Black History Month


Each year, in recognition of Black History Month, the Borough of Swissvale celebrates and recognizes outstanding Black Swissvalian residents and business owners who embody the essence of Black History Month by their positive contributions to Swissvale and society at large. The recipients of the Black History Month Honoree designation are recognized publicly at the February Borough Council Meeting and are presented with a plaque highlighting their achievements.

This year, the Swissvale Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee recognized honorees at the February 7, 2024 Borough Council Agenda meeting.

2024 Honorees

Darrell Bell Sr.IMG_0817

Mr. Bell was born October 2nd, 1953 and raised in North Versailles. He was the next-to-youngest child out of two brothers and one sister. He went to school in the East Allegheny School District and graduated in June 1971. He then went on to Boyce Community College where he received his Bachelor's Degree in Human Resource Management in May 1974.

Mr. Bell and his family moved to Swissvale in 1980. One of his colleagues and mentors, Mr. Martoni, encouraged him to run for Swissvale Borough Council. He did run and became the first African American man to hold a seat on Council. Mr. Bell hoped that by running he would be able to open up doors for more African American leaders to follow in his footsteps. During his 12 years (January 7, 2002 - December 31, 2013) on Council he held the positions of both President and Vice President. He also implemented Swissvale Clean Up Day which is still a vital event in the Swissvale Community today.

Orlando Ryan

Orlando Ryan, a proud native of Braddock, is an esteemed entrepreneur and community leader,IMG_0812 making a significant impact on the Swissvale area. Raised on the North Side, Orlando's journey began with a strong educational foundation, graduating from North Catholic High School and furthering his studies at CCAC, Penn State New Ken, and IUP.  

Following his passion for the art of hairstyling, he attended Empire Beauty School. Orlando freelanced as a barber for several years before officially turning professional in 2012. His expertise and dedication led him to the Swissvale area, where he played a pivotal role in establishing Cut N' Play barbershop. In December 2019, Orlando ventured into entrepreneurship and opened The Barber’s Lair on Washington Street.

One of the most rewarding aspects of his entrepreneurial journey has been the opportunity to employ and mentor young Black individuals, guiding them in non-traditional career paths. Orlando emphasizes the importance of cultivating their talents and assisting them in overcoming challenges. Orlando Ryan stands as a beacon of success, embodying the spirit of Black History Month through his dedication to personal growth, community empowerment, and the upliftment of future generations.

Weldianne Scales IMG_0813

Mrs. Scales was born and raised in Florida to an American mother and immigrant father from the Turks and Caicos Islands. She attended a mix of public and private schools K-12 and she graduated from the University of Central Florida with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Finance. She graduated from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, receiving the Honorable Denise Langford Morris Scholarship and the CALI Award for Excellence Achievement in the clinical study of Mortgage Foreclosure Defense. Weldianne met her husband, Leland Scales in Florida and relocated to Swissvale in 2014.

She became a licensed attorney in 2016. Throughout her career as an attorney, she has participated with Pro Bono representation with Neighborhood Legal Services, Allegheny County Pro Bono Center, and Ask A Lawyer (AAL) legal clinic formerly located in the Borough of Swissvale. Her service to these organizations helped provide equal access to justice and promote public welfare. Weldianne’s hard work, integrity, and diligence have earned her numerous awards and recognition. In 2022, Weldianne received the Pittsburgh Courier Fab40 award and received the Rising Stars designation for 2023 and 2024. 

In 2020, Weldianne became the first African American woman to be elected to Swissvale Borough Council and to serve as Council Vice President. During her four years on Council, she was the founder and chairperson of the Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion Committee. Weldianne ran for Council because of her deep concern for the needs of the community which she felt needed diverse representation with a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Black History Month Past Honorees

Honoree Combo-vert2023 Honorees

Alexander Beasley Sr., Beasley Plumbing

BEASLEY PLUMBING Inc, established in 2003 by Alexander Beasley Sr., has been a minority owned business in Swissvale for 20 years. Alexander, a Registered Master Plumber in Allegheny County, had a extensive education background and experience as a plumber with many reputable companies prior to founding his own company. Beasley Plumbing Inc provides residential and small commercial service work throughout Allegheny County and surrounding areas. 

Congresswoman Summer Lee

Summer Lee was born in North Braddock, graduated from Woodland Hills High School,  and resides in Swissvale. She has made history twice, first in 2017 when she became the first African American woman from the region to be elected to the state House in Harrisburg where she served from 2018-2022. Most recently, she was elected to the One Hundred Eighteenth Congress, making her the first black woman from Pennsylvania to be elected to Congress. 

Tim Jones, Salon Blue

Tim Jones has achieved excellence as a minority business owner, has been a licensed cosmetologist for over 20 years, and recently became a certified Trichologist.  As a Trichologist, he is a paramedical professional with a medical focus of the hair and scalp, focusing on the different conditions diseases and disorders of the hair and scalp, and the treatments associated with them. He has provided stability to Swissvale's business district over the last 12 years by maintaining a store front at his current location, Salon Blue LLC, on Noble Street. 

2022 Honorees

Veryl Lawson

(Top Left) A lifelong resident, mother and grandmother, Veryl has served as a leader for the Swissvale Economic Development Corp. (SEDCO), the Mon Valley Initiative (MVI) and the Swissvale Planning Commission for many years. 

Ciora Thomas

(Top Right) Ciora is a Pittsburgh native, a black trans woman and the founder and Director of SisTers PGH. She advocates for transgender rights throughout Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. SisTers PGH is responsible for organizing and hosting the first Pride Month celebration in Swissvale. 

Leland Scales 

(Bottom Left) While earning his Master of Science degree in Food Studies at Chatham University, Scales decided to put his research into action. He created the Swissvale Community Garden to both beautify the neighborhood and provide access to free, healthy fresh produce to his neighbors. He also founded Swissvale Community Action Committee and is actively involved with Reach Up Pittsburgh and 412 Food Rescue. 

Joylette Portlock

(Bottom Right) Dr. Portlock is the first Black woman to serve as Executive Director of Sustainable Pittsburgh, a nonprofit working to advance sustainability policies and practices in southwestern Pennsylvania. As a resident, her leadership helped to launch the Farmers Market in Swissvale. 

BHM Honorees

2021 Honorees

Union Baptist Church

For their 100 years of existence and longstanding service to the Swissvale Community.

Nelson Kirksey

For his years of service with the Swissvale Community Food Pantry.

State Representative Summer Lee

For being the first Black woman elected to serve Southwest Pensylvania in the State House of Representatives. 

John "Scrap" Wilson

For his years of service with the Swissvale Baseball and Softball Association.

New Convenant Christian Fellowship

For their 20+ years of existence in the Swissvale Community.