Last Saturday evening I did something I had not done for a long period of time, and that was to drive through the Hill District by way of Wylie Avenue. I started at Roberts Street and by the time I got to Devilliers Street I had passed two churches and one mosque and the now Blakey Building, which in my day was the Kay Boys Club. They were all dark. At the end of Wylie on Herron Avenue I was compelled to park and reflect upon the absence of activities. The only business activities were two bars. I reminisced about the old Wylie Avenue and the huge number of Black-owned businesses. Those Black men and women, who never heard the word entrepreneur, possessed the foresight and courage that qualified them as true Who’s Who. They were furriers, photographers, barbershop and beauty salon owners. There were taverns, drug stores, restaurants, fish and Bar B Q, gambling joints, jewelry stores, pawn shops, grocery stores, shoe repair, jitneys, cab company, gas stations, garages and across Allegheny County there were 200 Black men who owned their own trucks.
Third, but not last when do we give recognition to those parents, parent, grandparents, extended families who had limited schooling, but realized the importance of the next generation obtaining higher education and sacrificed to ensure it would become a reality. A perfect example is the late Mr. Terry. He would sometimes work three jobs and one was in Mt. Lebanon and it would cost a dime to ride round trip. He would generally walk one way and save a nickel to give his wife to put away. Another example is Mrs. Williamson who would go to the Good Will or some other agency and acquire a super sized dress and then cut it in a manner so she could sew three smaller dresses for her daughters. These are just some examples of everyday people that qualify as Who’s Who.
This week’s column is not intended to minimize the importance of those who have been fortunate to receive public recognition, but to pay tribute to those who also deserve credit for a job well done, because you too are somebody.
(Louis “Hop” Kendrick is a weekly contributor to the Forum page.)