Executive Director of Amachi Pittsburgh — a partnership of secular and faith-based organizations supporting children and families of the incarcerated — Anna Hollis has been a longstanding advocate and leader for social change. Anna is driven to empower young people to overcome the challenges of parental incarceration and reach their full potential. A founding member of the Pittsburgh Darfur Emergency Coalition, she serves on numerous local and national boards and statewide commissions and lives in Avonworth.

What upcoming events are you excited to attend?

The Amachi Hachi Pachi on September 13; I am excited about the new Riverfront Park event space in Aspinwall where a new pier has just been built. Meeting at WQED to discuss a new documentary about children with incarcerated parents — my goal is to ensure we don’t portray them as helpless or hopeless but rather as resilient, promising and worthy.

I’m also looking forward to the Superior Motors one-year anniversary celebration in Braddock next Tuesday.

Anna Hollis.

Best part of your job?

Witnessing young people morph from being withdrawn and ashamed of their parents’ incarceration to bold, confident ambassadors for social and education justice. It’s what drives me.

What is your long-term mission for Amachi Pittsburgh?

To educate the community and especially policymakers about the plight and promise of children with incarcerated parents. They’re 100% innocent, by the way.

You have your hand in a lot of things. What is most important to you?

Systems change is most important by far. We have to stop perpetuating the problems we’re trying to solve and instead invest in promoting the dignity and value of all human beings.

Do you have particular issues that you rally around?

• Driven to Work Campaign to eliminate automatic driver’s license suspensions after incarceration, where appropriate, so that people who have paid their debt to society can access gainful employment and actually take care of themselves and their children.

• Implementation of the DMC youth-law enforcement curriculum that would facilitate relationship building — getting to know each other as real, every day, valuable human beings. It’s a building block towards mutual respect and just plain ol’ decency.

What would you like your legacy in Pittsburgh to be?

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of systems change, so I hope my legacy will be that I helped to build and mobilize a village of changemakers, especially including marginalized populations who learn to recognize their worth and power and make change happen.

What book is on your nightstand or in your e-reader right now?

They Came Before Columbus: The African Presence in Ancient America by Ivan Van Sertima.

Fill in the blank: My bike has logged the most hours on the _____ trail.

Lou’s Crew MS Bike Ride from Altoona to State College. I started in Altoona and ended in the ER … in Altoona! Can we say, “one and done” boys and girls?!

What’s one thing you’d place in a Pittsburgh time capsule?

We have a family photo growing up on Whiteside Road in the Hill where my drop-dead gorgeous mom is surrounded by my nine siblings, and with a baby picture of me, #10, pasted on top since I wasn’t born at the time. It evokes all of the emotions I felt growing up in such a loving family with a truly amazing mom.

What is the biggest challenge you’ll face this week?

Figuring out how to finish the renovations for our new offices in the Hill District.

Anna and her children (L to R) Summer, Ky and Aja “celebrating Fab 50.”
Anna and her children (L to R) Summer, Ky and Aja “celebrating Fab 50.”

What is the one thing that would surprise Pittsburghers most about you?

My sweetie is becoming a brand new grandfather, so I’m on my way to becoming an honorary grandma. Woo hoo! Will I be called, “Nana Anna” or “Bubbe?” That is the question.

Who is the last person you texted (and what was it about)?

Just texted my three kids a video of our 75-pound dog who literally jumped on top of the patio table and just kept pacing back and forth because he couldn’t figure out how to get down!

Besides the essentials (keys, wallet, phone), what do you always carry with you?

My laptop — I carry the darn thing into the hair salon with me as if I’m actually going to work … while sipping wine, no less.

Where will we find you on a Sunday morning?

Keystone Church of Hazelwood where one of my many brothers happens to be the pastor, and being who he is, we’re always in for a mind-expanding adventure. And besides, I gotta get prayed up!

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Jennifer Baron

Jennifer has worked at the Mattress Factory, Brooklyn Museum of Art and Dahesh Museum of Art and is co-author of Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania. She also is co-coordinator...