It was great seeing the development of the Teenie Harris Center in the Hill District by the New Pittsburgh Courier in the Nov. 8 issue. Too bad he couldn’t have gotten some of that while he was living.
I worked with Teenie when I first joined the Courier and there wasn’t a nicer guy. Teenie loved people, he loved living and he always tried to do what was right toward other people, yet he died broke.
It’s a shame that we as Black people don’t support our own, or don’t see the value in our work. Teenie was an icon as he worked as the chief photographer for the Pittsburgh Courier and the New Pittsburgh Courier, capturing the Black struggles and successes through film in black and white.
Yet, very few people acknowledged his work until after he sold most of it for $300. Later it was purchased by a historical foundation and put on display for all of Pittsburgh to see.
After working for the New Pittsburgh Courier off and on for 30-something years, I hope Real Times Media or somebody realizes that Teenie couldn’t have done it without the Courier. The Courier was established in 1910 by Edward N. Harleston, expanded into the largest Black-owned and operated newspaper in the country as well as the largest Black-owned and operated business in the country by Robert L. Vann until his death in1940, and lifted onto even greater heights by his wife Jesse Vann until 1962, until she sold it to S.B. Fuller in 1962.
John Sengstacke purchased it in 1966 and renamed it the New Pittsburgh Courier. After Sengstacke’s death in 1997 there was a court battle that eventually led to Real Times Inc. purchasing the paper in 2003.
Hopefully a foundation or someone or group realized that this is a history that should be exposed, just like the Teenie Harris photos. There were so many other people whose lives were expanded through the work of the Courier, because there were so many people like Teenie who told our stories with the typewriter as well as the camera. Hopefully we won’t let this history die.
Also in this story was affordable housing. It appears the city is making the same mistakes cities throughout this country made with public housing. All the people there were poor, this leads to decay and these new houses will have to be renovated or replaced in a few years if they don’t do what Stanley Lowe did years ago in Manchester—and that’s mixed housing.
According to the Courier story Nov. 8, there are 52 units and all but 15 will be for low-income. That’s a mistake. It should be broken down evenly between low-income, middle-income and upper-income. And there should be a mixture of rental and home ownership. This system worked in Manchester and has worked all over the country, I don’t know of any place in which an all low-income housing project has worked. It’s time to not just integrate the races, but also the incomes.
There are plenty middle-income Blacks and Whites who are recent college graduates, looking for affordable housing who would love to stay in the community after their incomes begin to rise. There are many recently graduated Blacks who are from the Hill, Homewood, lower North Side, etc. who would love to purchase an affordable home in these communities.
Kudos to CMU student Rosana Guernica from Puerto Rico, who is showing that one person can make a difference. She has raised over $125,000 to supply much needed food, health supplies and water to people of this country as well as chartering planes to help people leave who need hospital care as well as other help. The country is still without electric which has halted renovation and the recovery of the country. This one person is filling in the many holes left by the U.S. government.
(Ulish Carter is the former managing editor of the New Pittsburgh Courier.)
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