MLK benefit concert at Bloomfield Bridge Tavern focuses on helping homeless shelter

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Vincent Eirene is a self-described “trouble-maker.” Which is a strange label for someone who just wants to help.

He also is an organizer.

“We have a nonviolent campaign against [Carnegie Mellon University] for all their military toys,” he said. “And I’m part of a community that is also a safe house for the homeless.”

Tonight’s focus will be on the safe house — the Duncan and Porter Homeless Shelter — located in the Manchester neighborhood on the North Side.

It’s the annual Martin Luther King Day Concert with a lineup of six bands performing at the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern on Liberty Avenue.

“The shelter’s been going for 35 years,” said Mr. Eirene. “We’ve been doing [a benefit concert] every year that the holiday has been observed, which makes this our 25th year. This is a benefit to help us pay for our heating.”

Mr. Eirene serves as your emcee for this evening.

The performing artists include Moonlight Motel, Raised by Wolves, Standing Wave, Chris Serra Band, Bodhi Watts, and Evan Knauer & Duane Jones. Mr. Knauer also is involved in organizing the project.

“They’re all local bands,” Mr. Eirene said. “Pittsburgh bands are very generous with their time and talent. They’re very open to doing benefits. That’s why I live here.

“I looked at the lineup and it’s unbelievable that we’re going to have that many people, but it gives everybody a taste of the different bands.”

The artists are younger, but that doesn’t mean they’re not aware of King’s impact on their world.

“When you’re dealing with educated kids, they come up with all this different music,” Mr. Eirene said.

“I was 16 years old when Dr. King died, and he inspired me to spend the rest of my life being a peace activist. He’s the reason I’m fighting for the homeless.

“Besides, they’re in their 30s and their 40s and have grown up with these problems. They’ve had their fair share of protesting two wars in Iraq. They and their children, too, are aware because it’s presented over and over to them in school. It’s been a real big change.”

But Mr. Eirene sees the need for more change in Pittsburgh.

“We have the third-largest poorest African-American community in the United States,” he said.

“There’s a lot of activism going on here. A lot of people who have stepped forward to help kill the voter ID thing. In spite of the oppression, people have been very active fighting for justice here. But what else is there to do when you’re underemployed?”

Tonight’s concert, however, is an upbeat event. A celebration.

“It’s mainly a gathering time for those people who have helped us through the year,” said Mr. Eirene, who expects to raise only a couple hundred dollars.

“It’s been very encouraging,” he said of the annual concert. “It grows bigger every year. People in other communities have been very supportive. They’re very generous in providing clothing and furniture and food and helping out with the gas bill. People know what it’s like to struggle to make ends meet here.”

After 25 years, how does he measure the success of the effort?

“The only success we say that we have is that we have not given up,” he said.

The Martin Luther King Day Concert begins at 9 p.m. at the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern, 4412 Liberty Ave. Admission is $10, “$5 for the not-so-rich.”

“Nobody will be turned away,” Mr. Eirene said. “And we’re going to have a wide variety of pierogies.”

Dan Majors:

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