Sala Udin

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Sala Udin
Former Member of the Pittsburgh City Council from the 6th district
In office
Preceded by Christopher Smith
Succeeded by Tonya Payne
Personal details
Born (1943-02-20) February 20, 1943 (age 71)
Political party Democratic
Residence Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Occupation President and CEO of the Coro Center for Civic Leadership

Sala Udin, whose legal name is Samuel Wesley Howze, is a former Pittsburgh City Councilman where he represented the 6th district. Udin has been known for the voice that he gave to the primarily poor and oppressed people that he represented.[1] Udin was succeeded by Tonya Payne in a primary election in 2005.[2] Udin has been associated with the work he did during the Civil Rights Movement in the South.[3] Udin is also known for his acting in the play Jitney and the friendship he had with the author of the play August Wilson.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Sala Udin was born Samuel Wesley Howze to William and Mary Howze. He was born on February 20, 1943, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is one of eleven children and was raised in the Hill District in Pittsburgh.[3] During the urban renewal stages the Hill District suffered, the Howze family was forced out of their home on Fullterton Street and placed into public housing.[5] Upon graduating in 1961 from Port Richmond High School in Staten Island, New York, Udin joined the Freedom Rider movement that same summer.[3]

Udin also served for three years as the president of the Staten Island chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In 1964, Udin registered voters in Holmes County, Mississippi, for the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project. In 1965, Sala Udin, August Wilson, and Rob Penny co-founded the Centre Avenue Poets' Theatre Workshop in the Hill District, Pittsburgh. Along with this workshop, the three men also co-founded the Black Horizon Theater in 1968.[3] Sala Udin also opened a Black bookstore called New World Books in 1992.[6] Udin also had a son murdered in 2005 due to street violence.[4]

Theatrical work[edit]

Udin's major theatrical work is that when he starred as Becker in the August Wilson play Jitney in October 1982 at the Allegheny Repertory Theatre. The play was a revision of the script Wilson wrote in 1979.[7] The play is set in 1977 with Becker, an older man who is well established to the community, as a proprietor of a jitney stand.[4] The play focuses on the feud of Becker and his son, Booster, who was recently released from prison.[8] Jitney was Wilson's first play in his 10-cycle play,[9] and it overlooks at least three generations.[10] In May 2008, Sala Udin starred as Holloway in August Wilson's play Two Trains Running. In 2010, Jitney was re-created at Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company.[4] with actors such as Les Howard, Joshua Elijah Reese, Lonzo Green, Wali Jamal, Kevin Brown, Jonathan Berry, Genna Styles, and Sala Udin.[10] In addition to these two plays, Udin also played in Wilson's plays Ma Rainey, Fences, and The Piano Lesson.[4] Udin is now an August Wilson Center Board member.

Civil rights work[edit]

A map of Mississippi divided into counties with Holmes County highlighted.
Holmes, County, Mississippi.

Sala Udin has a long history of involvement with activist groups. He has advocated causes for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.[11] Udin traveled south with the freedom riders[12] and during the 1960s worked primarily in Holmes County, Mississippi, for the benefit of the Civil Rights Movement. It was there that Udin rallied for school desegregation, farmer cooperatives, and voter registration.[11] While in the south, he also helped with the organization of Head Start programs in both Lexington and Mileston.[13] The aim of Head Start programs was to prepare children from low-income families for school by providing education, health, and parent involvement services.[14] During his time spent in Mississippi, he was also subject to arrests and beatings. Upon returning to Pittsburgh, Udin became involved with the Black Consciousness movement and helped to establish a branch of the Congress of African People.[15] Udin would also become coordinator of this branch.[16] Later, he would campaign for the construction of the Freedom Corner Monument[17] located in Pittsburgh's Hill District and found the Freedom Corner Committee of which he holds the general chair. This committee is responsible for the upkeep of the monument and the selection of the recipient of the Torch of Freedom Award which honors civil rights activists for their contributions to Western Pennsylvania.[18]

Political career[edit]

Sala Udin spent 11 years on the City Council of Pittsburgh[12] beginning in 1997 when he was elected to finish out the term of late Councilman Christopher Smith who represented District 6.[19] District 6 encompasses the Pittsburgh neighborhoods of: West Oakland, South Oakland, Bluff, Terrace Village, Crawford-Roberts, Downtown, Middle Hill, Upper Hill, Strip District, Bedford Dwellings, Chateau, Allegheny West, Allegheny Center, Manchester, Central Northside, North Shore, Perry Hilltop, and California-Kirkbride.[20] While serving as a City Councilman, Udin was one of the officials involved with a referendum petition to the City Charter which would result in the development of a Citizen Police Review Board. The purpose of this review board would be to investigate complaints of misconduct and suggest appropriate recourse in order to improve the city's relationship with the police.[21] The review board was established by an 8-1 vote after 2 years of public hearings, debates, and a court challenge.[22] Udin was also appointed by Mayor Tom Murphy to the Competitive Pittsburgh Task Force. This organization was formed to lessen the budget deficit caused by the increasing cost of city services by introducing market competition.[23] Udin served on both the Housing Authority City of Pittsburgh Board[24] and the Board of the Urban Redevelopment Authority.[25] He oversaw Pittsburgh's largest new housing construction which included the housing developments of Crawford-Square,Manchester Hope VI, Oak Hill, and Bedford Hills.[26] During the 2000 Presidential Election[27] and the 2004 Presidential Election,[28] Udin served Pennsylvania as an elector in the United States Electoral College.

During his career as a Pittsburgh City Coucilman, Udin also sponsored a referendum to create a jobs program called "Pittsburgh Works." The referendum was initially rejected by City Council in May 1999, but was approved by 62 percent of city voters in November of the same year. When his plan was rejected by City Council, he led a petition drive to take his proposal straight to city residents (just as he did with the Citizen's Police Review Board) and successfully gained the support he needed. The program required 35 percent of all jobs at city construction projects costing over $200,000 (such as the stadium and convention center construction projects) to go to Pittsburgh residents. The originally proposed bill contained more specific hiring requirements, aiming to get city residents, minorities, and women jobs on the stadium and convention center construction projects; 25 percent of the jobs were designated to minorities and 10 percent of the jobs were designated to women. The version that passed, however, dropped the original requirements to nonbinding goals, simply guaranteeing Pittsburgh residents jobs at city construction sites.[29]

Councilman Udin also sat on many committees, including the Plan B Oversight Committee, which helped provide jobs for women and minorities, and the Disparity Study and Implementation Commission.[3] The results of the disparity study helped an unprecedented amount of minority groups obtain jobs or construction contracts for the demolition of 3 Rivers Stadium and the construction of Heinz Field and PNC Park.[1] Much of Sala Udin's work had and still has a common theme: gaining representation for previously underrepresented groups in Pittsburgh. From Pittsburgh Works to the Plan B Oversight Committee to the Disparity Study and Implementation Commission, Udin has made great strides in giving a voice to the poor and oppressed.

Non-profit work[edit]

Sala Udin is currently the president and CEO of the Coro Center for Civic Leadership's Pittsburgh chapter.[1] Coro is a national, non-profit, non-partisan educational organization supported by foundations, corporations, and individuals. It was founded in 1942 by Donald Fletcher and Van Duyn Dodge "to train young verterans in the leadership skills necessary to assure that our democratic system of government could more effectively meet the needs of its citizens." Coro now has 6 chapters, including one in San Francisco, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Kansas City, New York, Pittsburgh, and a new Executive Fellows program in Cleveland. 1000-1200 participants nationwide go through Coro programs each year, and at least 10,000 program alumni are currently serving as leaders in local, regional, national, and international businesses, non-profit organizations, governmental agencies, and elected public offices.[30] Coro Pittsburgh's mission statement is as follows: "To advance ethical and effective leaders who share a commitment to civic engagement. We are building a leadership pipeline to foster collaboration within and across Pittsburgh's business, nonprofit, and government sectors." Coro Pittsburgh's vision is as follows: "We envision an inclusive democracy in which people of different backgrounds, views and sectors engage in their communities and work together constructively to improve the quality of life for all." Coro Pittsburgh also notes its core values: experiential learning, building relationships, diversity, whole systems thinking, and teamwork for results.[31]

In addition to his work with Coro, Sala Udin helped to found the August Wilson Center for African American Culture. Prior to its incorporation as a not-for-profit 501(c)3 in 2002, the organization was governed by a group of stakeholders and a steering committee; Udin was both a stakeholder and a member of the steering committee. The steering committee directed the development process for what they envisioned as a cultural center with space for exhibitions, performances, and education. They hoped that it would support growth in entertainment and add social and economic benefit to the region while acting as a landmark attraction for both local residents and tourists. In 2002, "The African American Cultural Center (AACC)" was incorporated as a non-for-profit 501(c)3 corporation by Sala Udin, Dr. Mulugetta Birru, Oliver Byrd, Yvonne Cook, Valerie McDonald Roberts, and Nancy Washington. Udin was the secretary of the original Board of Directors. 4 years later (in 2006), the organization changed its name to the August Wilson Center for African American Culture.[32] The August Wilson Center "engages regional and national audiences in its mission of preserving, presenting, interpreting, celebrating, and shaping the art, culture, and history of African Americans in Western Pennsylvania and people of African American descent throughout the world."[33]

Legal problems[edit]

Udin has had a history of legal troubles that he claims began during his work with the Civil Rights Movement. Udin has a criminal record dating back to 1968 for crimes such as driving without a license, receiving stolen goods, and firearms violations. In 1970 Udin was indicted in Kentucky for illegally transporting firearms and possession of non-tax paid distilled spirits. He was sentenced to 5 years at a federal penitentiary.He began serving his sentence on February 4, 1972 at Lewisberg Federal Penitentiary. He was paroled after 7 months of his sentence. In 2004 Udin applied for a governor's pardon.[34] In 2006 his request for a pardon was denied.[3]


  1. ^ a b c Sala Udin « cityLIVE!. Retrieved on 2010-11-29.
  2. ^ Boren, Jeremy. (2005-05-18) Upset win appears to oust Sala Udin - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved on 2010-11-29.
  3. ^ a b c d e f The HistoryMakers. The HistoryMakers. Retrieved on 2010-11-29.
  4. ^ a b c d e Sala Udin reprises role he originated in August Wilson's 'Jitney'. (2010-05-07). Retrieved on 2010-11-29.
  5. ^ "Bio of Samuel Howze". 
  6. ^ "Book Store". 
  7. ^ "Theatre". 
  8. ^ "Play Focus". 
  9. ^ "Theater". 
  10. ^ a b Rawson, Christopher (2010-05-14). "Jitney Review". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 
  11. ^ a b "A Convergence of Interests:Oral History in the Digital Age,Program for the 42nd Annual Meeting".Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.Oral History Association.Past Annual Meetings.15–19 October 2008.
  12. ^ a b Littwin, Mike."Obama just might write a showstopper in Pa".Rocky Mountain News Denver,Colorado.29 March 2008.All
  13. ^ Presenter's Biographies:"The Some People" Exhibit. Haverford College
  14. ^ About Head Start.National Head Start Association About NHSA
  15. ^ Glasco,Laurence."The Civil Rights Movement in Pittsburgh:To Make This City 'Some Place Special'".Freedom Corner. History. Articles.
  16. ^ Day, Jared n.,Trotter, Joe W.Race and Renaissance:African Americans in Pittsburgh Since World War II University of Pittsburgh Press. Pittsburgh,Pennsylvania. 2010.Google Books.
  17. ^ Brown, David."Hill Corner's Legacy Spans Decades".Tribune Review. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 7 May 2008.
  18. ^ Committee.Freedom Corner
  19. ^ O'Toole, James."Sala Udin faces stiff challenges".Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Pittsburgh,Pennsylvania. 7 May 2001.
  20. ^ District 6 Map. Pittsburgh City Council District 6
  21. ^ IN RE: Referendum Petition to Amend the CITY OF PITTSBURGH HOME RULE CHARTER.Find . 8–12 May 2009.
  22. ^ O'Neill,Brian."The Citizen Police Review Board:Just the facts, man.".Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Pittsburgh,Pennsylvania. 27 June 2010.
  23. ^ Establishing a Culture of Excellence:Recommendations of the Competitive Pittsburgh Task Force Competitive Pittsburgh Task Force,October Pittsburgh Policy Documents.
  24. ^ August Wilson Center Board Member Retrieved 1 December 2010.
  25. ^ "Udin quits URA."Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 10 March 2006.
  26. ^ "Sala Udin to Lecture at Pitt on Challenges of Race, Poverty, and Sprawl." University of Pittsburgh News.27 November 2007.
  27. ^ List of Electors:2000.Nara Archives. Retrieved 1 December 2010.
  28. ^ List of Electors:2004.Nara Archives.Retrieved 1 December 2010.
  29. ^ Pittsburgh: City voters OK construction jobs referendum. (1999-11-03). Retrieved on 2010-11-29.
  30. ^ The Organization-CORO. Retrieved on 2010-11-29.
  31. ^ Coro Pittsburgh Mission & Vision-Pittsburgh. Retrieved on 2010-11-29.
  32. ^ August Wilson Center for African American Culture. Retrieved on 2010-11-29.
  33. ^ August Wilson Center for African American Culture. Retrieved on 2010-11-29.
  34. ^ Ex-councilman Udin seeks pardon - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved on 2010-11-29.