T. Rashad Byrdsong

T. Rashad Brydsong (Photo: Jonathan Brown)

T. Rashad Brydsong (Photo: Jonathan Brown)

The Community Empowerment Association (CEA) has enjoyed a long and impactful history in Homewood. CEA provides social justice services including mentorship for young adults, town hall meetings, and interventions to ward against gang tensions. The founder of CEA is T. Rashad Byrdsong, a longtime activist and entrepreneur who believes in African-American empowerment through community uplift.

Byrdsong has been a part of the Homewood community since he was 9 years old, moving to the neighborhood from Braddock and Rankin. After serving as a combat veteran in Vietnam and drawing from principles he learned as a member of the Black Panther Party, he began CEA nearly 25 years ago. Along with the involvement of his wife, four children, two grandchildren, and countless volunteers, CEA has been able to serve more than 25,000 people in Pittsburgh and across Allegheny County. In fact, Byrdsong believes that the association is just as effective as the Black Panthers were in organizing community improvement efforts. CEA has conducted toy and clothes drives, and has also given community members young and old opportunities to serve their neighborhood through programming.

Byrdsong fashioned CEA based on an “Afrocentric intervention paradigm” of his own design, which aims to assist African-American families in at-risk neighborhoods find financial and personal stability. This paradigm was developed while he worked with the National Urban Peace and Justice Council, an organization that specializes in treating gang violence through the leadership of community members.

In addition to the association, Byrdsong is also the President and CEO of MA’AT Construction Group, also based in Homewood. Named after the ancient Egyptian principles of intrapersonal and interpersonal order, MA’AT has trained and hired more than 1,000 individuals from African-American communities in Pittsburgh. Since 1997, the group has helped to spread the influence of African-American enterprise in Pittsburgh through its various projects in the area. Through his efforts in Homewood, Byrdsong has been able to use his position in other community empowerment initiatives. He has been one of the many activists calling for a countywide model of violence prevention, viewed through the lens of public health. Earlier this year, the county received a grant to go through with such a model.

Byrdsong has dedicated his life to working as a man of the people, specifically for those in Homewood. Though he now lives in Churchill, he still works with both CEA and MA’AT to ensure that they are carrying on their much-needed missions throughout Homewood and around the county.