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Dear France: Que voulez-vous dire?

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...

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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.


Among musicians and music-lovers, Homewood is known as the home of Billy Strayhorn and Ahmad Jamal, among others.


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?

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Reply cynthia battle
1:45 PM on November 15, 2013 
A few weeks ago there were a few news reporters with camers, waiting across the street from my building( The Early Learning Hub, on Kelly street) to cover the recent shooting of a 21 year old young woman and an older man, both I believe were part of a motorcycle club.
During the time that they were waiting, the E L Hub was hosting a fall festival at the Kaboom! play ground for children (birth-5) along with the children child care providers. The playground had hay stack, pumpkins, sand table, painting table all the things that children love to play and explore with.
We asked the reporters if they'd like to see the positive things that happens in Homewood and how people in the community are investing in our very young by providing them with positive experiences, but we were told that wasn't news.
So,no wonder Homewood and all the other deprived communities get a bad rap, no one wants to celebrate the positive.
Reply Denise Johnson
2:32 PM on November 15, 2013 
Not too long ago I posted a post on Facebook. I was boasting about Homewood have an award winning trilogy written about it (John Edgar Wideman), the National Negro Opera House, the Westinghouse Hall of Fame, two (that I know of) world class artists (Tina Brewer & Vanessa German) and the only inland marina in town (Murtland & Kelly Street). Homewood has flava we ain't tasted yet!
Reply Elwin Green
2:45 PM on November 15, 2013 
Ms. Battle, did you get the names of any of those news people? I'd like to follow up on this somehow.
Reply Elwin Green
2:46 PM on November 15, 2013 
Ms. Johnson - "Homewood has flava we ain't tasted yet!" - sounds like a T-shirt to me! :)
Reply Queen Lucille
1:48 PM on November 16, 2013 
My question is........IF SHAWN CARTER, CHIEF OF STAFF TO COUNCILMAN RICKY BURGESS, is aware of this, and since Councilman Burgess IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST CONTRIBUTORS TO THIS NEGATIVE PERCEPTION, e.g., abandoned property owned by the Councilman and his family and his lack of responsibility for paying his (their) share of taxes, WHAT ARE COUNCILMAN BURGESS AND MR. CARTER GOING TO DO ABOUT IT? It seems to me that THEY have the most power to change this perception! Also, how about a campaign to showcase the highlights of Homewood, i.e., the YMCA, YWCA, OBB, and as you mentioned Vanessa German's work, etc?
Reply Queen Lucille
1:52 PM on November 16, 2013 
Denise Johnson says...
Not too long ago I posted a post on Facebook. I was boasting about Homewood have an award winning trilogy written about it (John Edgar Wideman), the National Negro Opera House, the Westinghouse Hall of Fame, two (that I know of) world class artists (Tina Brewer & Vanessa German) and the only inland marina in town (Murtland & Kelly Street). Homewood has flava we ain't tasted yet!

Lol! Love the "inland marina" comment!
Reply april
2:02 PM on November 17, 2013 
Love all the comments below. Even though I live out of town, I'm always trying to find positive ways to promote Homewood. I too would like to see some follow up with the news personnel. When positive things happen in Homewood we need to blast the media with info so that they can't say " they didn't know" and put pressue on them to report these events. I'm tired of hearing about the shootings and murders in HB.
Reply Pastor Rodney Adam Lyde
5:51 AM on November 23, 2013 
I appreciate this article and all Homewood Nation's articles for that matter. While there's work to be done, still we've work to do. I like the. Great vision put forth
Reply Elwin Green
2:30 PM on November 23, 2013 
Ms. Prater-Holiday - 1) What property are you referring to? 2) I disagree with your view that Councilman Burgess and Shawn Carter have the most power to change the negative perception of Homewood. I believe that we residents have the most power to do that. Therefore ...3) would you like to be on a committee to put together the campaign you describe?
Reply Elwin Green
2:31 PM on November 23, 2013 
Pastor Lyde - thanks for the kind words. Please tell your people tomorrow morning :)

IN FACT, I think it would do us all a world of good if someone from last night's group wrote a review of "The Best Man Holiday" for Homewood Nation - or even just a brief account of the Movie Night experience itself.. What do you think? (Wish I had thought of that sooner!)
Reply Bram R
6:44 PM on November 23, 2013 
I still can't believe the creator of Fat Albert, He-Man and She-Ra grew up in Homewood. These featured fantastically conceived universes and populations, which in TV animation's heyday, spoke to children on ethnic and gender levels. And always be a good, caring, thoughtful citizen, despite the Skeletors and the Evil Horde and the concrete or alien jungle. The good guys' awesome swords were for deflecting and disarming opponents.

They don't make them like they used to, but nobody made them like Lou Scheimer.