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New Homewood Development Collaborative To Be Announced

Posted by Elwin Green on June 5, 2015 at 10:50 AM Comments comments (1)

The Mayor's Office sent out a press release yesterday afternoon, so tiny that it would escape most people's notice - and it would have escaped mine if an alert Homewood Nation reader had not brought it to my attention.

This is what it says:


PITTSBURGH, PA (June 4, 2015) Mayor William Peduto, Representative Ed Gainey, Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess, and other community leaders tomorrow will announce the formation of the Homewood Community Development Collaborative.

The Collaborative is comprised of seven indigenous Homewood organizations and East Liberty Development Inc., which will serve as the fiduciary and technical assistance partner. This is the first step in creating sustainable transformation in the neighborhood of Homewood.

WHERE: In front the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh - Homewood, 7101 Hamilton Avenue.

WHEN: 3 p.m., Friday, June 5.


This is what I can add:

The "seven indigenous Homewood organizations" are, in alphabetical order, Building United of Southwestern Pennsylvania (Rev. Sam Ware, executive director), Community Empowerment Association (T. Rashad Byrdsong, chief executive officer), Homewood Concerned Citizens Council (Cherylie Fuller, president), Homewood Renaissance Association (Dina Blackwell, chief executive officer), Operation Better Block (Jerome M. Jackson, executive director), Rosedale Block Cluster (Dianne Swan, executive director) and the Save Race Street Committee (Elwin Green, chairman).

You'll note my name at the end of that list. Although I am chair of SRSC, the Committee is represented within HCDC by our secretary, Paulette Davis. Otherwise, the folks named above are expected to represent their organizations at the press conference.

The member organizations have been meeting since November to figure out how they might work together. This is not a new question; the hope is that this new structure will provide a more powerful answer than what's been done before.

One reason for believing that it might work is that is backed by Homewood's Councilman, the City's Mayor, and our Representative in the State Legislature. Longtime readers may recall that during the Bridging the Busway process, Councilman Burgess said that he, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, and Representative Joe Preston were in agreement about making the redeveloment of Homewood a priority - an alignment of political office holders that might not happen again.

Well, the new troika's backing of the Collaborative says that it has happened again. At minimum, that means there's real opportunity for the Collaborative to be effective as its members learn to work together. Indeed, my hopes and prayers are for the Collaborative to succeed at such a level that they create a new paradigm for - well, for collaboration, between all levels of government and all sectors of the community.

But if the office holders are as committed to Homewood's redevelopment as they sound, the redevelopment of Homewood will happen even if the Collaborative fails. Which I don't even want to think about. 

So, here's to the Collaborative: May it live long and prosper.

Burgess Wins Primary

Posted by Elwin Green on May 19, 2015 at 11:40 PM Comments comments (0)

The Rev. Ricky V. Burgess defeated three opponents today to snag the Democratic Party's candidacy for the City's 9th District Council seat, thus virtually guaranteeing his re-election in November.


With 99 percent of precincts reporting as of 10:19 pm, the incumbent had 2,049 votes. His nearest opponent, businessman Andre Young, had 1,226.


Rounding out the ticket, real estate broker and developer Judith K. Ginyard and former 9th District Councilwoman Twanda D. Carlisle had 828 votes and 435 votes, respectively.


The numbers invite discussion, if not outright speculation. For instance, Councilman Burgess won 45 percent of votes cast. That is a sizable plurality, but it is not a majority. As was the case in 2011, the opposition's total - 2,049 votes - would have unseated Councilman Burgess if it had gone to a single candidate; so in that sense, Burgess's win could be attributed to his opposition's failure to unite.


Likewise, it could be said the biggest winner in the election was "No One," because more voters voted for no one than for anyone. According to the County elections website, only 110,827 of the County's 503,688 registered Democrats - or 22 percent - voted at all. The total turnout was even worse: 151,682 of 845,490 eligible voters cast ballots, or 17.94 percent.

"Guns for Opportunity" event TODAY

Posted by Elwin Green on April 6, 2015 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (1)

This afternoon, Local 154 of the International Union of Boilermakers will offer an unusual job training opportunity for people who might otherwise consider themselves trapped in a life on the streets.

In essence, they are offering a trade - turn in your gun, and you get a good shot at becoming a welder.

Participants will receive a token to enroll in the Boilermakers welding program. They have six months to complete the program, which typically takes six weeks. The union will waive background checks and their standard requirement for a high school diploma or GED, and persons with drug or alcohol issues will have six weeks to get clean, with assistance from the Boilermakers' own substance abuse program.

The $600 cost of the training program and initial union dues will be deferred until the trainee starts his or her first job - and after paying it, they will be reimbursed for all but $10.

This afternoon's event is a collaboration between the Boilermakers, Homewood Brushton Community MInistries and the Mayor's Office of Community Affairs.

5 AND ALIVE - Happy Birthday, Homewood Nation

Posted by Elwin Green on April 1, 2015 at 10:20 AM Comments comments (0)

Today is Homewood Nation's 5th birthday!

When I launched it, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I was an experienced writer, but not an experienced editor, or publisher or sales person or manager. Consequently, things have at times been rough and/or messy. I've even quit. But then I came back, because I believe in the work. So Homewood Nation, as an ongoing project/experiment/enterprise, is still here, with this website, a Facebook page, a Twitter feed, a Google Plus page and a YouTube channel.

If you do not follow Homewood Nation across all of those platforms, you have not had the full Homewood Nation experience. Let me highlight the YouTube channel for a moment. It boasts an archive of a couple of hundred videos, ranging from community meetings to episodes of "Tech Tuesday/Tech Talk," a Hangout On Air series feauring tech diva Shimira Williams. All of it is exclusive to Homewood Nation, so check it out!

Anyway, Homewood Nation has survived for five, and that is worth celebrating. So:



Let me use the occasion to thank some people:

Khrys X. Myrddin for being my first volunteer co-conspirator. She suggested early on that HN should have a Facebook page. I hated Facebook then, and said something like, "Fine, if you'll be an administrator." So she got it going, and has stuck around ever since to help keep it going.

Greg T. Olszewski for managing "Homewood Happenings," the community calendar. I believed from the beginning that Homewood needed a single place where someone could learn everything scheduled to happen in the neighborhood. When you send event information to calendar@homewoodnation.com, Greg is the one who posts it to "Homewood Happenings" for you.

In November, C. Denise Johnson became editor of Homewood Nation's Facebook page, generating more content and boosting both our page views and our "Likes" with her distinctive flava.

In no particular order...Shawn Carter, C. Matthew Hawkins, Jose Antonio Diaz, Kilolo Luckett, Robert D. Jones, Michael Beckman, Juaquina Carter, Rasida Olabisi. It has been a privilege to publish your work. Homewood Nation was created to be a platform for many voices; thanks for letting me get a taste of that.

Financial supporters!
These folks have either used the gold button to your right to contribute to Homewood Nation, or pressed money into my palm to help me to keep going in this work: Sue Kerr, Ellen Kiley, Rodney Adam Lyde, Khrys Myrddin, Nancy Shields, Alan Sisco, Ricardo Williams, Albert Wright.

Actually, there's only one so far (I need to get much better at wearing the sales hat, or to hire sales people on a commission basis, or both): Urban Innovation21, headed by William Generett, who has been consistently supportive of Homewood Nation. I see sponsorship playing a key role in Homewood Nation's future growth, so UI21's willingness to be the first corporate entity to say, "We think this deserves sustained support," is a huge deal for me. Huge.

You know that nervous nagging feeling when you want to name everyone and feel certain you've left someone out? I'm getting it now, and I hate it, so - if your name should be here and it's not, please forgive me. Its absence does not represent a lack of gratitude, it represents a lack of working brain cells.

Most of all...YOU!
For reading, for commenting, for sharing, for participating in the ongoing effort to elevate the conversation in and about Homewood. I thank YOU!

And now, the pitch...
If you appreciate what Homewood Nation has done for the past five years, would you make a $5 gift to help it continue and grow? Five for five?

Just click the gold button to the right.


Here's to the next five years!

BridgingTheBusway dot huh?

Posted by Elwin Green on March 31, 2015 at 5:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Several years ago, I and many others participated in a planning process for Homewood and North Point Breeze called "Bridging The Busway."

The final result of that process was a 149-page document of the same name, published in April, 2012.

A small consultancy called Studio for Spatial Practice did most of the coordinating and facilitating for Bridging the Busway. That included creating a website, www.bridgingthebusway.com, which laid out the schedule of meetings, gave people the opportunity to provide input, and in the end, provided the final document for downloading.

None of that is there anymore. Instead, a visit to www.bridgingthebusway.com brings up this:

Don't strive too hard to make sense of it. The new domain owner is in Kyoto and the page is translated from Japanese (and may not even make sense in Japanese).

So, what happened? Two things, basically: 

- Studio for Spatial Practice decided, at some point after the completion of their contract, not to continue maintaining the website; and

- no one else decided to keep it going. I considered taking ownership of the domain myself, but was held back by my own concern for propriety. I wanted to respect the rights of everyone who would have rights to the intellectual property. In retrospect, that looks dumb, because no one that I talked to seemed to care.

That perplexed me; it still does. When the BTB vision document, or whatever one chooses to call it, was completed, I expected someone to use it as a basis for ongoing community discussions about how we want Homewood to grow. The website could have a been a valuable tool in such discussions.

Now, not.

The good news is that the document is still available online at the Council 9 subsection of the City's website.

The bad news is that the post announcing the publication of Bridging the Busway, dated 5/12/12,  is the last item posted under "What's New in District 9?"


There's a conversation to be had here, about the power that we have at our disposal: previously-inconceivable tools for sharing information, for engaging with one another, for archiving, for iterative learning. There are best practices to be articulated regarding the use of those tools, and I suspect one of them would be something like, "Never let anything that could be useful disappear."

Wideman Returns To Pittsburgh

Posted by Elwin Green on March 27, 2015 at 12:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Noted author John Edgar Wideman returns to Pittsburgh Friday, March 27, for a reading of some of his work in an event jointly sponsored by Hill House Association and Duquesne University. Duquesne was the site of his last visit to the City, when he appeared as part of a seminar focused on a program to create think tanks connecting students with inmates.

DEVELOPMENT: Meetings Offer Opportunity For Engagement

Posted by Elwin Green on February 23, 2015 at 5:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Homewoodians have a full week ahead of us.


1) Tomorrow evening, the third and last meeting devoted to the Homewood Station Transit Oriented Development Study will be held at the Homewood-Brushton YMCA, 7140 Bennett Street, from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.

Earlier meetings explained how a TRID works (the designation creates a mechanism for real estate taxes from newly-developed real estate in the district to be re-invested in that district), and solicited the community's input on how we would want TRID money to be used here, if the designation were applied. Tomorrow's meeting will present an analysis of which projects might be most feasible for such re-investment.

Refreshments will be served.


You may recall that this meeting was first scheduled for January 29, but postponed due to the brutal weather we were experiencing then.

Project spokeswoman Ivette Mongalo-Winston said that after tomorrow, the team of consultants conducting the study, led by Lynn Colosi, of Delta Development Group, will finalize their report and make a recommendation to the Urban Redevelopment Authority, which commissioned the study. That process, she said, should take a couple of months.

After that, if the decision is made to apply for a TRID designation, the application process - which requires collaboration between the City, the Urban Redevelopment Authority and the Port Authority, for starters - "basically takes a year."

Stay tuned.

2) On Thursday at 6 p.m., Operation Better Block will host its Monthly Community Meeting in the auditorium of the Homewood Carnegie Library. 

I don't have details of this meeting handy at the moment; will share more after touching base w/OBB.

3) On Saturday, at 1 p.m., the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group will present a "Community Conversation on Development For Us." This meeting follows up on a survey the group conducted among Homewood residents and other stakeholders in November, and will present a set of guiding principles for development based on the responses to that survey. 



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Emergency Meeting Tonight On Gun Violence And Its Causes

Posted by Elwin Green on February 13, 2015 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (0)

The Community Empowerment Association is holding an emergency meeting tonight, at 7 pm, in response to a recent surge in gun violence. Tonight's meeting is for men and boys. I have heard that there will be a separate meeting for women and girls, but have not confirmed that yet.


I spoke briefly with CEA founder and CEO T. Rashad Byrdsong yesterday. Here's an edited version of the Q and A.


HN: What sparked the decision to hold this meeting?


RB: "Young folks from the community actually called me and said, 'Brother Rashad, we need to really begin to focus on some of the issues that are going on in our community.'"


Citing CEA's origins in working with gangs in the mid-1990s, Mr. Byrdsong noted, "these new, contemporary young people are different from the young people, gang members and street organizations in the past.


"This meeting is to give some us older folks...a better understanding of the kind of mindset of young people now, because it's a little different."


"This is going to be an informational meeting. Young people are pulling together and giving leadership...a lot of us older guys and older folk are going to sit back and listen to some of the things the young folks have to say."


HN: There have been so many emergency meetings in the past that I was going to ask, "How will this be different?" It sounds like you've at least partially answered that, in that the focus will be on listening.


RB: "You have a lot of young folks that are not necessarily established in institutions or nonprofits, but nevertheless, they've got relationships with young people on the ground. We have to give more time to sitting down and listening to young men and women that are actually working on grassroots level with young people on the ground. That's number one.


"Number two is, we have to figure out what are some of the needs of this new population. Their needs might be a little different than the needs of young people from the 90s."


He concluded by saying that whatever plans or strategies emerge from the meeting will require buy-in from the community, from nonprofits, from corporations and foundations...in short, that many people will need to lay aside differences, "to figure out once and for all how to leverage our experience that we bring to the table and how to eradicate and minimize gun violence, shootings and murders in the Black community."

TRID meeting #3, and...Happy New Year?

Posted by Elwin Green on January 28, 2015 at 10:10 PM Comments comments (0)

This is happening tomorrow evening:

This meeting is the last meeting to offer Homewood residents and others information to help us decide whether or not we want to pursue the Transit Revitalization Investment District designation for part of the neighborhood.

Earlier meetings explained how a TRID works (the designation creates a mechanism for real estate taxes from newly-developed real estate in the district to be re-invested in that district), and solicited the community's input on how we would TRID money to be used here, IF the designation were applied. Tomorrow's meeting will present an analysis of which projects might be most feasible for such re-investment.


Happy 2015, people!

I gave up doing New Year's Resolutions long ago, but this year, one particular idea has taken up residence in my brain so strongly that it seems insistent on being declared in a way that would sound like...well, a resolution.


The idea? To get over myself.


I mention that here because I have been so quiet here in the past couple of months, and a big part of the reason for that is because I've gotten caught up in myself.


This may be some sort of perverse reaction to the positive attention Homewood Nation (and I) received in 2014 - a spread in Pittsburgh Magazine, a mention in City Paper, a visit from two of Europe's emerging leaders (it started out being just one, but he brought a new friend with him. I need to tell you folks about that).


My hypothesis is that all of that made me feel pressured to perform somehow at a higher level. I already wanted to do that anyway, but I think I began to feel more self-conscious about it, to a degree that it began to hinder my functioning. I look at how far short I'm falling of my own hopes for this work, and I get stuck in loops, running around in circles in my own head.


That, I need to get over.

There's another factor - for weeks and weeks now, I have told myself that this portion of Homewood Nation (i.e., this blog) will publish weekly, on Wednesdays. The logical outworking of that would be establishing a rhythm of producing stuff that could be published each Wednesday. What has happened has been me putting off writing stuff, telling myself, "Tuesday." Then feeling overwhelmed on Tuesday. DUH.


That, I definitely need to get over. Instantly.


For me, getting over myself will mean just doing the work.


For you, me getting over myself will mean more posts on Homewood Nation for your information, edification and illlumination of conversation. More news, but also more opinion. First, because I think that part of what made this work valuable to people in the first place was that it gave them a sense of how it feels to live in Homewood. Second, because I still hope to make Homewood Nation the venue of choice for multiple Homewood voices.


I'm open to suggestions on how to make that last part happen. Meanwhile, I will most definitely be posting much more, because there will be MUCH information to share in 2015. Trust me.

Operation Better Block Announces 2015 Monthly Community Meetings

Posted by Toni McCl on January 15, 2015 at 2:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Operation Better Block has anounced the 2015 schedule for its monthly community meetings to inform residents about upcoming events, share resources, and spotlight the work of various organizations in Homewood. Meetings are open to everyone.

The Monthly Community Meetings will be held in the Auditorium of the Homewood Library, 7101 Hamilton Avenue, from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm on the fourth Thursday of each month (except for November and December, when they will take place on the third Thursday).  Here are the dates for 2015:

January 22, 2015

Februrary 26, 2015

March 26, 2015

April 23, 2015

May 28, 2015

June 25, 2015

July 23, 2015

August 24, 2015

September 24, 2015

October 22, 2015

November 19, 2015

December 17, 2015

The topic for this month's meeting will be, "A Report Card from Homewood Schools."  The meeting will cover academic achievement, support services, etc., at Faison K-5 and Westinghouse 6-12. The principals and other personnel have been invited.

For more information call Lois Toni McClendon at Operation Better Block, Inc. (412) 731-1908 or email her at: lmcclendon@obbinc.org

Operation Better Block, Inc. is a community-based, community development organization that has served Homewood residents for over 40 years. Its mission is to "strategize, organize, and mobilize block by block to benefit the Homewood Comunity". Besides the monthly community meetings, OBB is engaged in a Cluster Planning Process for visioning Homewood's future land use.


Coming Soon...

The Homewood Chronicles

Oct. 2005 - March 2010

Reports from a community in transition

In October 2005, after a bullet came through his living room window, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Elwin Green began writing "My Homewood," the first blog on the P-G's website. For 4 1/2 years, "My Homewood" shared stories of tragedy and beauty, of perplexity and hope - stories that live again in "The Homewood Chronicles."

Watch this space! 

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