Tube City Almanac

January 17, 2013

'Power' of Words Aids Fight Against Violence

Category: News || By Jason Togyer

Countries have gone to war because of words. Marriages have broken up over wars. And people have killed each other over words.

"There is power behind words," the Rev. Earlene Coleman said yesterday during a rally at McKeesport City Hall. "How many lives have been destroyed by words?"

But if words have the power to destroy, she added, they also have the power to create. Coleman and other community leaders are hoping the new "McKeesport Message" campaign --- a war of words against crime, despair and violence --- helps to spark a new attitude in the city.

Every three months, the city will focus its attention on one simple, positive word. For January, February and March, the message is "respect."

"Many of you look at this and say, 'It's just words on a piece of paper,'" Coleman, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, told about 200 to 300 people --- old and young, black and white, men and women --- who braved the cold and rain to attend the rally.

"But as each of us go to our separate places of worship, we are taught that the world was created when God spoke," she said. "Put the power of your respect, your dignity, your love, your hope, behind your words."

. . .

The McKeesport Message campaign is a project of Mayor Michael Cherepko's Select Committee on Crime and Violence, created last year. Coleman, Carnegie Library Executive Director Jo Ellen Kenney, and the Rev. Darrell Knopp, retired pastor of McKeesport Presbyterian Church, are on the subcommittee crafting the message.

Rally cards and yard signs carrying the message are being distributed this week throughout the city, community leaders said. Banners delivering the message will be strung across the city's main streets, Cherepko said.

The message isn't the only answer to the decline that McKeesport has struggled with for more than a decade, the mayor said, but it's part of a larger picture.
. . .

"There's no question in my mind that this is part of a long-term solution to curbing crime and violence in McKeesport," Cherepko said. "We need everyone to join this battle."

When young people pick up guns to settle their differences, he said, it's easy to "point the blame and say, 'Well, their parents need to do their jobs at home.' Yes, but we also need to step up as a community."

Messages of respect are delivered in schools, churches and at places such as the LaRosa Boys & Girls Club, Cherepko said, "but all too often, our kids leave the school, and it's like shutting off a switch. They need to hear this message out in the community as well."

. . .

State Sen. Jim Brewster, McKeesport Democrat and mayor from 2003 to 2010, said the city needs to start fighting back against those who have turned their backs on the community.

"There are those out there who are more affluent, who have moved away, who know what our needs are here, and you can see what they're thinking when they talk about McKeesport," Brewster said. The city's message needs to be "that our people are still here," he said.

"Our teachers continue to teach, our pastors continue to pray, our parents continue to parent and our leaders continue to lead," Brewster said, adding that "when we were kids, people used to say, when a bone breaks, it grows back stronger."

"Don't let pettiness get in the way of the big picture," he said. "We're going to disagree on who's going to win the Super Bowl, or all of these things we talk about every day. But when someone dies in your city, someone else's heart is broken, and the image of your city is impacted."

Feedback on “'Power' of Words Aids Fight Against Violence”

Personal information

IMPORTANT: If your comment is being rejected with a message "SPAM IS NOT APPRECIATED," it may be due to a bug in our spam filter.

We apologize and we hope to correct the problem soon. Please email your comment to tubecitytiger at gmail dot com and we will make sure your comment is posted.

Due to abuse by a handful of people, we will no longer accept anonymous comments. You may request to use a pen name or to have your real name withheld, but you may not comment anonymously, and you must give us a verifiable email address and/or phone number.

To help block automated comment spam, we now require you to answer this silly question.


Remember your information?

Small print: All html tags except <b> and <i> will be removed from your comment. You can make links by just typing the url or mail-address.

Terms of Service: Tube City Community Media Inc. encourages discussion and debate, and welcomes dissenting opinions. However, the corporation cannot and will not vouch for the accuracy of comments.

Opinions expressed in the comments are those of the posters, and do not reflect those of Tube City Community Media Inc., its directors or affiliates.

Under 47 U.S.C. 230, the corporation is not legally responsible for opinions expressed in the comments. However: We reserve the right to delete comments for any or no reason, including comments that are libelous, defamatory, infringing, inappropriate or offensive. We also reserve the right to ban individuals with or without warning.

Posting a comment at gives the corporation a perpetual, free license to reprint or republish that comment.

Posting a comment at or any related site operated by Tube City Community Media Inc. implies acceptance of these terms.