This Spring, we're introducing you to seven of Pittsburgh's finest. We got to know each of them a little better and are going to be sharing their stories here. They are what makes this city a such great place to live and work, and their presence pushes us all forward.
Founder // philanthropist
Tell us about your background in fitness and how that has motivated you to start ATU. What other factors inspire the ATU movement?
My fitness background began through my professional football career and training. I played college football for WVU and professional football for the Cincinnati Bengals. After suffering a career ending injury and spending years of physical therapy and personal rehabilitation I began studying and training how to exercise to be my best physically. I eventually became certified as a trainer.
My life was forever changed. One hit, one wrong landing, one accident; everything that I believed I was blessed with had been stripped away in a matter of seconds. What was so natural for me, had become a challenge. After long grueling days of intense physical therapy and many sleepless nights, I regained the ability to walk. I had always been physically strong but this experience taught me you must learn to walk before you can run. I thought my dreams were lost. I thought, “How could I be a role model without sports; How would I provide for my family?” For the first time in my life, football was no longer my source. It had been my source to my education, employment, and what I thought equaled happiness. I had become just another man.”
Founding #ATU, Athletic Trauma Unit, has given me a new outlook on life. I am able to take all that I was taught through sports and help others. I'm no longer in the NFL but I am able to help people change their lives.
As the founder of #ATU, a Non-Profit Health and Wellness Company, my mission is to bring awareness of the overall benefits of living healthy to lower economic areas by establishing physical activity programs for people of all ages and physical levels at no cost. #ATU has helped people recover from injuries, leg amputation, back and knee surgeries; return to work.
ATU has seen tremendous growth, with workouts comprised of hundreds of people at times -- what have you learned about the people of greater Pittsburgh through this project?
At ATU we have a motto "it's bigger than the workout". I truly believe that in #ATU we lift as we climb. There are people from all physical abilities, backgrounds and economic statuses who work together toward one goal; complete the workout. I also had the desire to other needs in the community.
#ATU has also helped families experiencing economic hardships. For the past 4 years, #ATU donated and distributed over 500 turkeys to families at the Niya Paige Community Center in Braddock. We have also collaborated with North Braddock Cares and The Rankin Christian Center to provide toys and dinner over the holiday season to over 200 children and their families.
Why a food truck? Is there any particular mission behind it? How has it been received?
I team up with Jamal Woodson of SLAAM basketball to further help those strive to live well and eat healthy. The truck has been providing options to those looking for a healthy alternative to fast food.
What’s next for ATU? How do we join a workout?
My vision is to expand ATU throughout the Greater Pittsburgh Area through fitness, mentoring, and giving back . You can follow athletictraumaunit.org to receive the weekly schedule. To join ATU, all you need to do is come.
& sydney martier
designer // oread design
Are you from Pittsburgh? If not, what brought you here/what has kept you here?
I grew up North of the city in a small town called Vandergrift. After high school I moved to California for school, but Pittsburgh has always had an allure that I couldn't shake. There was a reinvention happening here and I really wanted to be a part of it. Now, five years later, I'm glad I decided to come back. Pittsburgh is one of the best places to be an entrepreneur or creative right now, and it's only getting better.
Tell us about what motivated you to pursue kitchen and bath design?
I grew up with two creative parents (and an eccentric art loving aunt) who influenced my decision to pursue design. I received a degree in architecture from UC-Berkeley, but it took awhile for me to find my niche. After having a handful of jobs, I realized I was overlooking an opportunity that had been laid out for me since I was a kid. A lot of my childhood memories involve job sites and playing with countertop samples, because I've been watching my mother hustle in kitchen design for over 20 years. When faced with hardship, she turned it around and built this company by herself from the ground up. Her skill and reputation have made her business expand, almost completely by word of mouth. She's an inspiration to me and to any creative woman who wants to be their own boss. That's why I decided to join her and make sure this company she has grown continues to grow. Oread Design has been a one woman show for over 20 years, but now I'm hoping to make it a mother + daughter power house.
street photographer // creatives drink-cofounder
How was Keep Pittsburgh Dope born?
After spending a lot of time in NYC visiting my best friend, I realized that there was something missing in Pittsburgh — an outlet for street style photography. I started to take notice of all of the street style photographers in New York and saw how they branded themselves. I looked back to Pittsburgh and thought, "There are no street style photographers in this city." I was pretty confident in my photography skills at this point, so I decided to give it a go. In 2014, my Instagram page, @keeppittsburghdope began.
How do you determine who the subjects of your photographs will be?
There is no real formula on who I choose to shoot...its just a reaction to what I see. I figure out why I reacted after the photo is taken.
What drove you in wanting to share the stories of Pittsburgher’s and how have their stories influenced your work/mission?
Simply, because no one was doing it back when I started. When I see my followers impacted by the people in my photos, that pushes my work and mission. I really want their stories to influence my audience at the end of the day.
Tell us about your Creatives Drink collaboration. How did that get started and what do you have planned for it in the future?
Creatives Drink is a quarterly networking event bringing together the city's intra- and entrepreneurs to talk about what they're doing, how they're doing it and how to make their ideas better. My partner Cody Baker and I were just tired of going to boring networking events that were not benefiting us in what we wanted to do with out passions....Creatives Drink is simply our take on networking. I really can't say what we have coming up, but I think the city will love everything we have in store.
Do you have any new projects coming up that we should know about?
Planning to have my first photo exhibit this fall, and hopefully have my street style book out sometime next year.
Blogger // TEACHER
I've been writing random half-finished stories and the going-ons of my mind since I was about 8 years old. Writing is a way for me to (try) to understand myself and my world. Writing clarifies my emotions and is one of the ways I communicate the stories that happen inside my head. My mother always liked to read so, when I was younger, I would read her old Toni Morrison and Danielle Steele novels she had lying around the house. I think the portal to writing is often reading. I definitely was a huge bookworm and a lover of libraries when I was a kid. Actually, I'm still a lover of books and libraries now. Librarians are some of my favorite people.
What inspires your writing? Where does the idea for your next piece come from?
I love to write about an assortment of subjects, but right now I mainly write non-fiction (mostly essays) and fictional short stories. I also blog weekly at hanabonanza.com. I hold many interests that can often seem disparate on first blush (at least to me). Writing holds an esemplastic quality for me. Like I may be thinking about ancient goddess rituals and then connect this to the Zumba classes I attend. I used to feel this way of being in the world made me somewhat of a dilettante, but I am now seeing the gift of engaging with art in this way. Basically, I like to write about a lotta stuff.
Tell us about your blog. What will your reader's take away?
The focus of my blog is how to live according to one's inner truth. Once I graduated military school in 2009, I embarked on a very deep personal growth journey. I attended random workshops in tiny yoga studios, camped out in the Self-Help section of every bookstore I visited. It was at this time that I was introduced to a lot of feminist theory, body positivity, self-compassion, meditation and healing from the effects of early trauma. I like to write about my quest to live a more whole-hearted life but sans all the preaching and extra-tidy endings so often seen in the self-help world. I think there are a lot of people out there who deeply desire to live more connected, truly joyful, and authentic lives. I write my stories and ruminations of living in this way and hope that my writing makes people feel less alone on their own distinct path.
You called other places ‘home’ before moving to Pittsburgh; since being here, has the culture change impacted your work in any way?
Before coming to Pittsburgh, I lived in Brooklyn. I applied to grad school at Pitt on a whim based on a random summer trip to Pittsburgh in 2014. I remember really loving the green of Pittsburgh and how it reminded me so much of Portland, Oregon (I lived there from 2009-2012) with all the bridges, the indie art scene and the small-city vibe. I like that there are so many cool and emergent art spaces in Pittsburgh (Boom Concepts, Local 412, Kelly Strayhorn, Prototype, Assemble...so many!) and the true sense of community here. I feel like I am starting to connect more with Pittsburgh and it feels really good. Plus it's nice being able to buy a cocktail for under $15 and have people smile at you in public.
What can we expect to see next from you?
Currently, I'm doing a lot of writing, so I hope to get some work published! I'll also be teaching several writing workshops this spring and into the summer. In the fall, I will be teaching an online body positive class inspired by Toni Morrison, feminist theory, and the Divine Feminine.
5450 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15206
You opened a Barber Shop in the East End during a time of much transition. Why did you choose East Liberty/Garfield for your business? How has the neighborhood influenced or effected your operation.
The entire east end is gentrifying and Garfield is no exception. Barbershops are an interesting business in the context of gentrification, as they’re so historically segregated. Opening up in a neighborhood that has been primarily populated by people of color, I had to be sure that I was offering a service that would be both useful and affordable to the people who already lived in the area, and not just the people moving here.
You’ve probably met and heard stories from a lot of people, can you share a little of what you’ve learned about the people of Pittsburgh?
Pittsburgh’s growing. I get people in the shop everyday saying they’re new here. That just didn’t happen when I was growing up — people moved back, but not here from elsewhere. People seem to like it though. Everyone says, “it’s way better then I thought it was gonna be!” I guess one of the best things we have going for us is low expectations.
It seems there is a new business in your neighborhood every day. Is there anything around you or newly popping up that you are especially excited about or that inspires what you are doing?
Well, I gotta mention my neighbors —Timebomb, Daily Bread, the Vault, and Refresh! They’re a big reason our little section of Penn Ave is happening now. Also, my friend Atiya Jones, who painted the windows on the front of my shop, is an artist living in Pittsburgh who’s doing tons of cool stuff!