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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.

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NEWS 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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contents

Vol. III Issue XIX June 23, 2020

NEWS 06 | Cops in Schools 10 | Antwon Rose 12 | New House Speaker 14 | White Fragility OPINION 16 | Larry Schweiger 18 | Rob Rogers ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT 19 | Feralcat and The Wild

Music Editor: Margaret Welsh Margaret@pittsburghcurrent.com Visuals Editor: Jake Mysliwczyk Jake@pittsburghcurrent.com

EXTRA 22 | Savage Love 23 | Matthew Wallenstein 24 | Parting Shot

Social Justice Columnist: Jessica Semler jessica@pittsburghcurrent.com Contributing Writers: Jody DiPerna, Mary Niederberger, Atiya Irvin Mitchell, Dan Savage, Larry Schweiger, Brittany Hailer, info@ pittsburghcurrent.com

COVER PHOTO: JAKE MYSLIWCZYK

Logo Design: Mark Addison FOR ADVERTISING RATES :

Bethany Ruhe Bethany@pittsburghcurrent.com Charlie Deitch Charlie@pittsburghcurrent.com 4 | JUNE 23, 2020 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT

The Fine Print The contents of the Pittsburgh Current are © 2020 by Pittsburgh Current, LLC. All Rights Reserved. No portion of this publication shall be duplicated or reprinted without the express-written consent of Pittsburgh Current LLC. One copy per person. The Pittsburgh Current is published twice monthly beginning August 2018. The opinions contained in columns and letters to the editors represent the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Pittsburgh Current ownership, management and staff. The Pittsburgh Current is an independently owned and operated print and online media company produced in the heart of Pittsburgh’s Beechview neighborhood, 1665 Broadway Ave., Pittsburgh, PA., 15216. 412-204-7248. Email us or don’t: info@pittsburghcurrent.com.


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NEWS

Students, parents and education advocates protest police officers in schools on Monday June 22 outside of the Pittsburgh Public Schools Administration Building. (Current Photos by Jake Mysliwczyk)

A-B-C'S WITHOUT C-O-P-S

SOME EDUCATION ADVOCATES PUSHING FOR REMOVAL OF POLICE FROM SCHOOLS BY MARY NIEDERBERGER - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER MARY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

G

et rid of the 22 police officers in the Pittsburgh Public Schools and replace them with more counselors, psychologists and social workers. Hire more paraprofessionals to work closely with children and re-envision what school safety should look like. That’s the strong message sent to the Pittsburgh school board from a coalition of about a dozen advocacy groups via an online petition and individuals who rallied outside of the PPS headquarters on Bellefield

Street in Oakland Monday afternoon. The coalition includes such groups as the Education Law Center, ACLU, Education Rights Network, National Movement for Black Lives and Youth Advocacy Clinic at Duquesne Law School. But during testimony during the board’s virtual public hearing Monday evening (June 22), there were more speakers who favored keeping school police than those who want to see them gone. The district received testimony from 245 individuals and

6 | JUNE 23, 2020 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT

groups for its monthly public hearing, so it has been divided over two days. It will resume at 3 p.m. today (June 23). While many of the comments were about the demands to remove police from the schools, there were also a number of comments from people who urged the board to renew the charter of Provident charter school, which serves students with dyslexia. Because it was a virtual public hearing, submitted written testimony

was read by district administrators. That testimony included comments from current and retired school staff, students, parents and community activists who expressed their opinions on whether school police are helpful or harmful to Pittsburgh students. The demands outlined in the online petition titled “Cops OUT of Pgh Public Schools” had been presented to the board more than a week ago in the wake of protests over the police killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. Continued on Page 8


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C O N T I N U E D F R O M PA G E 6

PA G E 7

They call for all school police officers to be removed from inside and outside of school buildings and for probation officers also to be removed from schools. Pittsburgh school police are unarmed but have arrest powers and can refer students to the juvenile justice system. Board president Sylvia Wilson did not respond to requests for comment on the issue so it's unclear if the board is considering the demands. The police are members of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers and PFT President Nina Esposito-Visgitis said she is currently surveying all 3,100 union members on the issue. The union president said the union respects the groups raising the issue and is willing to have conversations with them. “We know things have to change, but we also know the work of our school police officers and we don’t want them painted with a broad brush. We are ready and willing to have that conversation,” Visgitis-Esposito said in an interview. In a prepared statement, the union said: “We welcome the addition of new in-school counseling, de-escalation and mental health resources— but addition by subtraction of our school police is a fool’s errand—a hysterical reaction rather than proactive discussion.Our schools, our teachers and our kids will suffer for it. For their sake, let the conversation BEGIN here, not end here.” Advocates for removing the police have pointed out that the Pittsburgh district has one of the highest arrest rates in the state and that black youth are arrested or referred to police for charges almost nine times more often than their white peers, with black youth making up 84.4 percent of all arrests and 87 percent of disorderly

Students, parents and education advocates protest police officers in schools on Monday June 22 outside of the Pittsburgh Public Schools Administration Building. (Current Photos by Jake Mysliwczyk)

8 | JUNE 23, 2020 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT


NEWS conduct charges while accounting or 40.4 percent of the youth population. The petition also asks for an end to what it calls an “open door policy” that allows Pittsburgh police into schools to deal with school-based incidents. Instead, it wants to see investments in restorative and transformative justice, social-emotional learning and trauma-informed curriculum. It also asks for implicit bias training and disability awareness for all district staff. Cheryl Kleiman, a staff attorney with the Education Law Center, pointed out that although the district has taken steps toward equity and inclusion it still pushes “students with disabilities, Black students, and especially Black girls out of school and into the hands of police.” She asked the district to remove school police and commit that any memorandum of understanding with the Pittsburgh Police be limited to “only rare, very serious incidents” and to stop the referrals of students to local law enforcement. The district has worked for more than a year on an MOU with Pittsburgh police but had yet to vote on it. But a number of parents, staff and students spoke of how safe officers in the buildings made them feel and how they work to develop relationships with students, acting almost as if they are “aunts and uncles” to the youth, as described by Jaida DiRenna, who recently graduated from Brashear High School. Several speakers spoke of a school police officer who stopped an armed intruder from entering Pittsburgh Capa 6-12 in 2010. Megan Hutchison, a parent of several students in Pittsburgh schools said the recent protests about police treatment of blacks do not apply to

the school officers. “All of our kids' lives matter and this (removing officers from schools) would be putting their lives in danger,” Hutchison said, adding that the officers are needed to stop anyone from bringing weapons into the schools. “We are not going to allow for any possibility of a school shooting here,” she said. But Alison Paterson, parent of students at Pittsburgh Linden K-5, Obama 6-12 and CAPA 6-12, disagreed. “This spring has forced a reckoning,” she said. Patterson expressed specific concern about the number of black girls arrested by the Pittsburgh school police. The data about the arrests of minority students was also cited by Tiffany Sizemore, assistant professor of clinical legal education at Duquesne University’s School of Law and di-

rector of the Youth Advocacy Clinic. “The data about the negative consequences that school police have on children is not new. The presence of police in schools increases arrests of children. Just one arrest increases the chances that a young person will be rearrested and go deeper into the system. Black and brown children are disproportionately impacted by that increase in arrests,” Sizemore wrote in her testimony. The board also received a June 19 letter from a group called Make Black Lives Matter in PPS Schools, which consists of more than two dozen community activities, medical professionals and non-profit community groups including the YMCA and the United Way. The letter states that Pittsburgh refers students to law enforcement at rates higher than 95 percent of other large U.S. cities and that black boys

are five times more likely than white boys to be referred to the juvenile justice system by school police and black girls nine times more likely than white girls. It said many of the referrals are for minor offenses The online petition asks for policies adopted that prevent law enforcement from being used in the schools except when required by state law or when there is an imminent risk of serious physical harm. Among policies it wants eliminated are those that involve surveillance, that allow officers to put handcuffs on students under the age of 10. It wants compliance with state and federal disability laws for students and for all ALICE (active shooter drills) training to end. The petition also asks for an end to school police issuing citations to students and families, which create a financial burden on them.

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | JUNE 23, 2020 | 9


NEWS REMEMBERING ANTWON ROSE

EVENTS MARK THE TWO YEARS SINCE THE UNARMED 17-YEAR-OLD WAS SHOT AND KILLED BY POLICE OFFICER

In Hawkins Village, on June 19 amid the threat of rain through collaboration the Hill District Consensus Group, the Wellness Collective, Feed the Hood, Confluence Catering and Antwon Rose Foundation marked the two year anniversary of 17-year-old Antwon Rose’s death by distributing 500 hundred meals to the neighborhood where the teenager once lived. “Feed the hood just does this,” Carlos Thomas, founder of Feed the Hood, explained. “This is kinda what we do and just on that day that you know regrettably Antwon Rose was murdered it felt like we should keep the momentum going. It’s also Juneteenth so there’s a celebration behind that too.” The event, which took place in the center of Hawkins Village, held a steady flow of attendees, was put together through volunteer labor. Some organizations donated produce, others tee shirts, while Feed the Hood took care of preparing the meals. It was one of several events held on this day to honor Rose’s memory Previously, Rose had been a part of a group of local kids Thomas helped take to Duquesne University to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the assasination of Martin Luther King and later to lobby against legislation allowing armed guards in school. “Everything has gone great,” Thomas said. “We’re having a good time. Miss Michelle [Rose’s mother] is happy. Antwon’s here, you can feel him here.” Reginald Hudson, the executive chief of the Feed the Hood Initiative, told the Current that he credits

BY ATIYA IRVIN-MITCHELL - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

how smoothly the event ran with a desire for unity in the wake of police killings and the protests that have followed. “It’s at a point now where I think we realize there’s no choice but to make a stand,” he said. “Everyone’s not willing to fight, but just to come together and show the unity. We have a few different organizations here. This is all stuff that people were asked to do, no one is being compensated.” While the music played and meals were handed out, the organizers reported being happy with the end result. Although Hudson recalled encountering some initial resistance from law enforcement. “This is an awesome turnout,” Hudson said. “We did get a little resistance from the police in the beginning, as far as coming down here. But they ended up escorting us most of the way to make sure we got down here safely. I feel like everything turned out pretty well.” The idea was brought to Thomas by Shannon Williams, founder of the newly created Wellness Collective. When the pandemic pushed already vulnerable families to increasing instability Wiliams’s organization started working to help get families what they needed. While Feed the Hood started preparing meals, the Wellness Collective opted for a delivery hotline. Working together, seemed the most efficient course of action. “We started delivering their meals to people who couldn’t physically get to them,” Williams said. After a member of the collective informed Williams that Michelle Kinney, Rose’s mother, was con-

10 | JUNE 23, 2020 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT

cerned about food insecurity in Hawkins Village, Williams took the idea for a tour to Thomas. “That’s where she’s [Kinney] from and she was concerned because she was a food resource when she lived there,”Williams explained. “Now that she doesn’t live here anymore she was concerned that people wouldn’t have food access anymore.” In addition to dinner and dessert, during the event the organizers signed up interested attendees for resources such as food pantries and organizations that assist with

rent and utilities. Earlier in the day, attendees held a balloon launch and march in Rose’s honor. (Photos above and on opposite page by Jake Mysliwczyk.) While Williams like other organizers was pleased with the unity she saw and the overall tone of the event remained upbeat, Williams stressed that ultimately for both the community and Rose’s family the feelings of grief would likely always linger. “Time has passed, it's the second year Antwon’s been gone, but it’s still June 18, 2018 for Miss Michelle and our community,” she said. “It didn’t change, we’re not past this


NEWS

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | JUNE 23, 2020 | 11


NEWS WITH CUTLER AT THE HELM, PA. HOUSE GOP PROMISES NEW IDEAS, HANDS-OFF STYLE BY STEPHEN CARUSO - FOR THE PITTSBURGH CURRENT

After a sudden midterm resignation, the Pennsylvania House Republican leadership has undergone a shake up. The biggest promotion is for Bryan Cutler, who at 45 years old, is now the newest speaker of the Pennsylvania House. In a closed door meeting,his Republican colleagues picked Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre, to be the new majority leader. Rep. Donna Oberlander, R-Clarion, will be his second-in-command at whip. They take over the lower chamber in the middle of turbulent political times. The state is still slowly reopening amid the specter of COVID-19, and faces a multi-billion dollar budget shortfall that still must be filled. Meanwhile, protesters continue to march in the street asking for policing reform, all with less than five months until the 2020 election, with both the presidency of Donald Trump and control of the General Assembly potentially up for grabs. Speaking to the press Monday evening, the new leaders promised new ideas, but declined to go into specifics of their agenda for the next five months, only saying they’d bring a hands-off style. “We all made a concerted effort to do a more bottom-up style leadership,” Cutler said. Benninghoff acknowledged the challenge of the moment, but said

INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

New Pa. House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler

that “oftentimes adversity creates ingenuity.” “As I encouraged our caucus earlier today, maybe we need to take some big bold steps,” Benninghoff said of governing amid protests and the pandemic. “Maybe not just always do budgets

12 | JUNE 23, 2020 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT

like we’ve done them every other time, but look for opportunities to do things a little differently.” A quick rise First elected in 2006, Cutler’s nearly 14-year long ascent to hold the speaker’s gavel is among the

quickest in modern history. Elected as part of the 2006 pay raise controversy, Cutler, a former x-ray technician and attorney, has only served in leadership since 2016, and was majority leader for just 18 months. And his leadership style also


NEWS stands in stark contrast to his predecessor, Allegheny County Republican Speaker Mike Turzai. While Turzai is known for prioritizing his ideology over all others, even fellow Republicans, Cutler is described as an even-tempered wonk who relies on compromise even as he takes strong ideological stands. “The Cutler House will allow us to develop great ideas,” Rep. Jeff Pyle, R-Armstrong, said on the House Floor while nominating Cutler for speaker. As speaker, Cutler will now have a say over the day-to-day operations of the chamber, calling up bills, enforcing rules, and controlling the chamber’s debate. Cutler’s supporters have pointed to his brief record as majority leader as a sign of hope. As leader, Cutler has allowed votes on bills he does not support, from okaying hunting on Sunday to allowing to-go mixed drinks during the COVID-19 pandemic. But Cutler has also received skepticism from Democrats due to his decision to hide a positive COVID-19 case from fellow House lawmakers and staff, citing federal medical privacy laws. On Monday, they nominated their own leader, Rep. Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny, for the speakership. All but two Democrats voted for Dermody before — as is chamber custom — the veteran Democrat asked that Cutler’s election instead be recorded as unanimous. Rhyme and Reason Cutler’s record includes both an

allegiance to bedrock conservative principles, as well as an eye for policy, particularly in health care. In 2019, he and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf cooperated to create a state health care exchange, with proceeds funding a program to lower insurance premiums. Cutler has also authored an update to the state’s lobbying disclosure rules, stricter controls on a state low income utility assistance programs, and changes to hospital licensing, all of which have become law. Rep. Pam DeLissio, D-Philadelphia and a fellow health care industry veteran, worked with Cutler on the latter. At first, DeLissio said, the bill had “special interest language” that benefited doctors and anesthesiologists. She and Cutler found common cause in blocking the bill, taking out the offending measures, and turning it into law. That experience, DeLissio said, was a “bonding experience” and assured her that Cutler is an honest broker. Despite the last three months of partisan, pandemic-inflamed tensions — culminating in a positive COVID-19 case in the Capitol — DeLissio said her belief in Cutler hasn’t wavered. “I have enough of a relationship with him, times nine and a half years, to give him the benefit of the doubt that there was a rhyme and a reason,” DeLissio said of how he handled the case. “Whether I agree with that rhyme or reason may be a different story.”

She also acknowledged there are plenty of spaces where she disagrees with Cutler.

charged with setting the House agenda and shepherding bills from committee to final passage.

For example, he supports the usual conservative position on many issues, including opposing abortion rights and supporting gun rights, though he did vote in 2018 to make it easier to take guns from convicted domestic abusers. In 2015, following the Paris terrorist attacks, he voiced skepticism about allowing Syrian refugees into the state. Cutler has also sponsored proposals to ban the automatic deduction of union dues from state paychecks, known as paycheck protection, and voted unsuccessfully for a similar measure in 2017. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Cutler has also been at the forefront of the General Assembly’s efforts to reopen Pennsylvania, scheduling votes to reopen industries on a piecemeal basis, while forcefully arguing for the separation of powers.

First elected in 1996, he said he plans to, like Cutler, look to his colleagues for an agenda, rather than push his own agenda as leader. Oberlander will succeed Benninghoff as the next whip. She is now in charge of party discipline, and must wrangle Republican lawmaker’s votes on key bills. In a statement, she said she was “honored and humbled” to take the position. With her win, Oberlander is among the highest-ranking female lawmakers to ever serve in the General Assembly. Two other women have served as the whip, according to the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University in Pittsburgh. No woman has held a higher legislative position. Oberlander, who previously served a Republican policy chair, was then replaced by Rep. Martin Causer, R-McKean. Causer won a seven-way race to fill the position. Causer will now travel the state, holding hearings to shape and develop the majority’s agenda.

Bottom up Cutler’s election as speaker Monday also began a cascading effect of leadership openings that Republicans filled in a closed door meeting by secret ballots. Benninghoff, R-Centre, formerly the whip, was elected as the new Majority Leader by his GOP colleagues. He beat House Appropriations Committee Chairman Stan Saylor, R-York, for the position. As leader, Benninghoff is

Stephen Caruso is a reporter with the Pennsylvania Capital-Star where this story first appeared.

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | JUNE 23, 2020 | 13


NEWS 'WHITE FRAGILITY'

AUTHOR ROBIN DIANGELO ON 'WHY IT'S SO HARD FOR WHITE PEOPLE TO TALK ABOUT RACISM' BYJODY DIPERNA - PITTSBURGH CURRENT LIT WRITER

JODY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

R

obin DiAngelo is the author of the book White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, a fixture on the New York Times best seller list for 93 weeks and counting. When the protests sparked by George Floyd's death began and white people started hitting the virtual bookstore, 'White Fragility' was at the top of everybody's list. In accessible prose, DiAngelo breaks down the racist systems and institutions that underpin much, if not all, of American society. For white people who want to work to end deeply entrenched, pernicious racism, this is an essential read. DiAngelo spoke with the Current via telephone in early March in anticipation of an April lecture, before the coronavirus hit the east coast. As a result, she didn't discuss the racial inequities in health care that have been exposed by the pandemic, or the global protests. Pittsburgh Art & Lectures has re-scheduled DiAngelo for a virtual lecture on September 10. (Answers have been lightly edited for length.) You write about interrupting racism. I think it's a really interesting use of the verb, 'interrupt.' Can you talk about what that means? It rests on the premise that racism is the norm, not an aberration. We live in a society that teaches us racism only occurs in isolated

moments and is only perpetrated by very bad people who intend to mean harm. Yet so much of the daily harm people of color feel comes from well-intentioned people. That's on the inter-personal level. On the institutional level, all of our institutions effectively and efficiently reproduce racial inequality. There is clear and empirical evidence and I think most people know that. To interrupt it means that you recognize it as always at play. The status quo is the reproduction of

14 | JUNE 23, 2020 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT

racism -- then the term interrupting that status quo makes more sense. It's not just waiting for somebody to say something that you recognize as a racist joke or comment. It's looking at policies and practices. It's looking at who is at the table and who is not at the table. It opens up a much wider set of possible strategies. Interrupting racism reminds me of the early days of the AIDS crisis when 'Silence = Death' became our rallying

cry. I feel like what happens for white people in this paradigm is, silence equals death, but not for us, so we don't care, or we care less. There is a kind of, I don't care that they're dying because it's their fault: there is something they've done that is wrong, there is something inherent to this group of people. We have those messages with Black people, too. There is empirical research data which shows, when you have a white person and a Black person


NEWS go in front of the judge -- we see it in the opioid crisis, right? So there is something inherently bad or wrong with Black people. They must have done something wrong. It's their fault. They're not granted essential innocence. This gets to anti-Blackness. This is going to be provocative, but I just think white people, at the collective level, fundamentally hate and hold deep contempt for Black people. You quote J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, a researcher who wrote, “racism is a structure, not an event.” If you don't understand that, then everything I'm trying to say is not going to make sense. That's why I spend so much time in my work, in my written work, in my presentations, on 'what is systemic racism?' Because we are taught to see racism as individual, conscious, intentional acts of meanness across race. That is what the average white person is going to think that it means to say that something is racist. I don't know that you could have come up with a more effective way to protect the system of racism than that definition. Most of the racism I've perpetrated is not conscious at all, and (by this definition) if it's not conscious then it doesn't count. And it also has to be intentional in order to count. Most of the harm I have done in my life, at the individual level, has not been intentional either. Although we have laws that say it is illegal to discriminate, you have to prove intent. Even the Richard Spencers of the world will deny that they're racist. It's become so simplified into this

formula and they know that they need to distance themselves from that definition. My grandmother used to always say that the road to hell was paved with good intentions. Exactly. I'm at a place where I think my intentions are somewhat irrelevant. I hope that they are good. What's really important is the impact of my actions. All of this focus on intentions allows us to lose focus on the impact. Yes, I didn't mean to hurt you, but I did hurt you. Am I willing to engage with that? It tends to function as a 'get over it, I didn't mean to and that's all that matters.' It also leads to the non-apology-apology. “If you thought that was racism, I'm sorry. I'm sad you thought it was.” One of the things you write about really well is the fact that white people are taught we miss nothing of value by living in white neighborhoods. Pittsburgh is my hometown and I love it and it is a tremendously segregated city. I wonder if you can talk about racism, segregation and property. If this is too provocative, people get crazy. But we live in a fundamentally anti-Black culture and in the white mind, Black people are the ultimate racial other. That is so deep, anti-Blackness is so deep. But living together -- the only time that happens is if a neighborhood is moving. It's rare. Racism is so embedded and inscribed in geography in this country. In some ways, that's the true measure. It's not an accident. People

say, 'I just happen to grow up in an all-white neighborhood.' You didn't just happen to. That's not a natural phenomenon. That is the result of decades and decades of policies and practices. De jure in the past, de facto in the present. I interviewed a writer who is a fiction writer who wrote a brilliant novel set in Western Pennsylvania. She writes about race in a really conscious way, as a white person from a white place. white people have an unracialized identity so that we don't see race or see white space as racialized. Race is only at play if people of color are present. The subtext of that is white racial innocence, right? It allows us to position ourselves as innocent of race. They are the holders of race, which means that they are the holders of any problems around race, right? white people are not innocent of race. There is so much that we can speak to on how we were socialized into a sense of racial superiority, why we feel no loss, why we prefer segregation. There's so much we can reflect on and offer in those conversations. It's not benign -- that idea that we don't have race and they do. The way you write about the invisibility of white supremacy in the book makes me think of the Silicon Valley catch-phrase -- it's not a bug, it's a feature. The way I put that is -- it's the norm, it's not an aberration. My training in sociology has been invaluable to me and there is a question that has never failed me is -- how does it function? In other words, how does it function to see

it as an aberration rather than the norm? It protects the racist status quo and our place within that status quo. There's a reason we choose one narrative over another, there's a reason we choose to see it that way. It also requires nothing more of me. Do you ever get a sense of despair? Do you ever just get overwhelmed and want to quit? After all these years, I just believe that most white people don't care about racial inequality. That racial inequality serves us. I don't care if somebody else has an inferior education, in fact I need them to have an inferior education, so that my child can have the best possible of everything. I will say that and if it gets a white person's back up, great, show me different. It is really discouraging. But as a white person, I cannot succumb to hopelessness. It ultimately serves my position, my privilege, my advantage to feel hopeless. So I have to pull myself out and say, to the best of my ability, I was in my integrity. I aligned what I professed to believe with how I actually acted in the world today. That's a daily process. I don't say I have arrived. But was I an ally in each moment today? Or was I not? That's a moving target.

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | JUNE 23, 2020 | 15


NEWS OPINION

PRESIDENTIAL ACCOUNTABILITY: LOST IN THE SENATE BY LARRY J. SCHWEIGER - PITTSBURGH CURRENT COLUMNIST

INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

Anyone attempting to hold Trump or any of his criminal cronies accountable should expect to get fired or at least trashed on Twitter. It is a pattern repeated during the past threeand-a-half years. In unprecedented actions during the past several weeks, Trump has been purging Inspectors Generals for doing their job addressing wrong-doing in their respective agencies. He fired Michael Atkinson, who was overseeing the Intelligence Community, Mitch Behm covering McConnell's wife heading the Transportation Department, Glenn Fine the watchdog for the Defense Department, Christi Grimm covering the Health and Human Services and most recently, Steve Linick. Linick was actively investigating wrong-doing by Pompeo, the Secretary of State. As the leader, Trump and his administration are to be accountable for oversight. Trump and Cabinet members are responsible for any failures, as well as successes. Accountability comes as part of the job description, which is why blocking it will cause long-term harm to the levels of accountability previously existing. Most recently acting as Trump's attorney, U.S. Attorney General William Barr facilitated the firing of Geoffrey Berman, a Trump selected U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. Barr issued a statement on Friday night announcing that Berman was stepping down and that Trump would nominate Jay Clayton to replace him. Clayton,

the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, has no experience as a prosecutor and, most importantly, previously represented Deutsche Bank. This bank bailed Trump out of his bankruptcies. It facilitated Russian money-laundering that landed the bank in serious legal trouble. In a failed Friday night massacre, Barr lied, saying that Berman resigned. In a surprise and courageous move, Berman responded in a written statement, "I learned in a press release from the Attorney General tonight that I was 'stepping down' as United States Attorney. I have not resigned, and have no intention of resigning, my position to which I was appointed by the Judges of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. I will step down when a presidentially appointed nominee is confirmed by the Senate. Until then, our investigations will move forward without delay or interruption. I cherish every day that I work with the men and women of this office to pursue justice without fear or favor— and intend to ensure that this office's important cases continue unimpeded.� Barr was caught in another lie and went to Trump to fire Berman. On Saturday, Trump fired Berman, who managed a series of cases against Trump and his allies, including Michael Cohen, Trump's current lawyer Rudolph Giuliani, and Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman indicted for funneling Russian money to Republicans. Berman is believed to be

16 | JUNE 23, 2020 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT

Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr

investigating Trump's finances, among many other Trump-related matters, and the administration wants to delay or interrupt further investigations. Former National Security Advisor John Bolton suggested another reason from his forthcoming book claiming that Trump assured Turkey's autocratic leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan he would fill the Southern

District with his loyalists, which would enable him to do Erdogan a political favor. Preet Bharara, Berman's predecessor, tweeted a rhetorical question, "Why does a president get rid of his own hand-picked U.S. Attorney in SDNY on a Friday night, less than 5 months before the election?" When asked about the firing, Trump denied his role and shift-


NEWS OPINION

ed the story back to Barr, who did not have the authority to fire Berman. Berman must be getting close to something big impacting Trump for this to happen. The Supreme Court is close to deciding whether Deutsche Bank and Trump's accountants must hand Trump’s financial records over to Congress and/or to the Manhattan district attorney. This decision could ignite serious

trouble for Trump. Trump and Barr were hoping the story of this firing would get lost in a Friday-night news dump. Instead, it will go into history as another clear obstruction of justice by Trump. The Constitution has a builtin mechanism for Presidential accountability through the impeachment process. Still, the Republicans in the Senate broke this most important safeguard with a sham trial. There is no possibility of another impeachment proceeding between now and the November elections. The failure of the Senate to hold Trump accountable has had a profound impact on a lawless President who now believes he is above the law and removed from all accountability. Even with new revelations from Bolton and perhaps a decision from the Supreme Court, we should expect continued “crickets” from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the many spineless Republicans. They are ignoring the dangerous actions of a criminal president. Two Republican Senators, Tennessee and Senator Bob Corker and Arizona Senator, called it quits after repeated run-ins with Trump. Corker called the White House an adult daycare center. In a Senate speech, Jeff Flake warned, “so powerful is the presidency that the damage done by the sustained attack on the truth will not be confined to the president’s time in office… we know well that no matter how powerful, no president will ever have dominion over objective reality. No longer can we compound attacks on truth with our silent acquiescence. No longer can we turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to these assaults on our institutions. And Mr. Presi-

dent, an American president who cannot take criticism – who must constantly deflect and distort and distract – who must find someone else to blame -- is charting a very dangerous path. And a Congress that fails to act as a check on the president adds to the danger… To be very clear, to call the Russia matter a “hoax” – as the president has many times – is a falsehood. We know that the attacks orchestrated by the Russian government during the election were real and constitute a grave threat to both American sovereignty and to our national security. It is in the interest of every American to get to the bottom of this matter, wherever the investigation leads.” Trump claimed he toppled Corker's and Flake's re-election chances, and by so doing, he scared spineless politicians, including Pennsylvania Senator Toomey, into complete submission. Republicans in the House and Senate have been towing the Trump line with the sole exception of Senator Mitt Romney, who voted to impeach Trump. A John Bolton subpoena and calling other witnesses could have revealed the truth about Trump's crimes. Still, the Senate under Mitch McConnel fast-tracked the process and failed to investigate the impeachment of Trump properly. When Senators failed to hold Trump accountable, things that were already bad, started to go dangerously awry. Not long after the Senate voted against conviction, Trump claimed he had the virus under control, delayed aggressive testing, and failed to make sound choices to meet the virus's challenges. Trump sees testing as a form of accountability and fought against testing from the beginning. This is what he said about his efforts

at his poorly attended Tulsa rally. "Here's the bad part...you do testing to that extend, you're gonna find more people, you're gonna find more cases. So I said to my people, slow the testing down, please. They test, and they test.” He fears the virus threatens his re-election and thinks he can somehow ignore it and hope it would just go away. Early on, he said the cases would go to zero. Now over 120,000 Americans are dead, and 40 million are unemployed. Trump did not create the virus, but he mismanaged the response at every turn. He destroyed so much because he put his ambitions ahead of the needs of the American people. Trump’s gross negligence has resulted in more deaths than the deaths that occurred in the First World War. If Toomey the Republican lawmakers toke their duty seriously when things with Trump started to go wrong, they could have asserted their authority as lawmakers and restrained his many irresponsible actions. When Toomey is up for re-election, we must remember how poorly he performed during Trump's time in office and especially with the impeachment. Senator Toomey and the other Republicans failed to convict in the face of clear and compelling evidence. They have gone into spectator mode watching impotently as the Trump government fails to address so many pressing issues, including the climate crisis, pandemic, and Black Lives Matter. Here in Pennsylvania, we need to hold Senator Toomey responsible for his failure to hold Trump accountable. Voting in every election and volunteering to get others out to vote are vital for restoring accountability.

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | JUNE 23, 2020 | 17


NEWS OPINION

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NEWS A&E

WILD CAT

FERALCAT AND THE WILD IS A ONE-OF-A-KIND GROUP IN PITTSBURGH'S MUSIC SCENE BY MARGARET WELSH - PITTSBURGH CURRENT MUSIC EDITOR

MARGARET@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

Feralcat and the Wild's Roger Rafael Romero (Current Photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)

Y

ou won't find many bands in town like Feralcat and the Wild, or frontmen like saxophonist Roger Rafael Romero. The six-piece plays a high-energy blend of proggy arena rock and heavy jazz fusion, while also drawing plenty from free jazz and underground art-punk. Supported by a skilled ensemble of musicians on guitars, keys, bass and drums, Romero’s saxophone takes the place of a

traditional vocalist. It's certainly not unheard of for the saxophone to be front and center (especially in the jazz world), but more often, it’s relegated to support status. Romero wants to change the way listeners think about improvisational sax. “l wanted the whole vibe of being a frontman but without having to sing,” Romero says in a phone conversion in mid June. “I see a lot of jazz musicians

as my heroes, and so I still see saxophone at the forefront of a lot of instrumental music that I care about.” It’s not just that his instrument stands in for a voice. A dynamic and engaging presence (for proof, Google some live performances), Romero plays his saxophone like it’s a part of him. He mentions Christian Scott, a New Orleans-based trumpeter who melds jazz with hip-hop and rock as an influence: “[He’s]

super fashionable and ridiculously intelligent and thoughtful, methodical when it comes to approaching music.” Romero also found direction watching concert footage of jazz-fusion artists of the ‘70s and ‘80s, and of icons like Freddie Mercury and Prince. “The energy was so different from one to the other, even though it's the same number of people [in the audience] and the same kind of stage,” Romero

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | JUNE 23, 2020 | 19


NEWS A&E

says. “I see front-people and I want to do that, and I see these guys who play super intelligently and super artistically on their instruments and I want to do that. So it just kind of made sense to do them together.” On the band’s Facebook page, Romero describes the desire to break out of the pigeon-holing of his early days as a musician, playing, as he puts it, “seated jazz concerts for adults.” Feralcat and the Wild, by contrast, is music meant for dancing, or maybe even moshing. But moshing, in public at least, is currently on hold. Feralcat and the Wild were all set to tour this past spring, with a stop at SXSW. When that was canceled, “I lost quite a bit of motivation,” Romero admits. Without being able to collaborate with his bandmates, he, like many artists in quarantine, began to turn inward, writing music on his own. He’s still writing for the band. But he’s also been writing for himself, under the name “Feralcat,” and his Bandcamp page is full of experiments and short, intimate pieces that feel like pages torn from a journal. “I kind of wanted to make it this really obvious trial-and-error for me. I don’t want to pretend like the things I'm putting up there are finished products.” The titles of the pieces reflect that work-in-progress feel: “onmylove.f3ralcat,” “witheringrose[addsax].f3ralcat.” In a way, these are notes Romero is writing to himself, in case he wants to eventually go back to make more polished versions. For now, though, he says, “instead of going back and fixing something I've done before, I'm like, ‘Oh, I'm going to make something else. “Like, here’s where I am now, and then here’s me yesterday,

Feralcat and the Wild's Roger Rafael Romero (Current Photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)

or two days ago, and its little snippets for what's going on in my brain.” First, Romero makes a beat that he considers serviceable (he’s emphatic about not being an actual beatmaker), then uses it as a canvas for improvisation. “With the saxophone I get limited in my range of motion ...I can really only play one note at a time.” With home recording, he can take that single voice and reproduce it, layering the sound into something new. Romero grew up in New

20 | JUNE 23, 2020 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT

Jersey and moved to Pittsburgh to study materials engineering at CMU. But he was always driven by music. Over the years he’s steadily dug himself a place in the Pittsburgh music community. For a time he worked as a server at the now-closed James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy, where he was exposed to a constant stream of live performance. “I loved getting to see so much live music, [seeing] legends like Roger Humphries playing jazz [then] going down in the Speakeasy and seeing a punk show... it felt

like both my worlds were mixing when I was there.” These days Romero teaches music full time via two different non-profits, Hope Academy, in East Liberty, where he gives private lessons, and Center of Life in Hazelwood, where he’s the assistant jazz program coordinator. He knows the local scene well, and recently went semi-viral with some playful but nonetheless scathing Twitter jokes about the way Black artists are treated in Pittsburgh. “Pittsburgh about to be like, ‘Love Everyone and End Racism: Rusted Root, Buffalo Rose, and Livefromthecity’ sponsored by Walnut Capital, Gentrifiers Anonymous, and the entire East Liberty Farmers Market,” he tweeted on June 11. Romero was surprised by the number of likes and retweets: Tweeting, he says, usually feels like sending thoughts into the void. And he felt kind of bad about mentioning specific artists by name for the sake of a joke. “But,” he adds, “I think there’s something to be said about how that tweet gained traction ….if there wasn’t any element of truth to it, people wouldn’t be retweeting it.” Quite often, the kinds of events he was making fun of -- nominally intended to celebrate Black artists and unity in the music scene -- are organized by gentrifying forces that are simultaneously pushing Black residents out of their communities. And, Romero says, there’s an element of disrespect in the way Black artists in the city are treated, “when you’re kind of lumped on a bill where musically it doesn’t make sense ....and that happens pretty frequently. So that was kind of the takeaway from those tweets, and that's kind of what i was trying to exemplify.”


NEWS

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | JUNE 23, 2020 | 21


EXTRA NEWS

Savage Love Love | sex | relationships

I

BY DAN SAVAGE MAIL@SAVAGELOVE.NET

’m committed to my male partner and he’s committed to me. (I’m a woman.) But we both understand we need to flirt and that we will both want to sleep with someone else at some point. We live together, we have a dog, and neither of us believes in marriage. We plan to purchase a house in the coming months. Here’s the issue: he met a woman at work. He’s not sexually attracted to her at all. She, however, would love to blow him. She’s in an unhappy marriage and has no friends. They exchanged numbers when my partner was transferred and now she texts him constantly. It doesn’t totally bother me. But not only does she text him at all hours of the day and night, but she continuously tells him he’s the hottest man she’s ever met. She sends him nudes, which I’ve seen, and wants to suck his “huge dick.” (It is huge.) But even though I know he’s not sexually attracted to her, I'm still feeling threatened. I have extremely low self-esteem right now and I’m struggling with depression. I’m speaking with a therapist and I’m on meds. But the meds have made me gain about fifty pounds, which doesn’t help with the depression. I get the need and desire to flirt. But right now I’m not confident enough to be okay with him being sexual with another person even if it’s just texts. And I feel this way knowing he has no plans to be with her! He continues to tell me he has no desire to spend his life with anyone else but me. Yet he’s suddenly hesitant to buy a house. I guess I’m

asking WTF should I do? Dinging Phone Really Exacerbating Semi-Serious Depression You say it doesn’t bother you—it doesn't totally bother you—that this woman texts your partner day and night, DPRESSD, which strikes me as odd. Because that shit would drive me up the wall. Blowing up someone’s phone at all hours of the day and night screams “I HAVE NO BOUNDARIES! I AM INCAPABLE OF BEING CONSIDERATE! I HAVE NO SELF CONTROL!” Even if you were in a place where you felt better about your partner getting some attention elsewhere, the shit this woman is pulling would still be annoying, unsettling, and totally bothersome. And this shit should be disqualifying—meaning, your partner should’ve shut this woman down already. He should’ve told this woman to knock it off and, if she didn’t knock it off, he should’ve told her to fuck the fuck off and blocked her number. If he tried to shut her down and she kept texting him, DPRESSD, then I have to wonder why he hasn’t he blocked her number already. Assuming he’s telling you the truth about not being attracted to her—and it sounds like he is—he may have allowed this to go on because he enjoys feeling desirable and/or he doesn’t want to hurt her feelings. If it’s the former, make it clear to your partner that you wouldn’t have a problem with him finding someone else to swap flirty sext messages with, so longs as it’s

22 | JUNE 23, 2020 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT

someone who can sext in moderation and at appropriate times. If it’s the latter, DPRESSD, make it clear to your partner that this shit is hurting your feelings and, as his partner, you expect him to prioritize your feelings over his former coworker’s feelings. All that said, DPRESSD, even if the thought of your partner going off to play with another woman didn’t make you feel insecure, you wouldn't want your partner getting blown by this particular woman. Even if your partner has never said, “Don’t text me at all hours of the day and night,” that’s no excuse. No one wants their phone or their partner’s phone blowing up at 3 AM; that’s not a boundary anyone should have to articulate to set and, articulated or not, no one with any common sense would do that. (And, holy crap, if this is how this woman behaves in pursuit of your partner’s big cock, how is she gonna behave after she gets a taste?) As for the house issue, DPRESSD, press your partner to clarify his sudden hesitancy. It may have nothing to do with your relationship; it’s entirely possible that he’s freaked out by the state of the world—because, my God, who isn’t?—and he’s having second thoughts about sinking his savings into a house. Depression often puts the worst possible spin on things; it can lead us to reject a calming truth someone is telling us in favor of an alarming lie we’re telling ourselves. Don’t fall into that trap. And finally, DPRESSD, please talk to your doctor about switching out your meds. If weight gain is a side effect of the ones you’re on now and weight gain is making you more depressed, then it doesn’t make sense to keep treating your depression with the meds you’re on now. A different med might give you the same benefits without this

particular side effect. I met someone I connected with during quarantine. We’ve all but committed to screwing our brains out after we’re given the all-clear. But she recently suffered a devastating loss. We will meet, on her terms, most likely very soon. I know I should follow her lead, but should I avoid sex even if she wants to have sex? I don't know if sex will help or hurt. Is being chaste and supportive the right move? Can sex help in a time of loss? I just don’t want to be the asshole someone winds up writing to you for advice about. Looking Over Sexual Timing wondering Follow her lead—that’s a good impulse—and if she wants to have sex after you’ve met in person and after you’ve made it clear to her that there’s no rush, LOST, and if you want to have sex after you’ve met her in person, go ahead and have sex. Some people find sex after a devastating loss to be healing and affirming and the last thing that person needs is for someone else to decide they shouldn’t be having sex or even wanting to have sex. As for the all-clear you’re waiting for, well, that could be a long time off, seeing as COVID-19 rates are spiking all over the country. If you decide you can’t wait for the all-clear, please consult the New York Health Department’s safer sex/harm-reduction recommendations for people who want to have sex during this pandemic. (Google “New York Health,” “coronavirus,” and “sex.”) To quickly summarize: you can minimize your risk of contracting or transmitting COVID-19 by wearing a mask, not eating ass, using condoms, and using a glory hole.


NEWS ESSAY THE DEAD DEER BY MATTHEW WALLENSTEIN - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

O

ne morning the lifeless body of a deer appeared in the backyard. It was near the big tree that all those rusted bicycles hung from. The snow was piled high and the deer lay there in it. A large and motionless thing in the blue light of early morning. It was an apparition, there were no tracks in the snow, not a footprint leading to the body, not an explanation or clue, just a dead deer. For a while that’s what we called the house, The Dead Deer. The girl P had been dating was moving out. They were done with what they had going. I was living in a barn in the woods on the other side of the state and he invited me to take her old room. After moving in I worked as a dishwasher, a town over. I would ride my bike to work. Most days when I got home P and I would listen to records and then go skateboarding. Sometimes A, our other roommate, would come. We also lived with S who would later be a master printmaker but at the time was a prominent graffiti writer. His girlfriend stayed over most nights. She wrote very honest poems. There was one about a hurricane that shared her name that I thought was beautiful. She brought us loaves of bread that were left over at the end of the day from the bakery where she worked. It was great because I had little money for food at the time. Last there was J. I would be lying if I said I liked him right away, in fact I let him know pretty quickly I didn’t like him at all. He had a lot of idiosyncrasies, but I came to find none of it was put on for effect, it was just who he was. Once I realized it was sincere I began to like him more and more. By the end of our time there I considered him a real friend. He was a short, dark haired guy. He loved books.

He was always dreaming about meeting a tall red head. His car was filled with hundreds of bobbleheads, every inch of its exterior covered in bumper stickers. J was determined to write a novel and took the year I lived with him to try. So he wrote, ate cereal on the couch, substituted sometimes at the private school down the street, grew his beard. He ended up with a few published stories. One of which was turned into a play which had a short but very successful run. The next door neighbor was always pounding on the door. He had a ’70s muscle car parked in the driveway that he never moved, but didn’t like when one of my housemates would park in front of it. He would clench his fists and make vague threats. I came pretty close a couple of times to hitting him but he would always storm off after I made that known to him. P lived on the third floor of our house. The bathroom was on the first. So he would piss into gallon jugs he kept in his room rather than make the trip downstairs when it was late and he was tired. One night when all of us were in the living room I convinced P he should dump a gallon of the urine in the window of the neighbors muscle car. He went up to his room and came back naked with a jug in each hand. He walked outside like that, down to the car. The window on the drivers-side was open about the width of a couple fingers which was just enough for him to fit the mouth of the jug. He dumped its entire contents in, popped the top off the second jug, and splashed it on the doors. He then lay down on the hood of the car face down and proceeded to piss all over it. P started seeing a new one. She didn’t like me. I didn’t like her. She would get drunk, stand outside and

smash bottles against the house at 3 or 4 in the morning. He would come out and they would fuck in the driveway or on the stairs, sometimes screaming or fighting first. It was winter. A lot of my weekends I took the Amtrak to Lowell to see the girl I was dating. I would read on the train, look out the window, wonder why either of us were bothering with it, not really knowing how to quit. I once returned late at night and walked back from the station. Snow piled the sidewalks. I walked through it. The snow always seemed thick, immutable, total. When I turned down Belknap the girl from the projects across from our house was sitting cross legged in the middle of the street. She had on this devil mask. I knew it was her because I had seen her wearing it before when she came asking us for drugs or popsicles or trying to borrow our TV. She stayed like that until a car turned the corner and headed up the hill in her direction. She stood up and charged at it full speed, screaming about hell and demons. They stomped the breaks and slid, turning onto the sidewalk and hitting a snowbank. She sat back down in the middle of the street cross legged again. She didn’t lose this thing she was doing. I went inside and didn’t see what happened next. I witnessed her do the same thing again that spring. She didn’t lose that time

either. It must have been ten years later or close to it when P got married. I was living in Mexico City but was able to borrow enough money to fly up for it. They got married on my birthday, or a day or two before or after, I can’t remember. She was perfect for him, a painter, a kind person. They fit. It was a small event. Afterwards there was a get together. I saw J for the first time in a few years. The last time I had seen him was when he’d had a mental break, thought he was capable of mind control, spent a little time in the funny farm. I went up to visit him when he got out. But at P’s wedding he was different. He had found someone too, she was a good 6 inches taller than him, thick red hair. She grew up in a cult in the woods, lived in the cult for the first part of her life. She was into medical history. He had so much pride introducing her, walking around with her, holding her hand. It was not a macho pride, it was a sort of amazement he had that, through these small things, he was able to confirm he really was with her. At one point I was sitting in a folding chair next to a friend of mine. Across the room J was dancing with his redhead. I remember telling my friend to look at the expression of J’s face, how he just knew. To love with such certainty is a rare and remarkable thing.

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | JUNE 23, 2020 | 23


NEWS

PA R T I N G S H OT PITTSBURGH CURRENT PHOTO BY JAKE MYSLIWCZYK PITTSBURGH CURRENT | JUNE 23, 2020 | 24

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Pittsburgh Current. Volume 3, Issue 19. July 23, 2020  

Cops in Schools, Remembering Antwon Rose and a new kind of frontman

Pittsburgh Current. Volume 3, Issue 19. July 23, 2020  

Cops in Schools, Remembering Antwon Rose and a new kind of frontman

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