Strengthening Community Power, Voice, and Capacity

Jun 17, 2022

Special Edition Juneteenth Blog

Written by Director of Equity and Inclusion, Shad Henderson

Before Juneteenth became a federal holiday and overly commercialized, there have been families, communities, and organizations commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African-Americans well before it was more widely socially accepted.

One of those organizations is the Community Empowerment Association. CEA’s mission is to restore, reclaim and transform distressed communities through strategic planning, collaboration, advocacy, education and training.

In honor of Juneteenth, we’re taking time to uplift and celebrate CEA and their transformational work.

About CEA

Brother Rashad Byrdsong, Amargie Davis and the CEA team have been on the front lines for a long time fighting for social and economic justice for Black people in Pittsburgh. It’s no easy task for an unapologetically Black, activist oriented, community serving organization to keep its doors open in this city but CEA has provided quality, culturally competent services and opportunities for our neighborhoods since 1993. In addition, CEA is one of the first organizations to address gun violence in our communities from a Public Health approach as evidenced in published works that they have authored:

CEA Through the Years

Before Juneteenth became a federal holiday and overly commercialized, there have been families, communities, and organizations commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African-Americans well before it was widely socially acceptable.

The Challenge

A goal that we must achieve as a region is to ensure sustainable funding for Black-led, grassroots organizations like CEA who consistently deliver real results. As conveyed in the Equitable Development: The Path to an All-In Pittsburgh report, community leaders that were interviewed expressed disappointment with funders who at times support outside organizations with new ideas (and largely White staff and leadership) rather than investing in building the capacity of neighborhood-based organizations led and staffed by people of color.

The RISE HIGH Strategy

Equity is the very foundation of what we do and the driving force behind our work. Our RISE HIGH (Racially Inclusive Solutions for Equity, Healing, Impact, Growth and Health) Strategy centers all of our work and investments in equity and inclusion.

As a community development intermediary, we fully understand that residents and grassroots organizations living and working in Pittsburgh’s underdeveloped communities are central to making equitable development a reality. They are the soul of its neighborhoods, possess valuable information, insight and wisdom critical to designing solutions that work. As stated in Mayor Gainey’s 2022 Transition Report, achieving real equity requires both deliberate thought and committed action. To realize the vision of an equitable Pittsburgh, equity must be considered in every new project and proposal.

Over the years, Neighborhood Allies has recognized and supported CEA through these efforts; yet, we know this is not enough:

  • 2022: $5,000 for Marketing, Branding and Communications Technical assistance
  • 2021: $10,000 through our Social Impact Design program we partnered to enhance the design and conceptual planning processes for an enhanced community space at CEA. Further partnered with CEA to assist them with development of fundraising proposal for the project.
  • 2021: $75,000 RISE HIGH Grant Partnership Award for CEA’s Community Health, Wellness & Healing Center
  • $1,500 Sponsorship for the 1st Annual Homewood Community Health and Wellness Summit
  • 2020: $10,000 for the COVID-19 Emergency Food and Distribution Center
  • 2020 Quality of Life Healthy Neighborhood Awardee
  • 2014: $75,000 support for CEA’s Strategic Training Employment Program (STEP) to provide construction industry training as well as life skills training training to local community residents.

How can you help?

As such, we want to uplift three easy opportunities for the greater Pittsburgh community to connect with CEA and invest in projects that will produce tangible results:

  1. Reach out to Brother Rashad at and Ms. Amargie Davis to learn more about CEA, their work and ways you can provide support.
  2. A $160,000 budget gap exists with the CEA Community Plaza project in Homewood. This project will transform a parking lot into a vibrant 10,000 square foot, publicly accessible plaza that celebrates African-American history and culture.
  3. Sponsor and attend events of the 2nd Annual Homewood Health Summit taking place on the Saturdays of July 24th, July 30th and August 6th. Please contact Brother Rashad and/or Ms. Amargie for details.

In honor of Juneteenth, our offices will be closed on Monday, June 20th. If you haven’t already, please subscribe to our RISE HIGH Newsletter so we can stay connected and work together to advance racial equity in Pittsburgh.

Top Header Image Photo Credit: Prototyping Larimer Stories by artist John Peña, photo by OPA