In September 2015—after two decades working in advocacy, community organizing and youth mentorship—Khalif Ali joined The Pittsburgh Foundation as director of public policy and advocacy. Committed to making Pittsburgh a better place for everyone in our community—including the 30 percent of residents who live precariously close to the poverty line—Khalif also works on voter registration and engagement, particularly in underserved and historically low-income neighborhoods. A resident of Wilkinsburg, Khalif grew up in East Liberty.

Monday, March 28

Monday starts with coffee at Starbucks in Market Square with Janice Bahary, a GSPIA student at Pitt who is interested in policy work. Mentoring up-and-coming advocates is a priority for me.

Khalif Ali. Photo by Joshua Franzos.
Khalif Ali. Photo by Joshua Franzos.

Then, I’ll be preparing for our weekly staff meeting with the Foundation’s program team. I’ll report on meetings in Harrisburg with Pennsylvania state senators Bob Mensch (R-24) and Sean Wiley (D-49) about Pennsylvania House Bill 400, which provides funding for teens with disabilities to have meaningful employment training, living wages and the highest possible level of independence.

I’ll also report on my meeting with Pennsylvania Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel about efforts to reduce the number of people in confinement in the state of Pennsylvania.

After work, I’m off to Planet Fitness in Edgewood to work out.

Tuesday, March 29

In the morning I’ll meet with Cornell Jones, who counsels young people at Shuman Juvenile Detention Center. Youth ages 12 to 24, particularly those who’ve been involved with the justice system, and single women with children are the two groups facing the greatest risk of poverty in our region. Through the Foundation’s 100 Percent Pittsburgh initiative, we’re working to make sure they’re not left out of the city’s economic renaissance.

Later that day, I’ll meet with Anna Hollis, executive director of Amachi Pittsburgh, which does incredible work mentoring children who have a parent in confinement. We’ll explore how Amachi’s one-on-one mentorship model could be applied to neighborhoods that have suffered from disinvestment. I’m really interested in helping underserved communities, especially lower-income people of color, regain influence and power.

Khalif and Cornell Jones (left).
Khalif and Cornell Jones (left).

My brother, Blaine Winston, and I will meet up at our self-proclaimed man cave, The Sharp Edge in Friendship, to watch an NBA game and eat . . . I love the wings and the Mediterranean Nachos.

Wednesday, March 30

I’ll start off the day by meeting with Foundation staff member Chatiqua Good. She’s providing support and mentoring me as I learn our culture here. She’s a Foundation veteran. I’m learning a lot from her.

I’ll also check in with organizers at Operation Better Block in Homewood, where I worked for four years with block watch presidents to coordinate efforts and develop an overall vision for Homewood.

That night, I’ll work on a service-learning project for the Black Male Leadership Development Institute, which meets twice a month from September to May at Robert Morris’s downtown campus. The Institute was created by the Urban League in partnership with Robert Morris University to help African American teen males transition from youth to adulthood through leadership development and academic skill building. I love discussing current events with our participants and fostering pride in the African traditions that we share as black people.

Thursday, March 31

I’ll meet one-on-one with Jeanne Pearlman to update her on my work and define priorities for upcoming visits to Harrisburg.

Black Male Leadership Development Institute's Rites of Passage graduation ceremony.
Black Male Leadership Development Institute’s Rites of Passage graduation ceremony.
Black Male Leadership Development Institute’s Rites of Passage graduation ceremony.

Later that day, I’ll go with my colleagues from the Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership to meet with state senator Randy Vulakovich (R-38) as we work to support nonprofits and develop strong relationships with legislators.

Then I’m off to the William Pitt Union to hear Bill Generett of Urban Innovation21 speak about public-private partnerships and good governance. Bill has intimate knowledge of nonprofit governance and the development of meaningful policies. We went to undergrad together at Morehouse and I consider him a friend.

I’m hoping to convince my daughter, Daija, to see the Batman vs. Superman movie with me tonight. As a child, I would sneak and read my older brothers’ comics so I’ve always been a fan of movies that were based on the superheroes of my childhood.

Friday, April 1

Friday morning begins with a meeting with Walter Smith, the region’s human-services legend. Many people consider him a mentor and confidant, so it is a privilege to spend time with him. Walter is deputy director of the Office of Children, Youth and Families for Allegheny County Department of Human Services. He serves on the Foundation’s board and its program and policy committee. He’s always there with wisdom and concern for the people we serve.

Khalif with students from the Black Male Leadership Development Institute class of 2014-15, most of whom are off to college.
Khalif with students from the Black Male Leadership Development Institute class of 2014-15, most of whom are off to college.

Then it’s back to the office to write reports and prepare for next week. In the afternoon, I’ll regroup with a small group of colleagues focused on voter engagement and government accountability.

After working out at Planet Fitness, I’ll head home to chill and prepare for Saturday’s work mentoring youth.

Saturday, April 2

Saturday morning I’m off to the Hill District for the Reaching Back program created by Malcolm Thomas. We work with young men from Pittsburgh Milliones/University Prep high school to help them develop healthy diets and exercise habits and a strong mentor and friendship network to sustain them when they’re in college.

Sunday, April 3

I’m off to brunch at Square Café. Then, if the weather permits, Frick Park or Millvale Riverfront Park to walk the trails.

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 of Handmade Arcade. Musically, she is in a band called The Garment District and is a founding member of Brooklyn's The Ladybug Transistor.