in her home eight times by three plain-clothes Louisville Metro Police Department officers, it was because her boyfriend was linked to selling drugs thus giving them license to enter her apartment without knocking. Despite being an EMT first responder, something immensely valuable during this pandemic, she was demonized for

her proximity to loving someone involved with drugs. While those who killed her continue to walk free, her death is chalked up to being a “wrong place, wrong time” scenario. It speaks to the common eradication of the value of Black life, and overlooks what strengths and accomplishments we create in spite of a system historically designed to make us fail. I too know all too well about this scenario. In college I was detained at gunpoint by six DC police officers. I was riding in a car with three white people in Southeast DC where our presence in a Black community was profiled as nefarious. While cops stuck their hands down my dress, between my breasts, and in my hair I watched helplessly as my friends were being casually interviewed. The whole time my friends and boyfriend were being asked for their version of the story, police took notes on notepads whereas I was spread against a wall, being called “a lying bitch,” and being asked where I hid the dope. It didn’t matter that I had a middle class background. It didn’t matter that out of all the people in the car I was the only one actually pursuing a college degree. I was simply a Black woman in a car with three white people in a Black neighborhood, and that was a plausible enough reason for people with authority to publicly dehumanize me. Of course, I was lucky to be released that day, as the officers at the time reminded me, but the trauma will never go away. Every day I am reminded that my life can easily be taken away by one false step. When I protest, there is the very real fear that I too could fall victim to the system where even having a doctoral degree would be overshadowed by a criminal record. It is easier to vilify than to admit accountability. It is easier to traumatize than heal. Mayor Peduto prides himself on Pittsburgh being the most liveable city, but when I watch protestors

fall under the thumb of the law or being knocked down by riot police for simply filming, I have to ask, liveable for who? Who are the police protecting and serving if its citizens are met with hostility and felony charges for their outcry against the injustices they witness in their own communities? What progress is truly being made when women like Dannielle Brown have to starve themselves for 23 days just to find answers about her son’s death on a Pittsburgh campus? What Black lives are we supporting in Pittsburgh where men like Romir Talley and Antwon Rose II are being gunned down by law enforcement where their criminality should not equate to death? Fred Rogers famously said “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” The news would like to show protesters as the villainous Antifa anarchists who destroy businesses and statues. Protesters are riot hungry, storefront destroying, terrorists. From what I’ve seen protesters are the people who are actively trying to help their community the best way they know how. They have been the ones who put their lives on the line daily so that people, like me, can at least walk the streets a little less fearful than the day before. These are the people who remind us of humanity, who help us to reevaluate the system, who as John Lewis would say “make good trouble,” who have the power to bring about real change. If we begin to make villains of the helpers, then, I have to ask, are we truly being good neighbors? Caitlyn Hunter is a doctoral student at Duquesne University. She is an adjunct professor of English at the Community College of Allegheny County. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Chatham and resides in the Pittsburgh area.





here is some good news for a change. The Great American Outdoors Act has passed both the House and Senate and is now before Trump for his promised signature. More than 85% of Americans support permanent funding LWCF according to a 2013 poll from Public Opinion Strategies. Trump promised to sign this bill to help Republican senators from Colorado and Montana get reelected. Regardless of motivations, this is an essential move for all Americans. This bill restores and makes permanent the National Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) established by Congress in 1965. It provides needed resources for current conservation efforts by many local and regional conservation efforts, including protecting working farms and ranches and building neighborhood parks and trails. Funding will be made available for numerous public benefits, including crucial recreational access for hunting and fishing and other outdoor activities, natural areas that are protecting valuable water resources, and many other community benefits. Protecting water resources through watershed restoration, forest, and wetland conservation is a cost-effective way to ensure clean and adequate water supplies for downstream towns and cities. A 2011 report by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation calculated the value of ecosystem services provided by natural habitats in the 48 contiguous states at

The Kinzua Dam in the Allegheny County Forest.

"about $1.6 trillion annually, which is equivalent to more than 10% of the U.S. GDP.� In addition to providing traditional funding for National parks, forests, historic battlefields, and cultural sites, and fish and wildlife refuges, the new law extends funding for


working farmlands and ranches. According to American Farmland Trust, agricultural preservation has become a critical National priority since 50 acres of agricultural land is being lost to development every hour. The LWCF was authorized at

$900 million annually through 2015. Yet, in recent decades, Congress restricted and shortchanged the fund undermining conservation efforts across America. There is a 12.5% royalty for Federal off-shore leases in water depths of less than 200 meters and 18.75% for all

OPINION other leases. Less than half of the money accrued through the history of off-shore royalties has been appropriated to the conservation fund. Legislation in various forms to address the LWCF diversions has languished in Congress for decades despite enormous efforts by many national conservation organizations, including National Wildlife Federation and Nature Conservancy, as well as local land trusts and conservancies like the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. The bill restores the $900 million annual allocations to the Land and Water Conservation Fund. It also authorizes up to $9.5 billion over five years to address the maintenance backlogs at national parks creating many jobs while restoring deteriorating park infrastructure. Sustained investment in the LWCF stimulates the economy, creates jobs, and protects and restores infrastructure. Now in a critical election year, the bill was quickly approved with bipartisan votes in both chambers. Motivated not by the many pressing conservation needs but by Senate election-year politics in Colorado and Montana, it passed the Senate on a 73-to-25 vote in June. In the House, it passed by a bipartisan 310-to-107 vote. Republican Senators in Colorado and Montana, two important public lands states, are in trouble for their many failures to stand up to Trump and his anti-environmental agenda. Regardless of the political motivations for moving the bill, the LWCF will make substantial contributions by strategically securing the economic assets that federal, state, and local

public lands represent. Public lands and waters drive the outdoor recreation economy across America, especially during the pandemic as more Americans are spending time in the outdoors. According to the Department of Interior’s Federal Interagency Council on Recreation, “recreation activities in national parks, wildlife refuges, forests, marine sanctuaries and other federal managed lands and waters contributed approximately $51 billion and supported 880,000 jobs in the United States economy in 2012.” The Outdoor Industry Association produced an assessment entitled: “The Outdoor Recreation Economy, 2012 that concluded: “Nationally, outdoor recreation activities contribute $646 billion to the economy annually and supports outdoor recreation driving $887 billion in consumer spending, while supporting 7.6 million U.S. jobs annually, and generates $125 billion in federal, state, and local tax revenue. Visitor-driven business stimulates local communities surrounding national parks and other public lands. There are more than 5,000 outfitters and guiding companies that operated in proximity to national forests. The Trust for Public Land produced an assessment entitled: “The Return on Investment from the Land & Water Conservation Fund in 2010” reported “the Land and Water Conservation Fund is a sound investment: for every $1 invested in federal land acquisition through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, there is a return of $4 in economic value.” Pennsylvania Connection

A prominent Pennsylvanian, Maurice K. Goddard was instrumental in creating the original LWCF. There is not a single Pennsylvanian who does not enjoy the benefits of his life’s work. Yet, few recognize the name apart from perhaps Goddard State Park. I was privileged to be a good friend and mentored by Goddard, who headed the Department of Forests and Waters and later the Department of Environmental Resources for more than two decades. He understood that the Commonwealth was the trustee of public resources for an intergenerational public benefit. Early in his tenure as Secretary of Forests and Waters, Goddard learned that California used revenue from off-shore oil production to rebuild its State Parks. To make sure royalities derived from public lands got reinvested in public resources, Goddard crafted a bill to move revenues generated from wells under state public lands into a special fund known as the Oil and Gas Fund to be used "for conservation, recreation, dams, or flood control.” The late Governor George Leader told me that Goddard, new on the job, had cooked up this plan with Representative George B. Stevenson, a Republican before he cleared it with the Governor. To his credit, Governor Leader signed a bipartisan bill that became the Oil and Gas Lease Fund Act law as Act 256 on December 15, 1955. (With increased revenues from fracking on state lands in recent years this revenue has been illegally diverted at the state level.) In 1958, Goddard was appointed as an alternate delegate

to the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission (ORRRC) to consider America’s outdoor recreation future needs. During one of the ORRC meetings, Goddard shared his experience with the Oil and Gas Lease Fund Act and proposed that royalties from off-shore oil and gas be dedicated to fund a land and water conservation program. The findings released in 1961 by the commission included the Goddard recommendation that royalties should be used to preserve and develop outdoor recreation resources for all people. After the report was published with President Kennedy’s support, legislation was introduced with bipartisan sponsorship to launch such a program. On September 3, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson, signed Goddard’s vision for the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act. For fifty-three years, the fund provided billions for conservation projects with the monies split between the Federal agencies and the states. It has been America's most important tool for meeting conservation and recreation needs, from iconic national parks and wildlife refuges to sacred battlefields and historic sites, working forests, critically endangered species habitats, and neighborhood playgrounds and recreation facilities. Goddard was rightfully proud of his role in this substantial law, yet few people know his name. Goddard would be pleased with the vote to guarantee funding for LWCF for the next generation of Americans.





his. Is. War. Strapping on her bike helmet, goggles, a yellow t-shirt and tennis shoes, my sister Robin set out for downtown Portland, Oregon. Her uniform is much different than the one I wore to Iraq but as she prepares for another night of protests, she is certainly “boots on the ground” just like I was all those years ago. My sister is a part of the “Wall of Moms” peacefully protesting systematic racism, declaring Black Lives Matter, and protecting the children who have been out there protesting for 62 days. These peaceful mothers who are protesting are facing a nightly war of terror – this time inflicted upon them and all American citizens by the Department of Homeland Security, Border Patrol agents, and President Trump. But, why now? What happened after 34 days of protesting, on July 4 no less, that now had Federal agents have to tear gassing, flashbombing, and shooting rubber bullets at American citizens? I have a hunch. We are less than 100 days to a Presidential election and the majority of America is beginning to turn to November and make a final decision about who they will be voting for.


And, Americans have never ousted a wartime president. We are in a new Civil War in this Country, an extension of what we fought for 150 years ago. President Lincoln was re-elected through our first Civil War in 1864, Woodrow Wilson during the First World War in 1916, FDR in 1944 during the Second World War, Nixon in 1972 during the Vietnam War, and George W. Bush in 2004 during the War in Iraq. Wartime Presidents get reelected. Trump needs a war to win. Trump’s war on the Coronavirus didn’t work because well, he didn’t even believe it was real. He just started wear-


ing a mask in public. So, it’s time to manufacture a war and what better way than to go into liberal American cities with federal agents and start one. This not only will have his base rise up, but it will cause such contention in our country that those in the middle may stay the course and re elect him. My large family has been talking every Sunday on Zoom since the pandemic started. With the majority of my family living in the Portland Metro area and others in liberal cities across our nation. This week my family turned to me, and said “Aryanna, you’re our warrior, what do we do?” I said, we have to fight. Now is not the time to sit back and watch but to lace up our boots, throw on our gear, and fight. And we all can fight in our own way. My sister Robin, is on the frontlines, facing tear gas and flash bombs. My brother Steven planted a Black Lives Matter sign in his yard in a very conservative part of Oregon. My sister Nikesha, organized a Black Lives Matter protest and march in her New Mexico city. We’re all doing what we can in the spaces and places we operate in. We share content on social media ensuring our neighbors

and fellow Americans know the truth. We all fight in any and every way we know how. We don’t let up. I need you to do this too. Find your way and fight back. The second thing I told them to do was vote. Voting this November is paramount to change the direction of our country. This is how we make progress. America was founded on protest and war starting with the American Revolution. Now is our time to continue to fight for the ideals of our nation. And you can count on veterans of all stripes to do just that, even here in Pittsburgh. Join us this Sunday August 2nd at the Federal Building downtown at 1000 Liberty Ave where Veterans here in Pittsburgh will be protesting and declaring that Black Lives Matter. Where they stand in solidarity with the Wall of Vets in Oregon and against the fascism that is happening within our Country at the hands of the Trump Administration. Portland is just the first, they won’t be the last. If I lived in Chicago, Philadelphia, New York City, Los Angeles or even Albuquerque New Mexico, I would be preparing for war.



he new TRVSS song “Malaria” is as infectious as its title indicates. Of course, it falls seven songs into the trio’s second LP – “New Distances,” which the band is self-releasing July 31 – so the spell has already been cast. If you haven’t been converted by then, well, there’s just no hope for you. The song starts with wiry asides from an aluminum-necked guitar and, then, after a quick count-off, we’re pushed headfirst into the mosh-pit, rhythm section providing a scathing backbeat to the Apocalypse as frontman Daniel Gene II’s roars almost seem to max out the mics on which he’s recording. (Eli Kasan of Pittsburgh indie-rock band The Gotobeds provides guest vocals, for those keeping tabs.) “With one foot off the edge of hysteria/ you can’t play host if there’s no carrier,” Gene shrieks. “When less is more, then the more the merrier/ She’ll kill me first but only if I bury her.” With lyrics as acidic as this – never mind opaque titles like “The Ventriloquist Always Has the Last Laugh” – you’d never paint an accurate picture of the three guys behind TRVSS: a group of carefully spoken Pittsburghers just enjoying making music together. “Even playing in local places, I say ‘This might be the only time I’m seeing these people in this room,’” drummer Neal Leventry, a welder and father of two by day, tells the Pittsburgh Current. “And if all I can do is play as loud as I can and that can mean something? For that, for me, I give it my all.”


Don’t think for a second, though, there’s no science behind it, no method to the madness. TRVSS returned for New Distances to War Room engineer Matt Schor, who recorded the trio’s incredible 2019 debut, Absence. There, the similarities end. Though there are echoes of noise-rock’s rusted-nails-onchalkboard ethos on the debut, the new record is sonically richer, with a more robust low end from bassist Jake Pellatiro and sonics that, overall, make you feel like the band is exploding inside your head. That’s because TRVSS went in with almost a fresh slate of new equipment, as well as some ideas they had tinkered with about the best way to capture their signature, eardrum-splitting sound. “I feel we’ve come into our

own in ways of writing together and [New Distances] is more of an accurate representation of the three of us,” Pellatiro says. “I love how it sounds. It’s much more true to the way we sound when you’re at one of our shows.” Gene is modest, sometimes even self-effacing, about his approach to music. But he is a careful student and the way he attacks his Bastin aluminum-necked guitar – he jokes it’s “completely Frankenstein’ed” out of parts of other guitars – owes debts to great noise-rock and post-hardcore guitarists of past eras like Steve Albini, Duane Denison and former Pittsburgher Ian Williams of math-rock gods Don Caballero. “We tried a couple more things on this record and we all essentially had new equipment,”

Gene says. “Things fell into place, in terms of getting a little bit of a different sound.” The biggest downfall of the record, you ask? The fact that TRVSS – curse you, COVID-19 – won’t be playing a live show to celebrate the release. Don’t fret, though. When Allegheny County went status green earlier this summer per Gov. Wolf, the band started practicing once a week after a plague-inspired hiatus. “[Songwriting] comes really easy to us – there’s not much of people just sitting around, dicking around,” Gene says. “We actually already have a new five-song EP written,” he added, laughing. To that we say: God bless us, everyone.





How do you understand both the joy and pain of tangled mother-daughter relationships? What do you learn through relationships marked by intergenerational trauma? What is the nature of female sexuality? And how do Black women steeped in the church own and express their desire? What do lives lived within parameters approved by that church feel like? And what does all of that look like when you are a Black woman in America, circa 2020? Deesha Philyaw doesn't have any easy answers for these intricate challenges, but she has stories and, man, the stories she tells. 'The Secret Lives of Church Ladies,' released this month by WVU Press, is her new collection of nine short-stories, full of lived-in humanity, warmth and compassion. Philyaw's stories are all told from the female perspective, with a throughline of church ladies, or women who are 'church lady adjacent.' "Basic definition -- church ladies are women who are or were rooted in the church, raised in the church, attended church. The things they learned at church shaped and influenced how they live their lives and how they continue to define themselves as women," she explained. "And their

Deesha Philyaw (Photo: Vanessa German)

sexuality -- not exclusively their sexuality, but in part. So you can be a church lady and not really be in church. Which means you're probably, what


I call, church lady adjacent: there is still someone in your life who is a church lady who influences you." It feels like Philyaw is always at work creating; her

talents take her to all kinds of places. The co-editor of 'Tender' with Vanessa German, she also writes memoir and is working on a novel. With this collection of short stories, she

A&E demonstrates that she is the Bo Jackson of writing. (Though she notes that she doesn't write poetry, "That's not my lane, that's not my ministry.") She often grapples with grief, loss and trauma, with what it means to be family, with damaged relationships, with sexuality and what all of that looks like from the perspective of the Black christian church. There are stories like 'Jael' and 'Snowfall' which explore tough intergenerational relationships. [The latter story has one of the great lead lines in the collection: "Black women aren't meant to shovel snow."] If that sounds heavy, well, some of it is. But she also tells stories where love is expressed through food (kitchens are primary spots) and stories inspired by internet memes and discourse. "I was joking with a friend of mine about how messy affairs are. There should be a school for women who have affairs with married men -- like sidechick academy," Philyaw said of a conversation that turned into 'Instructions for Married Christian Husbands.' "We were joking but it's not funny -- it is always the women battling with each other and, meanwhile, the guy, it's like he's not even there. Even though he's the reason. I thought, what if the instructions would be for the guy ‌ this woman takes the upper hand and teaches men how to be in affairs, specifically married Christian men." Philyaw's gifts for breezy dialogue shapes 'Dear Sister,' an

epistolary tale of sisters inviting another half-sister into their fold. It is voicey and funny and warm in all the best ways. For that, she drew on real-life experience, when she and her sisters did reach out to a half-sister

who hadn't been around. "We knew she existed. So we called grandma and said, 'what's our sister's name?' These are the weird conversations that I sometimes think only Black people have," she laughed.

The story 'Peach Cobbler' feels its way through the relationship between an exceptionally detached mother and her daughter. There is a perverse sort of protective parenting going on, which is to say, a mother who is preparing her daughter for a life bereft of joy, contentment, or love. With every interaction, she teaches her child to not expect happiness. "It's not like the mother was self-aware enough to know she's so cold. There was definitely something in her own past, in the way that she was mothered, that created that distance," Philyaw said. Written from the daughter's perspective, this harsh emotional austerity is not explained, but trauma suffuses every sentence. According to Philyaw. "Somewhere along the way, it was not modeled for her how to mother. In her brokenness, this is what she did. I was going to say, that's the best she could do, but I don't know that is the best she could do, even given her own brokenness." These are all the voices of church ladies. The church can be limiting and oppressive but it can also be a place of comfort and community, of strength and genuine affection. In "The Secret Lives of Church Ladies," Deesha Philyaw gives you voices full of those contradictions and complexity, love and longing, that were previ-



Savage Love Love | sex | relationships BY DAN SAVAGE MAIL@SAVAGELOVE.NET

I'm a twenty-something moreor-less lesbian in an East Coast city. I'm primarily into women, and I'm only interested in relationships with women, but I'm sometimes attracted to men and have enjoyed sex with men in the past. For various reasons, I decided a few years ago not to pursue physical stuff with men anymore and I publicly identify as a lesbian. This worked great pre-pandemic, but now, with a tiny social bubble and no dating prospects, I find myself feeling very attracted to a male friend/coworker. He's 30-something, single, straight, and we've hung out a few times since COVID (only outside, and while socially distanced). As far as work goes, neither of us has a management role, we're in different departments, and we rarely interact professionally. So, hypothetically, the coworker part wouldn't be an ethical issue if we were to get involved. I have a feeling he'd be down for a casual pandemic thing… although it’s possible I could be projecting. But I have no idea how to broach this subject. He's a respectful person and we work for a very progressive organization, so he's not going to flirt with me since I identify as gay. I don't know how to bring up in casual conversation that I sometimes like sleeping with men, Dan, and my usual approach to flirting involves a lot of casual physical contact, which obviously isn't possible right now. What should I do? Should I just let this go? Even though we don't work closely together, there's obviously the potential for professional issues if feelings got hurt, and celibacy is obviously a responsible option during this pandemic. But COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions are going to continue and he and I seem well enough suited to keep each other com-

pany. I was single and celibate for a while before the pandemic and am feeling desperate to touch another human being. If it's not a terrible idea, how do I flirt with him without endangering public health, messing up our friendship, or making our work situation incredibly awkward in the event that he's not into me? Craving Organic Viable Earthly Touching There’s no way to ensure that a sexual and/or romantic relationship with a coworker (or anyone else) won’t end badly—and a little awkwardness would be the least of your worries if this proposed arrangement ended badly. But if your relationships and breakups are generally drama-free, COVET, and if you’ve been friends with this guy long enough to know that his relationships and breakups have been mostly drama-free, I think you should tell him how you’ve been feeling. Ask him if he’s interested in finding a COVID-19 sex buddy, as the Dutch call them, and if he is, tell him you would like to apply for the position. While most couples meet online these days, COVET, roughly 10% of opposite-sex couples—which is what you two would be—still meet through work. And while you’re not interested in anything romantic or long-term, couples that meet through work remain the most likely to marry. Which means work relationships don’t always end in tears and/or pink slips and/or lawsuits. (Although they do sometimes end in divorce.) People who find themselves attracted to coworkers need to be thoughtful about power dynamics, of course, and cognizant of company policies where workplace romance is concerned. And it sounds like you are being


thoughtful and it doesn't sound like either of you have power over each other and are unlikely to ever be in positions of power over each other. And life is short and this pandemic is going to be long. So the next time you get together for some socially distanced socializing, COVER, open your mouth and tell this guy what you’ve been thinking. If he’s as liberal and progressive as you make him out to be, he’s no doubt aware that human sexuality is complicated and that while many of us can find a perfect fit among the most commonly understood set of labels, many of us pick a label that doesn't fit perfectly because it comes closest to capturing some combo of our sexual and/or romantic interest and desires. Don’t think of this ask— don’t think of this disclosure—as walking anything back, COVET, but of expanding and complicating what he already knows about you. You remain homoromantic—you’re only interested in other women romantically—but you are sexually attracted to both men and women sexually. In other words, COVET, your heart is lesbian but your pussy is bi. If he’s up for being your COVID-19 sex buddy, swear to each other that you’ll handle the inevitable end with grace and compassion. For while awkwardness can't be avoided, COVET, stupid and unnecessary drama certainly can. And it’s been my experience that promising in advance to act like grownups ups the chances of everyone acting like grownups. Similarly, simply saying, “Well, this might get awkward,” in advance of awkwardness or, “This is awkward,” if things should get awkward reduces the strength and duration of awkwardness by at least half. Finally, a note to all the guys out there reading this who think COVET’s question gives them license to hit on women who identify as lesbians: No, it doesn't. Don’t do that. If there’s a lesbianidentified-but-not-averse-to-alldick dyke in your life… if you work or to go school with a homoromantic-but-bisexual woman who identifies as a lesbian… and

if that woman is even remotely interested in fucking you, she will let you know. And even if your hunch is correct—even if your dickful thinking is spot-on and that one lesbian you know does wanna fuck you—being disrespectful enough to make the first move instantly disqualifies both you and your dick. This is a letter from a gay guy. If one of my regular kinky playmate friends were to gag and hood me and then fuck me while wearing a condom, would that reasonably be expected to prevent COVID-19 transmission? Hoping Or Otherwise Determined You’re less likely to contract COVID-19 if you’re hooded and gagged and it’ll be even safer if your kinky playmate wears a mask too. But you should be hooded and gagged before your kinky playmate arrives, HOOD, because if gets close enough to hood and gag you himself then he’ll be exhaling all over you and inhaling whatever you're exhaling. And that—inhaling what other people are exhaling—is the risk we all need to avoid right now. And while COVID-19 has been found in semen, the jury is still out on whether semen presents a significant risk of infection. (Unless a dude shoots so hard his semen is aerosolized and his sex partners are in danger of inhaling his spunk into their lungs.) That said, COVID-19 isn’t the only thing we need to worry about, HOOD, so he should wear a condom to protect you from HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. The biggest risk, according to health departments from sea (NYC Health) to shining sea (British Columbia Centres for Disease Control), is kissing— we’re being urged to forgo “kissing and saliva exchange” with randos for the moment—so kinky fuckers who get off on wearing masks, gags, and hoods have a built-in, hard-wired advantage. But no kissing before the hood goes on.


Casey was attending Emerson for poetry. I was planning to sleep in his dorm room that night before heading back to New York where I had been staying on my friends' couch. We left the building and stopped by a coffee shop that was open late. It was cold out. The drinks were partially just to keep our hands warm. Snow sat along the street in hard, dirty piles. Dunkin Donut cups stuck out of them, there were wet cigarettes, there were footprints, the tips of fire hydrants poking out their knobby crowns. It started snowing. It was dusty and slow moving. I liked walking on brick, there was something to it, the clack and slip. We made our way down to the seal tanks. “I always wanted to take someone on a date here at night, to the seal tanks I mean,” I said. “Yeah that’s a good idea.” “Ben and this kid I knew, Kyle, were always doing that. I don’t live close to here anymore so you have to do it.” We stood there for a while watching them glide and tumble. They had all that grace and those stupid, stupid faces. The water in the tanks was very blue. We left, went around to the wharf. In the distance I saw what looked like a couple of people bent over a bench having sex. Neither of us said anything but we kept walking closer. I realized it was not two peo-

ple but just one person. It looked to be an elderly man. His sweatpants were pulled down and bunching behind his knees. He was stooped over and appeared to be masturbating. His ass was very saggy and blemished. Off to the right of him there was a small group of people. We still didn’t say anything to each other and kept walking in his direction. When we were close enough I realized it was actually a woman. She was probably in her fifties. Her hair poked out from under her hat in the curls of the New England Irish. She had two stacks of napkins with the Wendy’s logo on them. One stack was clean. She was taking a couple napkins at a time and putting them between her legs. A

moment later she would remove them and they would be soaked in blood. Then she placed them on top of the second pile with the other soiled napkins. “Are you okay?” I asked. “Huh?” She said. “Do you need help?” “Huh?” “Did one of those guys over there do something to you? Do you need help?” “Ah honey, I’m on my period. Thanks though.” “Oh sorry.” “I don’t care, who cares.” “Should I tell those guys to leave? They’re watching you.” “I don’t care, I’m on my period. Who cares? I know them, they are my friends. I’m on my period, so what. I live under there. So what?” She pointed vaguely towards

the other benches. Casey and I started walking. We passed the group of guys. Now that we were closer I was able to see that they were homeless. “Another night in Boston eh?” One of them said. He was sitting in a sleeping bag, his head tilted up, blowing smoke from his pursed lips. He laughed, took another drag from his cigarette. “You’re gonna catch on fire doing that,” another of them said. “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” said the man smoking is his sleeping bag. We didn’t say much to each other on the way back. “Look,” I said, “I thought somebody did something to her.” Casey laughed. “Well shit man, I’m trying."



Profile for pittsburghcurrent

Pittsburgh Current. Volume 3, Issue 24. July 28, 2020  

Author Deesha Phiyaw and the Secret Lives of Church Ladies; More on Pittsburgh's Black Lives Matter protests, Handmade Arcade goes digital,...

Pittsburgh Current. Volume 3, Issue 24. July 28, 2020  

Author Deesha Phiyaw and the Secret Lives of Church Ladies; More on Pittsburgh's Black Lives Matter protests, Handmade Arcade goes digital,...


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