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An Urgent Request From The Publisher

Posted by Elwin Green on August 29, 2014 at 6:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Dear Readers,


I'm writing to ask for your help WITHIN THE NEXT FIVE HOURS.


Today, I was invited to apply for a $20,000 grant to help fund the continued development of Homewood Nation. Two such grants are being offered by UNITY: Journalists for Diversity, Inc., in its "New U: News Entrepreneurs Working through UNITY" competition. NewU exists "to support the creative business-building ideas of participating journalist-entrepreneurs."


As a "diverse" journalist-entrepreneur, I may actually have a shot at this thing. And coincidentally, I just wrote two posts about upgrading and expanding Homewood Nation in coming months, so I have some ideas to guide the use of the funds, should I receive a grant.


Here's the adrenalin rush: the deadline for the grant application is MIDNIGHT.


Here's the request: The application is online, so I don't know yet exactly what it asks for. But it may ask for some sort of testimonials, references or statements of support (which it would be good to have on file anyway, right?).


If you would like to speak on Homewood Nation's behalf, please write a note or letter with your thoughts on why Homewood Nation deserves to be funded, with today's date and addressed, "To Whom It May Concern," and send it as an email attachment to (NEW EMAIL ADDRESS): homewoodnation@gmail.com.


Thanks, and I will let you know how things turn out!

Elwin Green,Publisher

Homewood Nation

Homewood Nation, v. 2: Part 2 - Hanging Out For The Good Of The Hood

Posted by Elwin Green on August 28, 2014 at 3:35 PM Comments comments (0)

In my last post, I announced that a major upgrade of Homewood Nation is coming, and that Google Hangouts On Air will be a major part of of that upgrade.


With a Hangout On Air, a group of people (up to ten, I believe) can use webcams (or other video cameras attached to computers) to video conference over the Internet.


I called it "video conferencing on steroids" because they can not only talk to, and see, each other - they can broadcast their conversation, live, to the world. Anybody, anywhere, can watch and listen online. AND...


people watching and listening can comment, and the people in the video can read and respond to their comments, which makes the people watching and listening into participants also. AND...


...when the Hangout is finished, Google saves it and posts it to YouTube, where it can live indefinitely, for viewing by anyone and everyone.


Hangouts On Air are becoming a major part of Homewood Nation's portfolio. I anticipate doing multiple series under the banner, "Homewood Nation Presents."


In March, I did a three-part series with Craig Calvert, of SmartProcure, titled, "How ANYBODY Can Sell To The Government." Those three videos are now on Homewood Nation's YouTube channel. If you're a Homewood business owner, check them out. I would get a huge thrill from seeing a dozen or more Homewood business rise from struggling to prosering through government contracting.


On Tuesday evening, after the OBB meeting, tech consultant Shimira Williams and I began a new series, "Tech Tuesday with Shimira Williams" which will air every Tuesday at 8 p.m. The first installment, "What A Web We Weave," about managing your online identity (there's only one, no matter how many accounts you have on how many platforms) is on YouTube. Stay tuned for an announcement about future episodes.


OBB's Jerome Jackson has also agreed to having Hangouts on Air to supplement the remaining two cluster planning meetings for Homewood's business district, so look for news about those when we schedule them.


In October, we will launch "Homewood 2020," a series of conversations about how we can move Homewood forward as a neighborhood that is

    global and 
    really, really smart.

Keep an eye for announcements about that series, so that you can make plans to join us!

Who do you think would be good guests for "Homewood 2020?" What other topics would you like to see as the subject of a Homewood Nation Presents HOA? Let us know in the comments.


If you find value in Homewood Nation, please help it to continue by using the button at the right to make a donation. Thanks!

Homewood Nation, v. 2: Part 1 - A Community Heads Up

Posted by Elwin Green on August 28, 2014 at 2:40 PM Comments comments (1)

So, this happened:


I went to Operation Better Block's meeting about redeveloping Homewood's business district Tuesday evening.


Those of you who follow Homewood Nation on Twitter, or who have liked Homewood Nation's Facebook page, received live coverage of the event. That's my favorite way of covering some things, and that coverage does not always extend to posting a story here.


But sometimes it does, and I meant for yesterday to be one of those times. I spent most of the day writing a piece about the meeting. Then, when I tried to save it as a draft, my hosting provider revealed that I needed to log in. It had logged me out, and my story disappeared.


I was not up to the task of rewriting it. Maybe I will today; meanwhile, you can get some sense of Tuesday's proceedings by checking the Twitter feed to your right.


That little fiasco was the latest incident to strengthen my resolve to change web hosting providers - and in the process to do a thorough overhaul of Homewood Nation.


So this is your heads-up: some big changes are coming. I don't completely know yet what the new Homewood Nation will consist of, or how it will operate, but I can say five things:


  1. The website will have an entirely new look, with much more use of photography and video.
  2. The website will publish weekly, on Wednesdays. The idea there is to give people enough advance notice of things happening the following week, so that they can plan for them.
  3. The website will integrate more tightly with other aspects of Homewood Nation, which at this point include a Facebook page, a Twitter stream, a YouTube channel and a Google Plus page.
  4. Homewood Nation will strive to exploit the full potential of tools offered by Google. One of their tools, in particular, will become a major part of the Homewood Nation portfolio. It's called "Hangouts On Air," and I describe it as video conferencing on steroids. I will describe Hangouts On Air more fully, and say more about Homewood Nation's use of them, in Part 2.
  5. There will be a print product. I don't know what it will look like (newsletter, newspaper, magazine), or how long it will take to put it together. But the process of putting it together will begin in September.


Homewood Nation is already an award-winning enterprise; now we're making it even better. If you want to learn more, or to participate, then mark your calendar...


  • Sept. 8, 6 p.m. - Building a 21st Century Journalism Enterprise, Ep. 3: Here and There - The Present and The Picture: the current state of Homewood Nation ("Here"), and its desired future ("There")
  • Sept. 15, 6 p.m. - Building a 21st Century Journalism Enterprise, Ep. 4: Processes and Pieces: How Homewood Nation might move from "Here" to "There" - what needs to happen, and who needs to do what?


Location(s) to be determined, partly based on anticipated attendance - so let us know in the comments if you'd like to attend.

Meanwhile - how can Homewood Nation become better?


NEXT: Homewood Nation, v.2: Part 2 - Hanging Out For The Good Of The Hood


If you find value in Homewood Nation, please help it to continue by using the button at the right to make a donation. Thanks!

DEVELOPMENT: OBB planning process to focus on business district

Posted by Elwin Green on August 26, 2014 at 9:40 AM Comments comments (0)

A meeting hosted by Operation Better Block this evening will give Homewood residents and business owners the opportunity to begin collaborating on a plan for redeveloping the neighborhood's business district.


The meeting, at 5:30 p.m. at Community Empowerment Association (7120 Kelly St.), will be the first of three public meetings to get community input for a plan covering Homewood Avenue between the Martin Luther King Jr. East Busway and Frankstown Ave., as well as a stretch of Frankstown Ave. itself.


The second meeting will be held on Sept. 10 at a location to be determined; the third will be on Sept. 25 at the Carnegie Library, Homewood, 7101 Hamilton Avenue.

Operation Better Block's Cluster Planning process produces individualized vision plans for each of the clusters that make up the neighborhood.


The meetings are part of a larger "cluster planning" process that began in January. With the aid of Studio for Spatial Practice, a Lawrenceville-based consulting firm, OBB has divided Homewood into nine "clusters," in addition to the business district. In each cluster, OBB and SfSP hold a series of three meetings for residents and property owners in that cluster.


The first meeting focuses on identifying possible land uses, the second discusses possible scenarios, and in the third, participants review and refine a draft consensus plan.


Before and between the meetings, OBB surveys the physical landscape, interviews residents and follows up with them to keep them informed and to encourage their participation. The Studio for Spatial Practice facilitates the meetings and incorporates the participants' input into a final report that is then distributed to residents.


Jerome Jackson, OBB's executive director, said the process has been completed in three clusters - cluster 8 in February and March; Cluster 9 in April and June and Cluster 3 in June and July. (The Cluster 3 planning process enountered controversy when the Animal Rescue League announced plans to relocate to Dallas and Hamilton AvenuesAnd yes, I need to do an update on that.)

The long term goal is to synthesize the individual cluster plans into a master plan for the neighborhood. But Jackson said that residents don't have to wait for that master plan to begin implementing the plans for their own clusters.


In fact, the next step after the completion of a cluster plan is the formation of a cluster association, which can then do that very thing, he said.


"They can move forward with development in cluster 8 right now."




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Black Pittsburgh: Past and Future

Posted by C. Matthew Hawkins on August 11, 2014 at 3:05 PM Comments comments (0)

For some reason there has been a recent flurry of discussions on social media about the racial disparity report that was written by Ralph Bangs and Larry Davis of the School of Social Work back in 2007, as an op-ed written by the two for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Pittsburgh's shame," makes the rounds. Bangs has been documenting racial disparity in Allegheny County for the past 17 years. Most Black Pittsburghers have been aware of this problem far longer than Bangs has documented it. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh has continued blissfully on its way, winning accolades as the "most livable city" on national surveys, making one wonder whether or not Black Pittsburgh is really part of the Pittsburgh metropolitan area at all.

It might be tempting to, as many do, blame racism for all of the problems facing Black Pittsburgh, but that would be too simplistic. To be sure, Pittsburgh is a very cliquish, parochial, and conservative town. It has, historically been a union town, and it has been a town that has been run by political machines and private philanthropy. You had to be in the union to have access to jobs, and blacks were excluded from the unions. You had to be "part of the loop" to have access to philanthropic funds, and very few blacks could penetrate that exclusive inner circle. You had to be part of the party machine in order to leverage political power, and blacks were often crowded out by more affluent and better-connected communities.

It has always been the case that if one could not break into the "right" social networks then one was plumb out of luck in Pittsburgh. That's just the way this city works.

But it's not as though there haven't been openings over the past 50 years. It's not as though there haven't been opportunities that the Black community has not taken advantage of.

There were increased opportunities for neighborhood empowerment during the Community Action days of the 1960s and later, during the neighborhood-oriented governance under the Caligiuri administration, but those opportunities were not fully exploited by Pittsburgh's black neighborhoods.

There were opportunities to develop competitive commercial districts when funding was available for community economic development, during the 1980s, but the CDCs in black neighborhoods were stunningly dysfunctional and weakened by in-fighting.

There were opportunities to get a foothold in the universities during the heady days of the '70s and the '80s -- but the black intelligentsia allowed itself to get bogged down in petty university politics instead. It did not network or collaborate on important matters such as research, publication and mentorship. It was disengaged from the academic culture that is necessary to survive in an academic institution -- and rather than teaching and transmitting an academic culture to young people it promoted an impotent and futile discourse of grievance and entitlement.

The movement from "at large" representation on city council to council-by-district gave black Pittsburghers a greater opportunity to have a voice in local politics, but voter turn-out in African American communities is consistently low and the unwillingness to hold elected officials accountable for more than just token gestures and showmanship ensures that black votes can either be taken for granted or ignored altogether by local politicians.

So this is the state of things. Pittsburgh, as a city, may be cliquish, conservative, parochial, and insular -- thereby marginalizing black Pittsburgh, but black Pittsburgh is also cliquish, parochial, conservative and insular, which makes it difficult, if not impossible, to bring about change.

Pittsburgh is like a game of musical chairs, and all the seats have already been taken. Yet there are accelerating changes in technology, the local economy, and local demographics that should provide some margin of opportunity for black Pittsburghers, if we are prepared to identify and take advantage of openings -- or create them.

In this game of musical chairs the music is starting up again. The players are circling around even fewer chairs in the local economic, cultural and political landscape. Yet the untapped resources in this region are rich. But if we continue relying on the same leadership, the same institutions, the same excuses, the same insularity and the same mindset that we have relied on for the past 17 years then we will be reading headlines like this one 17 years from now.

That, my friends, will be the real "shame" about black Pittsburgh.



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Context, context, context

Posted by Elwin Green on July 25, 2014 at 9:30 PM Comments comments (1)

I'm just going to leave this here, ok? From the office of Mayor William Peduto:


PITTSBURGH, PA (July 25, 2014) The governing board of the National League of Cities today chose Pittsburgh as the site of its 2016 Congress of Cities and Exposition, which will draw thousands of local government officials from around the country to the city.


That year will also mark the 200th anniversary of Pittsburgh city government.


"I want to thank the NLC for this honor, and I am thrilled for the opportunity to show off Pittsburgh to fellow government officials from around the nation,” Mayor William Peduto said. “It’s going to be a great birthday.”


One of the Mayor’s first acts in office was to rejoin the league, where he had long been a delegate from the Pennsylvania Municipal League. This year alone the NLC has awarded the city $230,000 for a program seeking to enroll eligible children in health care programs, and it announced plans to soon hold a community forum in Pittsburgh on early childhood education with the U.S. Department of Education.


The selection was made after a vote by NLC’s Board of Directors at their annual meeting in Saint Paul, Minn.


“We are thrilled that the Congress of Cities and Exposition will be hosted by the City of Pittsburgh on the city’s 200th anniversary,” said NLC President Chris Coleman, Mayor of Saint Paul, Minn. “Pittsburgh is an excellent place for our conference and has a great story to tell. The city’s rich history and recent urban renewal has transformed the Steel City into a strong economic center with a diverse and educated workforce. Pittsburgh has been a leader in sustainability and technology efforts, and can provide great examples of city programs for local leaders attending our conference.”


The Congress of Cities and Exposition will be held November 16-19, 2016. It is expected to attract more than 3,500 participants to Pittsburgh and include 300 exhibition booths.


“Hosting the National League of Cities brings a tremendous amount of visibility and prestige to the Pittsburgh region in addition to the economic impact the actual conference will garner,” says Craig Davis, president and CEO of VisitPittsburgh. “We are proud to have worked on the team with the Mayor.”


Registration is still open for this year’s NLC conference in Austin, Texas, held November 18-22, 2014.


The National League of Cities (NLC) is dedicated to helping city leaders build better communities. NLC is a resource and advocate for 19,000 cities, towns and villages, representing more than 218 million Americans.


Laying aside the question of what the whole "200th birthday" thing means - we celebrated a 250th birthday in 2008, and I wouldn't wish on any generation the prospect of having to hear, much less pronounce, "sesquibicentennial" again - leaving all that aside, this raises questions for me like, "Is there something that Homewood can partner with the Peduto administration to do over the next two years that would both benefit residents and make Peduto & Co look brilliant in Nov 2016?"

In any case, it behooves those of us who are working to make Homewood better to think deeply about how to link our work here with what is happening in the city as a whole.

So...what do you think, Homewood? What could this mean for us?



If you find value in Homewood Nation, please help it to continue by using the button at the right to make a donation. Thanks!

TRANSITIONS: Olivia Jones, long-time exec at H-B YMCA

Posted by Elwin Green on July 21, 2014 at 3:20 PM Comments comments (1)

UPDATED July 22, 2014, 8:33 pm.

Olivia Jones, who served as branch director of the Homewood-Brushton YMCA for 24 years, passed away early Monday morning.

An earlier, longer version of this story has been taken down in accordance with the wishes of Ms. Jones' family, who have requested a media blackout - other than sharing information about the memorial arrangements - until after Ms. Jones'  funeral. We will provide more complete coverage then. Meanwhile, the arrangements are as follows:

The memorial viewing will be held Friday evening from 4 p.m. - 8 p.m., at Mt. Ararat Baptist Church, 271 Paulson Avenue, followed by the funeral at 11 a.m. Saturday, also at Mt. Ararat. 


If you find value in Homewood Nation, please help it to continue by using the button at the right to make a donation. Thanks!

Another Saturday In The Hood - 0712

Posted by Elwin Green on July 12, 2014 at 7:20 AM Comments comments (1)

I'm about to head across the street to Baptist Temple Church to participate in the 5K Homewood Prayer Walk. Registration starts at starts at 8 am, and the walk begins at 9.

The walk is a fundraiser for the Homewood-Brushton YMCA, to help celebrate the branch's 100th anniversary. Registration is $5.

The fundraising aspect is especially timely, as the YMCA suffered a fire a few weeks ago. Branch executive Ric Williams said that the while the fire was a small one, it damaged electrical systems that now need to be replaced, and that it caused extensive smoke damage. For those reasons, the branch has remained closed.

Still, the branch will be the end point of the walk, which will conclude with prayer at 10:30 (there will also be several prayer stops along the way). That will be followed by a community day from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the YMCA parking lot.

The celebration continues tomorrow when Baptist Temple honors the branch during its 10:45 a.m. worship service. The church is at 7241 Race Street, at the corner of Race and Sterrett.


While some folks are walking, some other folks will be selling. Residents of Monticello Street are holding a flea market this morning, in the 7300 block of Monticello. 

The neighbors are selling clothing, toys, household items, etc....and food (a body's gotta eat, right?) to raise money for the National Night Out, the annual event created in 1984 that encourages folks to reclaim their streets in a small way by turning on their porch lights and doing things outside together.

This will be Monticello Street's third year celebrating NNO - they are one block north of Race Street, so the Save Race Street Committee has encourged our residents to join in their festivities.

Today's flea market runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.


At 11 a.m., Seshemet Community Council will sponsor a lecture/discussion on Black male/female relationships and the Black family, at the Homewood-Brushton Branch of CCAC, at the corner of Homewood Avenue and Kelly Street.

Sharise Hembry and Tess Kenney, of Handinhand Counseling Therapy Services, will present.

Seshemet Community Council co-sponsored, along with Sankofa United, a "Day of Unity in the Community" event on June 14 featuring child psychologist Dr. Umar Johnson, who spoke on "The Academic War On Black Boys."

Today's event, which runs until 1 p.m., is part of an ongoing study group held each Saturday.


That's it, time to get out here and burn some calories. And pray. 


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Money Flows Larimer's Way

Posted by C. Matthew Hawkins on July 2, 2014 at 5:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Two weeks ago we were discussing, on these pages of Homewood Nation, whether or not President Obama should have made a swing through Pittsburgh’s African American neighborhoods to wave at his most ardent and unapologetic supporters as he visited the Tech Shop in Bakery Square. At the time I said that I thought that the president made frequent trips to Southwestern Pennsylvania to strengthen support for Democrats in swing states such as Pennsylvania and Ohio and that the White House probably believes that high-fiving African American neighborhoods would not be politically helpful for that objective.


Monday, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that it is awarding a $30 million grant to the Larimer neighborhood in Pittsburgh’s East End for eco-friendly housing development. This, of course, is an overwhelmingly African American neighborhood. Significantly, other neighborhoods that were awarded grants from this program were in Eastern Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Connecticut, meaning that three of the four neighborhoods that have been awarded these grants are in swing states.


This is not to take anything away from the hard work that the various professionals, government officials and agencies put into this highly competitive national grant, but given the president’s January 29th visit to the modernized U.S. Steel plant in Irvin, PA, his April 17th visit to Allegheny Community College in North Fayette to tout his $500 million initiative to promote efforts to link community college instruction with the training that employers say they want to see in their workforce, and his Mid-June visit to the Tech Shop in Baker’s Square to promote high-tech innovation through designing prototypes in do-it-yourself workshops – not to mention his decision to hold the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh in late September of 2009 – it is not unreasonable to assume that the president is using Southwestern Pennsylvania as a model for post-industrial economic recovery and what he wants the public to believe are the benefits of economic globalization.


Over the past five and a half years the Obama administration has been unwilling to even acknowledge the disproportionate impact of the sluggish economy on African American neighborhoods. He has been unwilling to acknowledge the need for programs specifically targeted at distressed African American neighborhoods, regardless of whether or not such programs could actually get funding from the current Congress. Still, a part of me wants to see, in Monday’s announcement, the emergence of a “hidden” Obama. A part of me wants to see Monday’s announcement as being an example of political substance over style. Too often political constituencies tend to be satisfied with the trappings of support and attention without the substance, which generally goes to those who are able to cut sizable checks to support political campaigns; it would be a refreshing change to see a national politician responding to distressed populations with more than mere symbolism.


A part of me drifted into a fantasy where Obama said, in effect, “What would you rather have, a president who drives through your neighborhood and waves at you during a nationally covered visit, or one who more modestly directs $30 million your way through the Department of Housing and Urban Development?”


Yes, a part of me wanted to believe this fantasy, but – as a practical matter – we still have to see the fine print in order to find out who is most likely to benefit from this HUD grant. Whatever benefit the residents are likely to get out of it, my bet is that the greatest beneficiaries will be developers, contractors and social service professionals who don’t even live in Larimer. This is not to say that the two different types of beneficiaries must be mutually exclusive; it is to point out, instead, that one set of beneficiaries, in the funding process, are certain while another set are less so. Assistance to a geographic area, after all, is not the same as assistance to the people who live there – especially in the challenges that prevent them from becoming stakeholders in the social, political, and economic mainstream, which are more complicated than the physical development of a part of their neighborhood.


When it comes to sure winners, there is no doubt that certain members of the professional class and their related agencies and organizations will receive funding and continued relevance through this grant. There can also be little doubt that this grant will further enhance the image of a city administration that has made the reduction of urban blight one of its signature objectives. Those will be the sure winners, and this is not, necessarily, a bad thing. What is much less clear, however, is how effective this initiative will be in helping Larimer’s current residents to move into the social, political and economic mainstream. The proposal identifies programs to help accomplish this, but the effectiveness of those programs remains to be seen.




FURTHER READING: "The Myth of Community Development" - Nicholas Lemann, New York Times, January 9, 1994.




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BUSINESS: Being About It

Posted by Elwin Green on June 20, 2014 at 6:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Crunched for time here, so this will brief and informal...

If you are a business owner in Homewood, whether your operate your business online, from a home office, or in a storefront, and you have not yet participated in any of the meetings that are happening NOW (not the ones that happened XXX years ago) to form a Homewood Business Association, then you need to check out the process underway.

The meetings, which began last month, are being facilitated by Marteen Garay, of the Homewood Children's Village (her title is longer than she is tall: Manager, Community and Economic Development Projects). They are being held in sets, with a meeting on Wednesday evening followed up by a meeting on Saturday afternoon with the same basic agenda. That's to accomodate differences in people's schedules.

That may be helping to keep attendance high enough to provide the energy needed to move forward. I attended a meeting June 4, and there were about 15 people there. That meeting was primarily devoted to brainstorming a mission statement. Since then the group has formed a mission statement development committee, in addition to these other committees:


  • Business Association Bylaws Committee
  • Business Association Program Planning Committee (training, workshops, seminars, etc)
  • Membership Plan/Recruitment Committee
  • Board of Directors and Organizational Structure Committee


The next meeting is tomorrow, at 1pm, at the Early Learning HUB, located at 7219 Kelly Street, next to Wade's Barbershop.


If you find value in Homewood Nation, please help it to continue by using the button at the right to make a donation. Thanks!


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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