PITTSBURGH, PA | LEON FORD
Leon Ford was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA. He is a community leader, activist, mentor, and motivational speaker. Leon’s entry into activism was sparked after experiencing a life-threating act of police brutality.
In November of 2012, at the age of 19, Leon was shot five times by a Pittsburgh police officer. What started out as a routine traffic stop, escalated when three police officers failed to correctly identify Leon.
Listen to Leon’s story.
Why do you think Leon’s case of police brutality did not get national attention?
Why did Leon decide to become his own hero?
How did being shot change Leon’s understanding of the world and police brutality?
When he says that being shot can happen to “anybody,” what data could strengthen his argument? Use the links to research an answer to this question.
Leon encourages everyone to stand up against injustice. How does standing up against injustice better democracy?
Pittsburgh from Leon’s Perspective
In the video, Leon discusses how Pittsburgh was once a city with a close-knit Black community, where everyone knew each other, and homes where passed down from generation-to-generation. Now many Black people in the city experience extreme levels of poverty. How can a city be rated as one of the most livable cities in America, but have four school districts with the highest levels of poverty in the state?
Use the links to answer this question above.
Leon’s line of questioning is important to understanding how a once thriving city is now experiencing high rates of unemployment and poverty. It is also important to understand how a city’s overall decline impacts Black middle and working class people. Why is understanding Pittsburgh economic decline important to social action?
Let’s explore Pittsburgh’s history to understand its present day.
Pittsburgh’s Urban Renewal
Use the links below to research Leon’s case and why the police still charged him after he was shot.
What mistake caused the officers to misidentify Leon?
Was Leon racially stereotyped?
Why was Leon charged?
Why do you think Leon was afraid to get out of the car? Does the Pittsburgh Police Department have a history of police brutality?
Why is it important that Leon’s community rallied behind him?
Why does Leon’s mom feel like she failed him?
What would you say to Leon to keep him inspired?
Watch Leon’s video entitled, “Leon Ford Presents Voices – Trill” on his website.
After researching Pittsburgh, how are Trill’s daily struggles tied to the city’s social and political policies, such as deindustrialization, urban renewal, high unemployment, gentrification, and school locations in high poverty areas?
Pittsburgh is the second largest city in Pennsylvania and is home to H. J. Heinz Company (the company that makes ketchup) and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Pittsburgh has a rich African American history. From 1907-1966, the Pittsburgh Courier was one of the top Black newspapers of its time, and served as a constant source of information for Black people throughout the United States. The goal of the paper was to empower Black people economically and politically. By 1940, over 250,000 people read the weekly circulation in 14 cities.
Why is it important for communities to have their own resources for informing their members? How does social media inform community?
What hashtag would you create for communities in Pittsburgh to draw attention to the issues impacting their city?
Pittsburgh is also home to one of the greatest Black baseball teams of all time, the Pittsburgh Crawfords, which were part of the Negro National League (NNL).
(The team was named after Crawford Grill, a club in the Hill District of the city. The NNL was created because Major League Baseball would not allow Black players to play.