17-YEAR-OLDS JAIDEN BROWN AND MATHEW STEFFY-ROSS, shown above, were killed when a party at a residence in Pittsburgh’s East Allegheny neighborhood turned into the site of a mass shooting, April 17. Eight other young people were shot.
It was supposed to be a simple party for young people celebrating spring break. It quickly became Pittsburgh’s largest mass shooting since the Tree of Life massacre in 2018. Pittsburgh Police said they “would not rest” until they found those responsible for firing at least 140 gunshots here, there and everywhere, with no regard for human life. Two people, 17-year-old teens Mathew Steffy-Ross, of Pitcairn, and Jaiden Brown, exact residence unknown, died in the shooting, which occurred shortly after 12:30 Sunday morning — yes, Easter Sunday morning, April 17. Eight other young people were shot, and were expected to survive. Others were injured trying to escape the hail of gunfire, with some youngsters jumping from the second-story windows of the home at 900B Suismon Street on the North Side, a home used as an AirBnB rental property. A party brought upwards of 200 young people to the home. When the gunfire began, mayhem ensued.
Now, all that’s left is heartbreak.
THE AFTERMATH OF THE SHOOTING ON SUISMON STREET on the North Side early Sunday, April 17, shows car windows shot out, and evidence of where people jumped out of a second-floor window to escape the gunfire coming from inside. (Photo by Rob Taylor Jr.)
COMMUNITY RISING MORE AND MORE AGAINST THE VIOLENCE
The New Pittsburgh Courier has been reporting on the unfortunate gun violence plaguing the Black community for decades. More recently, the Courier has reported on the more-than 20 homicides that have occurred in Pittsburgh’s city limits alone this year, but also how so many community members are speaking out against the violence.
Pittsburgh’s new mayor, Ed Gainey, personally walked the streets of Homewood last month to let residents know that he stands in solidarity with them in condemning the violence. He and his cabinet vowed to come up with a plan to help curb the violence. A number of community members walked with him, as residents asked for more police patrols in the neighborhood, better lighting of the streets, etc. Hundreds came out to a community meeting later that evening after the daytime neighborhood walk, another sign that more community members are joining in the fight to take their neighborhoods back.
Reverend Cornell Jones, coordinator of the city’s Group Violence Intervention initiative, led a march from Homewood to East Liberty on Good Friday, April 15, known as the “March for Peace,” originated by the late Rev. Eugene “Freedom” Blackwell. About 100 people joined Rev. Jones on the march.
You can find the organization “MADDADS” on the streets of Homewood, Downtown, and elsewhere, helping to stop violence before it starts. The Courier has learned that the organization received a $11,947 grant in March to fund supplies and equipment for its program that trains and mobilizes dedicated, roving safety teams of neighborhood fathers to conduct street patrols.
Tim Stevens, the longtime Chairman and CEO of the Black Political Empowerment Project, has positioned his organization to do whatever it can to help curb the violence.
There are countless other entities in this fight. Like the South Pittsburgh Coalition for Peace, headed by Rev. Eileen Smith; Lee Davis, who serves as a mentor to numerous African American young males in the region; 1Hood Media, led by Jasiri X, which provides an outlet for young African American creatives to reach their fullest potential; Reverend Glenn Grayson Sr., of Wesley Center AME Zion Church in the Hill District, who runs The Center that C.A.R.E.S.; and many more organizations, from Clairton, to McKeesport, to Beaver County, to Beltzhoover, to the North Side.
‘WHERE ARE THE PARENTS?’
On Tuesday, April 19, Pittsburgh resident Candice Hall was picking up some groceries at the Giant Eagle Market District in Shadyside with her nieces, the mass shooting in East Allegheny on the North Side still fresh on her mind. But, in an interview with the Courier, her sadness for the families of those killed in the shooting turned to anger in what she said has become a disturbing trend—parents not properly looking after their children.
“They need to be more aware of what their children are doing,” Hall said. “I have five sons and they tell me everything. They need to get into their children’s business and stop being their friends.”
It’s not every parent, Hall said, “and we’re not going to be able to watch their every move, but get into their lives and see what’s going on.”
Hall added: “My 16-year-old, he goes out, he checks in. Get into your children’s business, that’s just it for me.”
Robert, who declined to give his last name, told the Courier that “being a senior citizen, 62, I feel as though this generation is not raised like we were. We weren’t allowed to go to parties at that age, 12, 15, 17, unless accompanied by an adult. And to carry firearms at that age is totally ridiculous. I just feel it was a senseless tragedy.”
When asked what he would tell today’s parents, he replied: “There’s not too much that I can say because their parents didn’t teach them. It should be handed down from generation to generation but this generation it seems, I wouldn’t say is lost, but it’s just not anything that can be said except to raise them up in the Biblical sense, ‘Spare the rod, spoil the child.’ We can’t even do that anymore.”
Michelle, who declined to give her last name, raised three sons in the Hill District. She now lives in East Liberty. “When I first heard about it, I was devastated,” she told the Courier. “I have three boys of my own, I raised them on my own. Talking about it now (the shooting) is bringing me to tears. We need to go back to the village raising our children. Start going into your kids’ bedrooms, flipping over their mattresses, looking in their phones, checking out who their friends are. Get involved.”
Michelle said when her sons wanted to go to a friend’s house, she made sure she knew the parents of the friend, “where the house is…I need to interact with that parent.”
For Penn Hills resident Veronica, who declined to give her last name, she said parents definitely “have a responsibility for looking out for their children and seeing where they are and what they’re doing. I also think that the world is just changing and going in a direction where everybody has a responsibility to look out, even the children, too. They have a responsibility to make good choices after they become a certain age.”
Sylvia, who lives in the Hill District and declined to give her last name, pulled no punches on her feelings about the shooting. “First of all, I think it’s ridiculous. Second of all, I don’t think there’s much that the parents can do because some of these kids are just so out of control, it’s like kids raising kids, and it started years ago when the young people started having babies, and they didn’t know how to control them, train them, talk to them. That’s what a lot of the problem is,” Sylvia expressed to the Courier, “children raising children. When we were coming up, the parents were the ones who dictated what we did, and we better do it. And we did do it, because we were afraid of them. But these young people are not afraid. They have no guidelines, no morals, a lot of them. So they just do what they do.”
For Homewood resident Carol Owens, she agreed that parents need to play a better role in their children’s lives, “but I also feel like these kids are at a disadvantage because there’s nowhere for them to go. When my kids were younger, they had under-21 places and they closed at 11:30. Nobody wants to open up a rec center, nobody wants to open up a place for the younger generation to have fun. I drove my kids places and I made sure that they went where they said they were going.”
Owens added to the Courier: “When there is a place to go, the younger parents don’t parent like we do. They’re letting the kids go, catching buses to places. There’s no adult supervision.”