I was in attendance with 300 other people at the August Wilson Center when a respectable, nationally known Black man made a statement that I am in total disagreement with. He stated that Black communities and Black neighborhoods never existed. I have a perception of both, basically they are one and the same, and after checking the dictionary it was in agreement with me.
There were and still are Black communities and Black neighborhoods throughout Allegheny County, and God knows they have changed and generally for the worst. They were located throughout the Mon Valley, Rankin, Braddock, Homestead, Clairton, Duquesne, McKeesport, and other Allegheny County areas. In the city of Pittsburgh they are Manchester (North Side) Lawrenceville, Hill District, Garfield, and forgive me if I missed your community or neighborhood.
For example, the Hill District was a community consisting of various neighborhoods. There were the projects consisting of Bedford Dwelling, Whiteside Road and Terrace Village. There were the Lower Hill; middle Hill (which included the crossroads of the world); Upper Hill (which included Sugar Top); and Soho. There were even Black neighborhoods in Homewood, East Liberty and Beltzhoover.
The neighborhood that had the greatest affect on my life was on Jones Avenue in Lawrenceville. I was born there and it was the period of time that would help shape my life. There was a period of time when only a few families had indoor plumbing, telephones or gas, but poverty was nonexistent. No family was allowed to be hungry, because the neighbors were concerned and friendly. There were no daycare centers to care for children when parents had to go to work, but there were the neighbors who would not accept anything for their services. No people, particularly youth were permitted to be without decent clothes, because the neighbors had a system where they simply would just exchange clothes as each person outgrew them. I do not recall any homeless people in our neighborhood. There were no words in our vocabulary such as can’t, poor, ghetto, or poverty-stricken. There were a couple of people who got drunk every Saturday, but it was required of us to take them home and refer to them by “yes, sir” or “no, sir.”
There were no locks on any door in the neighborhood and someone said that was because there was nothing to steal, but the truth of the matter was a number of people did not trust banks after the depression and had every dime they had accumulated in the house.
As you read this week’s column I hope you will recall the period of time that I wrote about and remember the time that our neighbors were neighborly.
It is almost Christmas, please remember Kingsley Association.
(Louis “Hop” Kendrick is a weekly contributor to the Forum Page.)