In a ceremony Tuesday night at Petra International Ministries, the NAACP's Pittsburgh branch welcomed a new leader who has fought for equality for more than a quarter century and admits that her fists still ball up when she sees injustice.
"What you're about to get is the real deal," said Twanda Carlisle as she introduced her mother, Constance "Connie" Parker as the branch's new president at the East Hills event. "Connie Parker is honest, hardworking and extremely outspoken. She is compassionate about issues and passionate about people."
Ms. Parker was among six executive committee officers and 13 executive committee members sworn in by Superior Court of Pennsylvania Judge Cheryl L. Allen between inspirational speakers, prayer and musical performances.
"I'm not taking this position to be known, seen or heard," said Ms. Parker, 69, of Penn Hills. "I'm doing this because I don't want to find that another mother or father goes down to the police station and learns their child has been killed or killed someone."
The ceremony was hosted by Bev Smith, a nationally known radio and television talk show host, and attended by more than 250 residents and politicians.
City Councilman Bill Peduto was among several attendees surprised to be called to the podium, and he thanked the branch for being "the voice of the voiceless" in an impromptu speech. An aide to Rich Fitzgerald read a proclamation the county executive wrote to congratulate Ms. Parker.
"She is strength of character, a fighter as we know, and very loyal to her family, her friends and God," said Peter Speaks, special counsel to state Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia. "She is well prepared because of her journey in life to assume the mantle of leadership and torch of equality at the NAACP branch of Pittsburgh."
In an address that capped the event, Ms. Parker, a community relations coordinator for Pennsylvania Department of Transportation's District 11, said she was recently asked if the organization was still needed.
Her answer was an authoritative "yes" as she described a crisis in Pittsburgh stemmed from a cycle of employment, education and health care issues plaguing the black community.
She called on her members and hopes to include the community in an effort to help address these problems.
"If it affects one race of people, it affects all people," she said. "The NAACP is as alive as you are in your mind and your heart."
Taryn Luna: 412-263-1985 or firstname.lastname@example.org.