Jamil Bey is the executive director of the UrbanKind Institute. He has been a key voice in discussions about McKinley Park and how the project will affect the community. (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)

In the McKinley Park Community Center in Beltzhoover, Richard Carrington stood before some 30 people sitting on metal folding chairs. His bass voice resounded against cinder block walls as residents, nonprofit staff, contractors and consultants waited to hear the latest on renovations planned for McKinley Park, one of the oldest and largest – though one of the lesser known – major parks in the city. Carrington, the first of three presenters, wasn’t talking about the park, though.“No disrespect to our other brothers and sisters here, but we’re tired of watching people with color not having [jobs],” Carrington said. “You’re doing projects in our community, but you haven’t found a way to give us any jobs.” Carrington has a light beard and long salt-and-pepper hair, having earned that salt while directing the nonprofit Voices Against Violence (VAV) for 22 years and acting as “father” to hundreds of community youth.
It was June 5, 2017, and this was one of numerous public meetings designed to gather community input while reporting on a series of renovations planned for the 78.5-acre park. The meeting was convened by staff of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, which is partnering with the City of Pittsburgh to spearhead renovations. During the first phase of construction, park entrances and trails into the area known as Chicken Hill are to be excavated and repaired. Stormwater runoff will be captured, kept out of the city’s overburdened sewer system.