What neighborhood is this?

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This column is the result of a conversation in the barber shop with two out-of-town young Black men. They were from Philadelphia and Chicago, and the one from Philadelphia upon getting ready to leave asked what neighborhood is this.

I pretended to be shocked and said, “You really don’t know this is the internationally-known Hill District?” All of the customers laughed, but then the conversation took a serious turn. I began to relate the history of the Hill with emphasis on the fact that he was standing on the legendary Wylie Avenue, once the business hub of the bustling Hill District.

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We explained that the street originated at Herron Avenue to Downtown and once included every kind of business you could imagine and the last business at the end of Wylie Avenue was a parking garage owned by one of a great number of Black businessmen, Mr. Nelson.

 

We reminisced about Black business men and women and the variety of businesses such as furriers, photo studios, jewelry stores, restaurants, bakeries, entertainment venues and the unbelievable number of nationally known entertainers that came from this community.

In 2009 there are no cleaners, sit down eateries, large grocery stores, and no Black politicians with clout. Grace Presbyterian Church was compelled to march to get some conditions in Sugar Top resolved that if Jake Williams or Zach Winston were living would have been resolved on the telephone in the middle of the night.

The number of churches of all denominations in the Hill is staggering, but so are the numbers of shootings, drugs, unemployment and all the negatives that devour the community.

What neighborhood is this?

There are at least three other once proud neighborhoods where THEY tried to keep us from moving in but were unsuccessful and we would boast we now live in Beltzhoover, East Liberty and Homewood. In 2009 as you travel through the above communities and witness the decay, the same question is asked that was asked on Wylie Avenue.

What neighborhood is this?

Please remember Kingsley Association.

(Louis ‘Hop’ Kendrick is a weekly contributor to the Forum page.)

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