Novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote that there are no second acts in American lives. Tell that to Tim Stevens. After rising to prominence as a jazz vocalist, writer, and producer—and having played the same bill as luminaries such as Marvin Gaye, Sammy Davis Jr., and Count Basie—the Pittsburgh-based Stevens made a surprising turn into politics.
For his entire life, Stevens had been concerned with the disenfranchisement of the black community in Pittsburgh politics. In a Leadership program offered through Landmark, Stevens undertook a project to address the issue and Black Political Empowerment Project—or B-PEP—was born. The organization has three aims: universal African-American voter registration, high African-American turnout in every election, and a political establishment that responds to works closely with Pittsburgh’s African Americans.
B-PEP, a small, mostly volunteer-based operation, has registered more than 65,000 African American voters in Pittsburgh. It’s also been instrumental in garnering support for efforts to heal police-community relations, advocating for fair housing practices in the African-American community, and lessening the incidence of black-on-black violence in the city.
Like other Landmark graduates, Tim Stevens was an active and well-regarded member of his community before he participated in the Landmark program. But, he credits his participation in Landmark’s programs with helping him raise his game. “The initiation of the Black Political Empowerment Project was, to a large extent, based on the Landmark concept of ‘moving from complaint to possibility,” Stevens says. “People need not be victims of their circumstances, but inventors of their futures!” …So much for “no second acts.”