CCRC welcomes Sala Udin to board of directors

Sala-Udin-6The Collateral Consequences Resource Center is pleased and honored to welcome civil rights activist, community organizer, politician, and accomplished actor Sala Udin to its Board of Directors. Udin is personally familiar with the obstacles faced by those with criminal records, having had to overcome them in becoming a respected community leader and champion for justice.

Udin’s life of public service began months after he graduated from high school in 1961, when he left Pittsburgh to join the Freedom Riders working to integrate the segregated South.  Udin – whose legal name remains Samuel Wesley Howze – spent four years working primarily in Mississippi organizing rural African Americans, registering voters, and leading education initiatives.  

When he returned to Pittsburgh, Udin founded and ran a community drug treatment center and co-founded the Centre Avenue Poets’ Theater Workshop, an African American community theater, with friends and celebrated playwrights August Wilson and Rob Penny.  He played the lead in the original production of Wilson’s seminal play Jitney

Udin’s path hit a couple of speed bumps between 1968 and 1970 when he found himself on the wrong end of the justice system on several different occasions.  Twice it was minor nuisance offenses in his hometown, but a third time resulted in a five-year federal prison term after he was arrested in Kentucky on his way home from Mississippi with a firearm in the trunk of his car.  Charged with transporting an illegal firearm across state lines, he later told CBS Pittsburgh that “I decided that I’d rather be caught with a gun by the police than without it by the Klan if I had to defend my life on some dark, lonely road in Mississippi.”  Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell pardoned his two state convictions in 2007, and his application for a presidential pardon of his federal conviction is currently pending.

Udin’s time in prison did nothing to lessen his commitment to service and justice, however. After his release on parole after seven months, he relocated to the California Bay Area where he worked for the next 20 years with social services organizations primarily on substance abuse and AIDS advocacy issues.  He served as Executive Director of House of the Crossroads, a drug treatment center, and established the Multicultural Training Resource Center before returning to Pittsburgh in 1992.

In 1995 Udin was elected to the Pittsburgh City Council, representing the Sixth District, which includes the Hill District, his childhood home. He served on the Council for eleven years, overseeing the largest residential construction project in Pittsburgh’s history, working to create housing and employment opportunities for women and minorities, and establishing Freedom Corner, a staging ground for community protests and a monument to civil and human rights advocates.

While in office, Udin served as the director of the Hill Community Development Corporation, which works to strengthen and preserve Pittsburgh’s historic Hill District, and was a founding member of the August Wilson Center for African American Culture.  After leaving office, Udin served as President and CEO of the Coro Center for Civic Leadership, a non-profit corporation that trains thousands of ethical and diverse civic leaders across the country until 2015.  

Udin continues his service as a social justice advocate, community leader, and champion of the arts through his work with the University of Pittsburgh Center of Race and Social Problems, the Hill Community Development Corporation, and the August Wilson Center for African American Culture.  

We look forward to the wealth of experience and passion that Sala Udin will bring to the CCRC as a member of the Board, and are excited that he has agreed to lend his energy to and reputation to promoting a fuller understanding of collateral consequences and second chance issues across the country.