To Tell The Truth: Is the demise of our communities coincidental?



I went to Strong’s Cleaners on Franks­town Avenue to pick up my clothes and a conversation took place about the renovation of Homewood and I responded by stating it would be long range. Eric Strong the owner replied, “If it’s long range then those of us who are in business currently will be gone.”

As the conversation continued we began to reflect on the demise of Black communities across America and it occurred to us that there is a common denominator in every city. I am not one who believes in conspiracies, but it is apparent to me that something is wrong.

Pittsburgh’s URA is the oldest in the state of Pennsylvania and maybe the oldest in the country. The lower Hill District, which was adjacent to Downtown after the Italians, Syrians and Jews had moved and it became overwhelmingly Black, began to be described as slums. Unemployment accelerated, welfare increased, and the family structure fell apart. The quality of education suffered and drugs and the escalation of crime set in.

The URA, which was controlled by a Democratic mayor who had an arm in arm relationship with those who controlled the Republican Party, put in place what they named Renaissance 1 and 2 and used what they called land banking and took complete control of the lower Hill and tore everything down. Only the late Tony Upshur had the foresight, he called it by saying “Urban Renewal and Negro Removal.” Tony had no idea how much he was on target because time proved him right. Eighty-seven percent of the property was owned by taxing bodies and absentee landlords.

How many of you recall the land laid vacant for 33 years while the descendants of those who tore the hill down devised a method to acquire and redevelop the hill. The overwhelming majority of Blacks that left the Hill moved east, mainly to Homewood, but here we are in 2013 faced with the same dilemma we were confronted with in the Hill. Unemployment, drugs, inadequate schools, single parent homes, robbing and gun violence at a record level. There are roughly 4,000 abandoned homes and vacant lots, how can Homewood survive?

However, the URA once again is on the scene, land banking again, and once again the descendants of those who are preparing to tear Homewood down are preparing to move all of the Blacks out of Homewood and redevelop it. There are a number of organizations in Homewood and a Black Pittsburgh Councilman, Rev. Rickey Burgess, so there is no reason for history to repeat itself, only if we allow it.

Is it too far reaching to imagine a conspiracy by URA’S across this nation to seize our communities and remove us by any means possible? We as Black Americans must remain vigilant and remember the mindset of Americans that gave Native Americans blankets infested with small pox, took their land and put them on reservations. These same people held Blacks in slavery and injected Black men with syphilis, put Black youth in jail for a rock, and gave house arrest to prominent White people with kilos of cocaine.

Please remember Kingsley Association with a check.

(Louis “Hop” Kendrick is a weekly contributor to the Forum Page.)


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