Equity Café in Allentown

By Alyse Horn and Will Halim

During the NEXT 3 Days event that covered the Hilltop neighborhoods in June, New Sun Rising prepared and executed its first Equity Café that was geared specifically towards Allentown residents.

With the mission of extracting and discovering what residents would like to see in their neighborhood, the event took place on Saturday, June 18 from 1-3 p.m. About 20 people filled Academy PGH, 753 E. Warrington Ave., and for the first half hour they mingled and munched on food from Leon’s Caribbean Restaurant.

From there, Jorinda Bullitt from NSR took the reins. With furniture set up for roundtable discussions, each group talked for 20 minutes and then rotated to the next table.  There were three topics of discussion: find the best of Allentown’s past and identify your present strengths; discover what, who, and how Allentown was at its best; and where do you see yourself in the future of Allentown?

Martha Cississki has been a resident of Allentown since the 1940s, and has seen the good and bad changes in her neighborhood over the years. Back in the 1970s, Cississki said the holidays were always a special time when someone in the community would dress up every year to play Santa Claus for the children, and Christmas trees were given out to those who could not afford one. If she could, she would bring that back that sense of unification and neighbors-helping-neighbors attitude.

Cississki also stressed that what she believes her neighborhood needs are solid leaders and mentors for the younger generation, which would create a better sense of community.

At another table sat Pork, a 25-year-old who also wants the same thing for Allentown. Like Cississki, he has lived in the Hilltop his entire life and is looking for support in his venture to create a studio space where young adults and kids can come together and perform.

"The best times were when I was younger, and I want to recreate my childhood [for kids today]," Pork said.

He said he specifically remembers prominent leaders in the community when he was younger, which is the part of his childhood he is trying to replicate. Even on his bad days when he is walking around Allentown, Pork said he carries himself in a way that shows pride in his community so the younger kids see that.

“They pick up on that” Pork said.

As Pork called for more community leaders in the Hilltop, a woman at the table said “Why can’t it be you? I feel like you are sort of a community leader and I just met you.”

“I might be a community leader, but I need more,” Pork said. “I’m only one person. Let me find another young person like me who wants to do stuff like me.”

The conversation flowed on to how Pork is looking for support from local businesses to fund children’s sports programs, such as dodgeball, kickball, and basketball. He said a lot of kids in the community see their “only way out” through sports and music, so he is trying to get both implemented in the community.

By setting up these structures, Pork said he thinks the kids will grow into young adults who respect their elders and their neighborhood, and these activities will also keep them out of trouble.

The next Equity Cafe will be on July 16 and focus on the dream and design of the ideas that were discovered during the first workshop.

Story Credits

Writer: Alyse Horn
Photographer & Web Producer: Will Halim

Disclaimer: the narrative expressed in the article is solely those of the author(s).
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Underwritten By:


Are you angered by the death of George Floyd? We are.

Are you concerned that property destruction and violence are driving the focus away from peaceful and just demonstrations? We are.

Are you ready for Pittsburgh to go back to normal? We are not.

Murder in broad daylight, by agents of the state, is horrific and shocking and cannot stand.

But there are many other and more subtle ways to choke life from BIPOC, all very normal in the before times, such as:

All of this normal, accepted behavior is slow motion violence:  failing to act systematically, diligently and persistently, as documented by a scathing scientific study (commissioned by City of Pittsburgh) that indicates that Pittsburgh is the worst city in America for Black People.


Yes, we ALL want to feel comfortable and good about ourselves– displaying black screen as avatars, discussing/arguing in social media echo-chambers, posting public statements that you “stand with them.” But feeling comfortable without changing a thing at the expense of BIPOC, especially our Black brothers and sisters, can no longer be an option.

Please watch this video of Van Jones about latent danger of racism and then look at yourself at the mirror. Next, ask people in your own network and circle of influence to do the same.

Back to the old normal is not acceptable.

What are you going to do to create a better now?


Will Halim
Founding Director of Storyburgh


Storyburgh is run by freelancers/part-timers who each have own individual views. The opinion expressed here is my own and does not represent that of the entire group.


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