As the common stereotype goes, Pittsburgh is a city of many bridges, but Pittsburghers are not very quick to cross them. Those in the North Side won’t travel across the river to the Hill District and those in Beltzhoover won’t venture into Oakland.
|WE THE PEOPLE—Residents of the 19th District enjoy music provided by deejay X-man.
For the past eight years that State House Rep. Jake Wheatley has been in office, he has tried to change that stereotype. As the representative for the 19th District composed of the Hill District, North Side, South Side, Allentown, Hazelwood, Downtown, the Bluff, Knoxville, Beltzhoover, Manchester, Arlington, Arlington Heights, and West, South and North Oakland, Wheatley throws a yearly celebration in hopes of uniting his constituents.
Held at Kennard Field in the Hill District on Sept. 11, this year’s Community Appreciation Day did not disappoint, with close to 1,000 residents representing the district’s many neighborhoods showing up throughout the day.
“We try to make it very apparent that this is not just for the Hill District. I wanted to do something to help people to get to know their neighbors,” Wheatley said. “We’re growing so much that we’re thinking we’re probably going to have to move it in the next few years.”
Beyond the traditional entertainment such as children’s activities, live performances and free food for all, Wheatley used the event to answer his constituents’ questions and connect them with useful resources.
“When I was campaigning people were always saying are you going to come back? We’ve always tried to give them information here because a lot of people don’t come to my office,” Wheatley said. “This has always been fun-filled. We’ve never had a problem and God willing, we never will.”
Presented in partnership with the Northside Coalition for Fair Housing, the community day served as an opportunity for community organizations and nonprofits to get in touch with residents who can benefit from their services. Among those taking advantage of the opportunity to network was Ronell Guy, executive director of NCFH, who was registering people for the Women’s Walk for Peace, an event in support of National Domestic Violence Awareness month in October.
“I want to reach out to people. I knew we could connect with a lot of those families and people here. We had a lot of people coming up. We got a box full of registrations,” Guy said. “Because we don’t meet as much as we used to, this is a good way for people to reconnect.”
Groups beyond Wheatley’s district also saw the community day as a way to reach out to those unfamiliar with their programs. Felicia Davis, a family and community programs specialist with Venture Outdoors, an outdoor recreational activity organization, used the event as a method for increasing minority participation.
“We’re trying to increase diversity at our activities. We offer low cost, on the bus line programming to increase minority participation. My job is to get the word out in the urban community,” Davis said. “When I heard about this and the amount of people they get I thought it was a fantabulous idea to come out because our minority communities are underserved in our programs.”
Other activities included a pound cake eating competition, face painting and Monte Carlo casino games. Performances included the Impulse Point Park Dancers and Flo Wilson and the Old School Band.
“I just came out for entertainment and to support the community. It’s good when we come out, especially when you have a representative who understands the importance of unity,” said Ron Scott, a North Side resident. “I like seeing the children and the community come out in a very peaceful situation, the young folks and old folks coming together.”