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Burgess quietly quitting?

Posted by Elwin Green on March 9, 2023 at 2:00 PM Comments comments (362)

Homewood's City Council representative, the Rev. Ricky V. Burgess, has effectively declared his non-candidacy for a fifth term by not filing with the Allegheny County Board of Elections to run in the primary election being held on May 16.


He has not made a formal announcement.


Given that the 9th District councilman is one of Council's two longest-serving members (the other being Bruce Krause, who, like Rev. Burgess, started in 2008), his non-candidacy is big local news. The Post-Gazette's story about it is here, the Tribune-Review covers it here, and WESA-FM touches on it in their report about campaign filings here.


Councilman Burgess began his tenure by unseating Twanda D. Carlisle in the 2007 Democratic primary after she was embroiled in a scandal that led to her incarceration.


Even with Carlisle's scandal as an apparent advantage, Burgess won by the narrowest of margins, with 2,413 votes out of 4,818 cast or 50.08%.


While barely winning a majority of total votes cast, he easily outdistanced the individual totals gained by other Carlisle opponents: Leah Kirkland, Randall Taylor, Eric S. Smith, Ora Lee Carroll, Judith K. Ginyard, and William Anderson.


Narrow victories became the norm in successive primaries. Indeed, 2007 was the only year in which he was elected by the majority.


In 2011, he received 2,030 of 4,068 votes cast, or 49.90%, winning over Lucille Prater-Holliday and Phyllis Copeland-Mitchell. In 2015, he defeated repeat opponents Carlisle and Ginyard, along with new candidate Andre Young, with 2,074 votes, or 44.87% of the total, 4,622. In 2019, his 2,049 votes were a mere 38.70% of the total, 5,294 - but that was still enough to triumph over challengers who split the opposition vote four ways, between third-timer Ginyard and newcomers Stephen Braxton, Cherylie Fuller, and Kierran Young (Andre Young's son).


It could be argued that Burgess's opponents have kept him in office for nearly 16 years by repeatedly splitting the opposition vote. Whatever the reason(s) for such vote-splitting, it is obvious that neither Burgess nor his opponents have offered a vision for the district that has appealed to a majority of voters.


That's understandable - in a city whose residents identify as strongly with their neighborhoods as Pittsburghers do, casting a vision that can unify East Liberty and East Hills, Homewood and Lincoln-Lemington (and that includes the weird cutout that contains UPMC St Margaret's and the Waterworks Mall), can't be easy. And with the 2022 redistricting adding Point Breeze to Council 9, building a unified district may be a greater challenge than ever.


Khari Mosely was the first to declare his desire to take on that challenge. Mosely, of North Point Breeze, announced his candidacy for the 9th District Council seat in December.


The only other 9th District candidate who met the March 7 filing deadline to appear on the primary ballot is Khadijah Harris, of Homewood.

"American Menu" Offers Food for Thought

Posted by Elwin Green on February 17, 2023 at 6:00 PM

"American Menu" cast members (L-R): Tajionna Clinton, Cheryl Bates-White, Karla C. Payne, Angelique Strothers, Janay Giles. Photo by Richena Brockinson, LionessPhotography.


New Horizon Theater starts off the new year and Black History Month with a Sankofa theme that may be as relevant now as it was more than a half-century ago.

Written by Don Wilson Glenn, “American Menu” offers a heaping slice of life in the 1960s, one of the most fraught decades in U.S. history. With the Vietnam War, the conveyor belt of assassinations, riots and civil unrest as the backdrop, the short order kitchen of a whites-only diner in rural Texas is hotter than the grease in the skillet.

It's May 1968, and the quintet of cooks/waitresses are perpetually stressed by the struggle to survive as they go about their daily routines dealing with family responsibilities, wayward husbands/partners, and an unexpected visit by the F.B.I., following an incident regarding a suspicious death.

Martha (Cheryl Bates-White) seems the most beaten down by life. Struggling to raise five children while her husband is in prison, she's considering having an abortion.

Mary (Tajonna Clinton), who lives out in the country, fears going home because a murdered black youth has been found near her home. Her obsession with that case and the threat of further violence grows almost paralyzing.

Buella (Janay Giles), working both the dining room and the kitchen, projects a more upscale image than the others. She may not think she's better than the others, but with plans to attend Texas Southern University in Houston, she feels more ready to escape their world of limited opportunities. The rest resent her friendship with the (unseen) white supervisor — but that relationship turns out to be entangled with secrets about the parenthood of a mixed-race baby Buella hopes to adopt.


Sassy Johnny May (Karla C. Payne) sparks conflict with her outspoken opinions and critiques of the others. Na (Anglique A. Strothers), the seasoned elder, strives to impart her life wisdom and play peacemaker, with varying degrees of success.

After a lifetime of disillusionment, including the recent assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., Na insists there's no point trying to force change. She resents outsiders who stir things up and (in her view) leave them to face the locals' backlash. Johnny May argues that change is happening, no matter what any of them do, and she wants to be part of it. She plans to vote for Robert Kennedy in his presidential bid. Alas, we know what will befall that dream just one month later.

Between the personal dramas and social background, American Menu is a plateful of fiber, giving it audience plenty to chew on.

Herb Newsome’s set design provides an authentic vibe that is set-off by a 1960’s playlist that had most of the audience humming along. Dr. Lundeana M. Thomas took full advantage of the talented ensemble she worked with to bring out a heartfelt range of emotion, combining angst and pain with the courage to move forward.

"American Menu" continues Friday through Sunday, February 17-19, at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Homewood branch. For more information: www.newhorizontheater.org



Posted by Elwin Green on February 17, 2023 at 5:50 PM


Elwin Green here, your friendly neighborhood reporter/editor/publisher.

After an unplanned, and too-long, hiatus, Homewood Nation is undergoing a redesign to relaunch. In the meantime, new content will continue to appear here. Anything you see dated prior to this post, please ignore for now. I'm afraid I let the place become a bit of a mess.

Out with the old, in with the new: Please check out Rasida Olabisi's review of https://www.newhorizontheater.org/" target="_blank">New Horizon Theater's production of "American Menu"! 


OPINION: The Worst Is Yet To Come

Posted by Elwin Green on September 30, 2020 at 3:55 PM

For months now, I have done nearly all my writing on Twitter, due to issues I don't have time to discuss right now.

I'm back.

This post is not specifically Homewood-related, but it's about a bit of national news that could affect Homewood - namely, last night's verbal altercation between Joe Biden, Donald Trump and Chris Wallace (I refuse to call it a debate).


My biggest takeaway was not that Trump refused, as so many people have noted, to condemn white supremacy (what else is new?). My biggest takeaway was something that I haven't seen anyone comment on yet - namely, that he threatened to incite America's first civil war.

The 1860s war between the Union and the Confederacy was not a civil war. A civil war occurs when two factions fight for control of the government. The Confederacy wasn't trying to take over the U.S., they were trying to leave it.


Trump intends to fight for control of the government.

Joe Biden's and the Democrats' shared goal is to win the election, so he says to his supporters, "vote." Donald Trump's goal is to remain in power, regardless of the election, so he says to his supporters, "Stand by."


But that was not the most terrifying/enraging line.

The most terrifying/enraging line was not what he said to the Proud Boys, but what he said to the rest of us: "This is not going to end well."




Reporters and pundits need to stop asking if he will assure a peaceful transfer of power, when he is assuring a violent one.

Ever since his 2016 campaign rallies, when he promised supporters that he would pay their legal bills if they were sued for roughing up protestors, Trump has consistently fed his supporters' appetite for violence. And while some Republicans have fled both him and the party, his hardcore base are doubling down in their devotion. Can anyone doubt that some of them are willing to kill, and perhaps to die, for him? Or that he is willing for them to do so? That would be the ultimate proof of the loyalty he craves.


I believe that all of us who find Trump's presidency oppressive, repugnant, or otherwise unacceptable must vote for Joe Biden. But voting for Joe Biden will not prevent a civil war.

When it becomes apparent that he has lost the popular vote, Trump will certainly launch litigation to contest the results, all the way up to the Supreme Court, if necessary. But I also expect him to continue his rallies, rebranding them as "peaceful protests". He has already begun using the label; after the election it will apply specifically to protesting the election itself. By Jan. 20, his supporters will be so primed that violence will be likely, if it has not occurred before then.

The only way I see to prevent a civil war is to compel Donald Trump to resign. I've been working on that since June 20, and last night's display simply deepened my commitment to keep at it.


If you see another way, please share. But if you say he will never resign, I won't take time to argue. I only have time to work with those who say, with me, that he must, to see how we can make him.

Markets Plunge Amid Coronavirus Concerns

Posted by Elwin Green on February 27, 2020 at 6:55 PM

(Since this story is about investing, here's an investment image, showing what has happened recently with a slice of Tesla stock - not even a share, just a slice - purchased in Jan 2018 for $25.00.)

I need to do a piece (or a series?) sometime about what stock market activity means for Homewood, and for neighborhoods like it. I see no obvious connection, so whatever I do would have to suss out non-obvious ones.

Meanwhile, just a quick hit here to note that today, for the second time this week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 1,000+ points. At close, the index rested at 25,762.33, down 1190.95 from yesterday, a 4.43% slump.

The loss was in line with tumbles in other indices. The S&P 500 lost 137.94 points, or 4.43%, for a 2,978.45 close; and Nasdaq fell 414.29, or 4.61%, to land at 8,566.58.

Two things make today's losses especially significant - if not for Homewood specifically, then for the economy and the nation generally.

First, the fact that they exacerbate what has already been a rough week for investors. On Monday, the Dow lost 1,032 points; Tuesday, it shed another 879 points, for the greatest two-day decline ever.

Second, that they came after a White House press conference yesterday evening, in which Trump tried to calm people regarding the spread of coronavirus by saying that the U.S. is "very, very ready" to deal with a possible pandemic- and announced his selection of Vice-President Mike Pence to oversee the federal effort to combat the disease (and perhaps more importantly, the federal messaging about it).

Investors were not persuaded.

Indeed, Goldman Sachs issued a note today stating their view that the ripple effects of coronavirus will torch profit growth for U.S. companies in 2020. Torch as in, reduce to ZERO. They even raise the spectre of recession.

Such a forecast increses the odds that tomorrow will be another down day for the Dow, and for equities in general. But if this week is a wrap, will next week be any better? Or are the markets in the early stages of a long-term slide, just days after the Dow had its highest close ever?

If it turns out to be the latter, that could hurt Trump's re-election chances (assuming that he is the Republican nominee, which I don't expect to be the case). During his entire presidency, he has boasted about the continuing bull market (which began under President Obama). It will be a lot harder to boast if the remainder of his term is a slide toward or into a recession.

The Disappearance of Donald Trump

Posted by Elwin Green on November 20, 2019 at 9:10 PM

On October 13, the night of the last Democratic debate, I wrote:


I tuned in to the Democratic debate a little late. Joe Biden was speaking - apparently, about funding a new fight against cancer - and within 60 seconds, he said, "...once we get rid of Donald Trump."

I've put off saying this for at least a month. But here goes.

Democratic candidates need to stop talking about getting rid of Donald Trump. Debate moderators need to stop asking Democrats about beating Trump. Pollsters need to stop polling people to try to figure out who has the best chance of beating Trump. Democratic voters should definitely ramp up efforts to get out the vote in 2020, to take over the Senate, but not to defeat Donald Trump.

Democrats need not concern themselves with defeating Donald Trump.

Donald Trump will not be the Republican candidate for President.

He can't be.


When I wrote that, the impeachment inquiry announced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sept. 24 was in its closed-door phase. But the impeachment process was not my reason for writing it. Indeed, I had been saying it to friends and family long before the impeachment inquiry was announced:

"Donald Trump will not be the Republican candidate for President, because he can't be. He can't be because he has dementia. His mind is going, and it will be gone long before the Republican convention."


The single most important thing to know and remember about Donald Trump is that he is 73 years old.

Alzheimer's disease typically manifests in one's 60s.

The second most important thing to know and remember about him is that his father, Fred Trump, had Alzheimer's.

Alzheimer's tends to be hereditary.

When I look at Donald Trump with those facts in view, I see a man losing brain function - if not to Alzheimer's, then to some other form of dementia.

Incidents that I might otherwise dismiss or make light of as instances of mere stupidity appear much more significant.

Last month, he stumbled while speaking about his son Barron. While announcing coming restrictions on vaping products, he referred to his wife's concern for young people who may be affected:

"That's how the First Lady got involved. She's got a son - together - that is a beautiful young man and she feels very strongly about it."

That second sentence does not make sense when you read it. It also doesn't make sense when you hear it (at the 1:00 mark):

Verbal confusion has been a regular feature of Trump's speech for some time now. Remember when he said he hoped to see someone look into the oranges of the Mueller investigation?

And who can forget his July 4 reference to the Continental Army taking over "airports"?


I have six minutes until the start of tonight's Democratic debate. Not enough time to discuss instances of slurred speech, or Trump's diminishing vocabulary, or his mobility issues - a weakening gait and problems with balance. Or the moments of just plain weirdness, such as when he said that Melania Trump had "gotten to know" Kim Jong-Un, when she had never met him. Or him saying - multiple times -that his father, who as born in New York, was from Germany.

I'll just say this for now: pay attention to the man himself, the 73-year-old biological entity, to see if you see what I see. I'm a layman, and I could be wrong. If I'm wrong, I'm wrong. But if I'm right...

Well, if I'm right, then to the extent that tonight's debate assumes - as nearly all of the political discourse about 2020 has assumed so far - that Donald Trump will be the Republican candidate, it will be delusional. 

No Democrat needs to defeat Trump. His own brain is defeating him. He will only get worse, not better. And he will get worse more and more quickly. Because that is how dementia operates. His mind is disappearing, and it will gone long before November 2020. 

In fact, I'll hazard a prediction, based on the fact that the people around him see more than we do, and they see it up close: he will disappear from the White House (via resignation, not impeachment) by Jan. 31, so that Mike Pence can be put forth in Iowa.

Second prediction: Neither Pence nor any other Republican will inspire the cult-like devotion that Trump has. And without him, the Trump Party - for that is what the Republican Party has become in everything but name - will collapse.

So, here is the question that I wish to high heaven someone would ask the Democratic candidates, but which I'm sure no one will: "If President Trump is not the Republican candidate, how would that affect your messaging to the American people? What would you put forth as your point of PRIMARY emphasis?"

Or to put it more bluntly: "What else ya got?"

For The Sake of Antwon...

Posted by Elwin Green on March 23, 2019 at 4:00 PM

The "not guilty" verdict in the trial of Michael Rosfeld, the East Pittsburgh police officer who shot unarmed teen Antwon Rose II in the back as Rose fled the scene of an arrest, has sparked protests and other expressions of rage and disgust.

I submit that in order for street protests to be truly effective, they must be combined with other efforts to build economic and political power, in that order (political power always follows and flows from economic power).

So let's talk about political power. In some parts of the country, Black people in America have only been able to vote since 1965. In some parts of the country, Black people are having their right to vote curtailed even now (fox example, in states where the franchise is denied to ex-felons, who are disproportionately black).

In Homewood, which is overwhelmingly Black, people don't vote.

Here is the framework, and some of the numbers, behind that sweeping generalization.

THE FRAMEWORK: Pittsburgh and Allegheny County together are such a Democratic stronghold that the winners in the Democratic primary in any given year will win the general election in nearly all cases.

THE NUMBERS: Homewood is the 13th Ward, made of up nine districts. In the 2007, 2011, and 2015 primary elections, the highest voter turnout among registered Democrats in those nine districts was 28.42 percent.

Again, that was the HIGHEST - in District 3, in 2007.

The lowest 13th Ward turnout in those three elections happened in District 7 in 2011 - 13.71 percent.

(All numbers here are from the Allegheny County Board of Elections website)

Nobody is turning fire hoses on us or siccing attack dogs on us to prevent us from voting. Nobody is hanging us from trees or shooting us to keep us from voting.


I'll wait.

Meanwhile, I'll throw this in - In Pittsburgh/Allegheny County, it's not just Black folk who don't vote. NOT VOTING IS THE NORM.

In 2007, there were 541,509 registed Democrats countywide. Out of that number there were 151,594 ballots cast, or 25.51 percent. In 2011, with 544,396 voters, 128,477 ballots were cast (23.60 percent). In 2015, with 507,287 voters, 113,836 ballots were cast (22.44 percent).

In fact, in each of those elections, at least three districts in Homewood had a better turnout than the County as a whole.

But all of the numbers are shameful, and say that all of Allegheny County is politically broken.

Let's face it: a big part of the reason that things happen the way they do here is because we do not elect people to represent us and then hold them accountable. Most of us, most of the time, do not vote. Why should any elected official listen to anyone who doesn't vote, ever?

The Rosfeld verdict creates a moment that could produce change so swiftly that it will appear magical. All of us upset by that verdict can change things IN ONE DAY (May 21, to be exact), if we do two things - vote, and encourage others to vote.

We must learn, not only to vote, but to move down the ballot, to learn about positions we may not even know are elected positions. We ELECT judges. We ELECT district attorneys. Not voting keeps them in office.

(If you are on Facebook, you gotta read Keith Reed's excellent post of March 20.)

Here is an easy example: Stephen A. Zappala has been the county District Attorney since January, 1998. In 2007, 2011, AND 2015, no one even challenged him in the primaries. In 2015, out of 507,287 Democratic voters, a mere 92,040 voted for him. That means that 414,623 DIDN'T, but it was still enough to keep him in office.

This year, he has a challenger. Later, I'll do posts on him and a bunch of other candidates. For now, this is my point- on May 21, we WILL send a message to those in power: The message will either say, "Don't f*** with us," or it will say, "Keep doing what you're doing."

If we vote, we can send the first message. If we don't vote, we WILL send the second - and it will be louder than any protests.