I first met Katie Everette Johnson in the mid ‘70s, just after I switched from sports to news. One of my first assignments was to cover a community meeting in the Hill District dealing with the Crawford-Roberts proposal.
The Crawford-Roberts proposal is what turned out to be the Crawford housing complex in the lower Hill, some 20 or 30 years later. The city had proposed to replace public housing, city blighted lots and anything else in the lower Hill, starting around Kirkpatrick Street, with new houses both for rent and ownership, which sounded great, but the community was concerned that once all the old housing was removed none or very little of the new housing would be affordable to the people moved out or Black people as a whole.
I went there expecting to hear Harvey Adams and some of the other activists shouting out demands as to what must be done to create affordable housing. Yes, the affordable housing issue is nothing new; it has been around for a long time.
But after the people from the City Planning Office spoke, followed by the loud people, a small woman spoke quietly and politely, and everybody stopped and listened, even Harvey.
She voiced her concerns that if the city didn’t make provisions for Hill District residents, and low- and middle-income to live there, it would simply be urban removal all over again. That these houses would simply be what most people expected them to be–starter homes for young executives in Downtown Pittsburgh before they moved to the suburbs.
She made it very clear that the Hill needed this development badly, not just in the Lower Hill, but all over; it served no real purpose if Black people weren’t able to take advantage of it.