2020 in pictures: A journey through a year like no other in Pittsburgh

No one will forget 2020. Pandemic, protests, the election — and yet everyone has experienced 2020 in their own way. While its effects appear to cut across lines of class, race and gender, 2020 has also been a year to expose and attenuate the profound inequalities in our society. These photographs are taken from a personal account of a shared experience, of a journey through a year like no other. They provide, on occasion, a first-hand account of some of the year’s major events, seen from our small city. 

Nestled between the Northeast and the Midwest, Pittsburgh is unique, quirky, specific — and a barometer of the country as a whole.

WATCH: ‘Don’t Clip Our Tails,’ a Pittsburgh poet’s reflection on racial justice



In late May, as Pittsburgh activists were planning the first of many protests following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, rapper and poet Shyheim Banks received a text from local organizers. Their request: Could he speak or recite a poem at an upcoming demonstration? Banks, who performs under the name Treble NLS and is the head teaching artist for 1Hood Media, wrote a poem called “Don’t Clip Our Tails.” The piece  stems from a conversation he had recently had with a white woman on the topic of race in America, specifically how she felt young Black men should act in the presence of authority figures. PublicSource visual storyteller Ryan Loew, who met Banks at a demonstration this summer, collaborated with him to visualize the poem. This video is the result of that collaboration.

pittsburgh skyline

This study hopes to follow Pittsburgh-area children for two decades. How has COVID-19 changed the plan?

When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in the United States in March, the widespread shutdowns that followed brought research on seemingly everything but a vaccine to a grinding halt. Limitations on in-person interactions meant that interventions, group meetings, and other basic methods for assessing psychological and behavioral research were no longer possible. So the Pittsburgh Study, which was set to officially launch in 2020, had to change plans. In this community-partnered intervention study, researchers plan to follow children in the region from birth to adulthood, putting a microscope on the relationships and resources that influence social outcomes. The study will involve over 20,000 children in a two-decade-long look at factors that contribute to childrens’ physical and mental health and educational outcomes. The several different initiatives will focus on infant mortality, childhood obesity, youth violence, and asthma prevalence, among others.

Kimberly Champion at Point Park University (Photo by Jay Manning/PublicSource)

Is mental health care available for Pittsburghers who have experienced racial trauma?

Racial trauma is a form of race-based stress that refers to reactions to real or perceived experiences of racial discrimination. The difference between racial trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD], psychologists say, is that PTSD typically refers to past events. Due to the prevalence of racism, racial trauma refers to ongoing experiences. Experiences include threats of harm and injury, humiliating and shameful events and witnessing discrimination.