|Posted by Elwin Green on November 15, 2013 at 11:15 AM|
Odds are, anyone reading this already knows that Homewood experiences a disproportionate share of Pittsburgh's violent crime.
And you already know that media coverage of crime in Homewood helps to create a strongly negative perception of the neighborhood throughout the city.
Now comes the news that this negative perception extends beyond the city. Way beyond the city. In fact, beyond the country.
The French government has warned its citizens to avoid Homewood.
No, I'm not kidding. As reported in yesterday's Washington Post, Homewood-Brushton is one of four neighborhoods that French citizens are urged to avoid when they visit Pittsburgh.
According to my web browser's English translation of the French State Deparment's website, it reads "Avoid areas of Mount Oliver, Hill District, Homewood-Brushton and Hazel Wood." (Poor Hazelwood. At least the French spelled our name correctly.)
When Councilman Burgess's chief of staff, Shawn Carter, alerted me to this news, my first inward response was something like...
But then, as the WaPo article points out, our State Department gives similar warnings for U.S. citizens traveling abroad, and the practice in and of itself, is sensible and valuable. If Homewood-Brushton pops up on the French pols' radar for bad stuff, that's not their fault.
Besides, let's be real: it is highly unlikely that any French citizens were planning to visit Homewood anyway, so the government's warning is not taking money out of our pocket.
So, why should we care?
I care because I see opportunity here. If Homewood can be internationally famous for one thing, then it can be internationally famous for something else.
Indeed, it is already famous among literati as the childhood home of award-winning author John Edgar Wideman, and as the setting for several of his novels.
And right now, day by day, Vanessa German is making Homewood famous among art lovers with her work (indeed, she just concluded an exhibit in New York's Pavel Zoubok Gallery, titled, "Homewood.")
With a bit of work, Homewood could become famous as the childhood home of Lou Scheimer, the cartoon producer whose studio, Filmation, created "Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids" and "He-Man and The Masters of The Universe."
The French government's warning for its citizens not to visit Homewood means little if none of them were planning to visit anyway. The opportunity is to make Homewood famous enough so that French citizens (among others, from everywhere) would plan to visit. So my question in response to Shawn Carter's news is transformed from "Whachu talking about?" to "What would it take for the French government to RECOMMEND Homewood as a destination for its citizens?"
The initial answer may be as simple as, "Tell them about Vanessa German's Art House," or "Tell them about Dick's Pittsburgh Marathon." After all, runners voted Homewood as one of their favorite places to run through along the marathon's 26-mile course. And this list of French marathons suggests that they have some pretty serious runners there.
But I think the final answer would be something like, "Celebrate Homewood's legacy so that the world will come to the party, while continuing to do and create amazing new stuff."
That's my take. What's yours?