Pioneer Public – Christian Carter

Photo by Christian Carter

Written By Amanda Andrews, Co-Features/A&E Editor

“I come as one but stand as 10,000.” — Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou, a revered civil rights activist and artist, is one of many black role models freshman BFA acting major Christian Carter looks up to. Now, through his own activism and art, Carter is spearheading the rising social justice movement for intersectional equality in Pittsburgh and beyond.

It’s a rough estimate, but Carter is featured in at least 17 articles and blog posts since 2017 from a variety of local and national media outlets, including The New York Times. Locally, he has become one of the most recognized faces of the Antwon Rose protests, his chants catching the eye of many professional photographers in the area. His involvement in the fight for racial equity and justice, however, did not start with Antwon Rose.

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Carter has always been highly aware of the systemic and cultural racism prevalent in the city. Carter went to his first protests in eighth and ninth grade. The cause? Local public school students in Oakland demonstrated support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“I think as an artist, it’s really important for us to be engaged in communities…because this is our everyday living truth. For me, activism is—it’s not something I so much want to do, but it’s survival,” Carter said.

Actively participating in protests was only the beginning. Carter moved from the sidelines to the frontlines, organizing demonstrations when he was just 17 years old.

Carter, along with other Pittsburgh COPA students, organized a walkout to protest Betsy DeVos’ appointment as the Secretary of Education on Feb. 8, 2017. This early leadership role in this walkout led to him gaining an internship with Pittsburgh nonprofit organization OnePennsylvania. Through OnePennsylvania, Carter co-founded a student activism group called Youth Power Collective, which participated in the historic March For Our Lives rally in Washington DC.

“There are so many tools that we can use to dismantle the system that we live within,” Carter said.

The Youth Power Collective has a vested interest in public education, community gun violence, and community gun violence perpetuated by law enforcement, according to Carter.

The latter issue made the death of Antwon Rose personal for Carter. He led protests the day after Rose’s funeral. When he was ill, he insisted people donate to the #Justice4Antwon efforts. In 2019, around the time of the Michael Rosfeld trial, he made his voice heard about concerns of media coverage of the trial. When Rosfeld was acquitted of charges posed against him for the death of Antwon Rose, Carter mobilized thousands of students into action.

“We asked students to walk out and 1,500 to 2,000 students walked out with us, including Point Park students,” Carter said. “All these students from around the city, from different colleges and universities, walked out of school, and we shut down downtown and made sure that our voices were heard. And [we] said that we’re not gonna even back down or let this happen again.”

While advocating against police brutality is a priority for Carter, it is by no means the only cause he is involved with. Carter has been at climate rallies and protests against President Donald Trump, for instance. As a black queer person, Carter believes the only way forward is to support all progressive movements and to be an intersectional activist.

“I think we all live in sort of different intersections. Those are what make us, those different intersections make us up as people. And we cannot organize without having intersectionality. You cannot fight this fight without being intersectional and inclusive and that means for everyone,” Carter said. “When I say black lives matter, I mean trans black lives, nonbinary black lives, disabled black lives, poor black lives, rich black lives. That means all of those identities…and we carry those with us as organizers.”

His activism hasn’t come without a cost. Carter has been dismissed by older activists, forcibly led out of meetings, and even has had death threats leveled against him.

“During Antwon Rose, it was very very scary to be organizing because there were a lot of white agitators,” Carter said. “We had cars drive through us, we had people get hit by cars. So we faced a lot of violence from outsiders. I mean, I’ve received death threats, I’ve received hate mail.”

Even with the danger he’s faced as an organizer, Carter said he’s not discouraged from voicing his opinions.

“This doesn’t stop. I think maybe, will I be on the frontlines all the time? No. Will I always be at the forefront? I don’t think so. Because I think everyone has a place in this revolution. Everyone has a place in this fight, essentially,” he said. “And I think our roles change as we go through our lives. I think I’m not always gonna be this person who’s fighting for the youth or the face of the youth, but I do think I will continue to make sure that I’m heard and that I am being inclusive.”

At the moment, Carter is partnering with a local youth advocacy group, hoping that his art will serve as activism itself.

“Right now, I’m a member of the Artivist Academy at 1Hood where I’ll be able to create some artwork and put it out there so people can see that,” Carter said.

He is also very interested in the current controversy that led Point Park to canceling two plays last semester and what the university plans to do next.

“I’m going to stay involved with the Pittsburgh Playhouse and make sure that we’re staying on top of that.  Because I think, yes, we can talk about something for an amount of time, but we have to hold those people accountable,” he said. “And I want to make sure that I’m staying on top of the university [with] the things that they have promised students.”

Ultimately, Carter believes that his activism has become an indispensable part of his life, for his own sake and for others’.

“I think so much of my life I have felt disposable, so a form of my activism is allowing…for my inner self to come out and for me to really be comfortable with who I am,” Carter said. “And if that is helping other people and if that is engaging with other people, then I am doing my service. I’m doing my purpose, and my purpose I guess in this life…is to serve people.”

WHAT MAKES YOU A PIONEER: “I would say that my resilience makes me a pioneer.”