I used my free time to do as I usually do when I visit a city: Go to where 'My People' live, to get a ground level view of their reality.
I drove into "The Hill District" - a blighted area of the city, "up the hill" from downtown Pittsburgh. Though the development has been slowly creeping up the hill, and there are some islands of development throughout the area - the physical plant for the most of the area is astounding. Ironically some of the dilapidated houses have outlived "The Civic Arena". The home of the Pittsburgh Penguins and concert events was being razed to make way for something else.
I went looking for a "hole in the wall" bar/night club that a friend took me to several years ago. I recall that it was in a larger building that was run down. The club was like a throwback to the 1920's.
Whenever I go to Pittsburgh I make reference to two artifacts that allow me to judge the state of redevelopment of the Hill District:
- Has the long promised revitalization of "The New Granada Auditorium" taken place?
- Did anyone reopen the Perry Hotel & Bar building?
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Sadly, I got my answer.
The long held promise to reopen "The New Granada Theater" after at least 2 and a half decades of fits and stops is symbolic of the effectiveness of the "community leadership" in the area.
They are successful in whipping the poor and struggling people in the area into a defensive posture with the threat that
Of course I would be remiss if I failed to give a shout out to my dear friends at the "NAACP" who's building and associated propaganda posters lay claim to who "runs these streets". Their building is prominently located right at the top of the hill.
Of course the community should be "thankful" that the community leadership has keep the capitalistic, land-grabbing hounds out.
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As I cruised the area seeking to find evidence of development I did notice that there were small islands of development in a larger body of general decay. New developments took the place of at least some of the buildings that were on the verge of collapsing. The house of a distant relative that I once visited when I was a kid had been knocked down. I call my father to get a verification on the address.
As with other blighted cities Pittsburgh seems to have adopted a program for "urban art" to place positive messages on murals that are distributed around the community.
I could not miss the frequent use of the word "Hope" as a means of making the best of an obviously challenging situation.
A new "African Centered Charter School" has been planted within the community. I assume that their goal is to instill a new and constructive frame of reference into the consciousness of the children in the area who's environment gives them few outlets for a better life but plenty of opportunity to get sucked into a stagnant lifestyle. I offer them my most sincerest of hopes that they will instill a foundation of values in these "Would Be Pillars Of The Community" - that they might lift it up to the next rung of its potential.
I also noticed a number of historical markers referencing the "Pittsburgh Crawfords" baseball team from the "Negro Leagues" as well as some local celebrities that came from "The Hill", including the late playwright - August Wilson.
It is a "no brainer" to remove these signs and place more "favorable people" in their stead. My argument is that the promised tangential benefit did not come
It is clear that once the "low hanging fruit" has been picked this scheme shows its weakness as a legitimate "Human Resource Development" plan.
I Was Not Prepared For What I Saw In The Closing Moments Of My "Hill District" Venture
As I drove down Wiley Avenue, preparing to go to a popular Black night club in the "Strip District" I saw something that seemed very out of order.
There was a large group of people congregated outside of a funeral home for a wake.
The strange point was that they were mostly young people.
I figured that this could not be the funeral for someone's grandparent or older relative. Chances are there is a young person that is resting in peace in the casket inside of the funeral home. There are too many young girls outside crying their eyes out for this to be anything else.
I chose to park my car and watch what was going on.
My major decision was to determine if I would go inside to get the scoop on what was happening.
I had no intention to use the family's grief to make an ideological or political indictment. This is still the case as I report on what I saw.
The memory of this "Little Black Girl Crying" at the news of the killing of Derrion Albert in 2009 popped in my head as I thought that this little girl that I saw being comforted by a loved one.
I walked into the funeral home with the goal of finding out who was being memorialized and what happened.
As I passed through the lobby I saw scores of Black teenaged girls either crying or conversating - all with an array of emotions, including mild laughter.
I walked up to a man who was standing by himself. I asked him "Who is this service for?".
He told me "Marshawn Ptomey. He is my nephew". I asked "How did he die?"
With the smell of alcohol and cigarettes on his breath he told me "He was yet another victim of senseless violence. He was shot". I patted him on the shoulder and said to him "There is no reason that these young people in here should have to experience something like this at their age."
I took a brief look at the casket where the father and two sisters of the murder victim were standing and then I walked out. On the way out I noticed several televisions playing video clips of Marshawn's career as a local football star.
Who Was Marshawn L Ptomey
Of course I admit assuming that the 19 year old Marshawn Ptomey was murdered by a "Street Pirate". This is a legitimate profile of the situation based on the surrounding circumstances.
It turns out that he was actually shot in the head by a 17 year old female.
- CBS - Local Football Star Killed
- WTAE - Shooting Victim Dies, 17 Year Old Girl Charged
- ESPN - Football Recruiting Vidoes of Marshawn Ptomey
To Be Clear - Marshawn Ptomey was not murdered within the city of Pittsburgh. He was killed in the neighboring McKees Rocks PA.
Of the 43 homicides that did take place in Pittsburgh in 2011 a disturbing fact is that 86% of them were Black people. This tops the homicide victimization rate for Blacks in Philadelphia at 74%. Both cities, however contribute to the shameful designation that hangs upon the state of Pennsylvania as the most deadly state for Black people (per capita) of any other in the nation.
The only "shot" I wish to partake in with this post is to ask - IF an adversarial government had promised to "rescue" Black people yet had failed to do so within the TIME FRAME and the sufficient COMPREHENSIVENESS necessary to remove our people from the source of the threatening danger (in human form) along with suring up the conditions (the physical plant, the cultural consciousness and the academic 'seed planting' for a new crop).................would WE be so patient as WE are with OURSELVES - when it is all too clear that such silence and complicity is indeed in someone's favor but NOT OUR OWN. Only the establishment powers benefit by this misdirected patience that is seen.
Any serious reform movement would first define the VOLUME OF THE ROOM that needs to be cooled before leading you on a struggle.