Stories of influential African-Americans bring exhibit alive

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Pittsburgh residents can now hear from some of the city's most influential citizens in their own words, thanks to a new exhibit.

"Celebrating Black History Month" honors 12 influential African-Americans who have contributed to civic leadership, civil rights and the arts in Pittsburgh. The exhibit opened Wednesday at the PNC Legacy building, 600 Liberty Ave., Downtown as part of the PNC Legacy Project.

The exhibit will open to the public Monday to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but PNC debuted the project a few days early.

Among the honorees are Esther Bush, CEO and president of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh; Sean Jones, artistic director of the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra; Demeatria Boccella, founder of Utopia Model Agency and Fashion AFRICANA; and civil and women's rights advocate Alma Speed Fox.

Visitors can hear stories from each of the 12 people featured by picking up phone-like listening devices hanging around the exhibit. Additional historical information is featured on interactive storyboards and in photo slideshows.

"We're here to honor the transformation of our wonderful city and the men and women who contributed to it," said Donna Peterman, executive vice president and chief communications officer for PNC. "To hear in their own words how being from Pittsburgh has shaped them and what they have been able to bring to the city."

Ms. Bush said she was honored to be featured in the project.

"I am on a list with all these other people that I respect and look up to, who have laid the groundwork for all of us," she said after the presentations. "I think it's excellent."

Although he is an Ohio native, Mr. Jones said he has grown to appreciate Pittsburgh's history after living in the city for a decade.

"Pittsburgh is truly my home now," he said. "At the end of the day, I decided to make this my city. While I have been here I've tried to do everything I can to hold up that rich legacy."

He said he is excited for the opportunity to learn from the stories of the other inductees.

"I am delighted to see the space," he said. "I will have to come back a few more times to see everything and really dig into the stories of these individuals."

The exhibit is open to the public weekdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. starting Monday and runs through October..

Lauren Lindstrom: or 412-263-1964.

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