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It's "Crossing Fences" week

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

 

 
voicesSaturday Light Brigade Productions has done several remarkable rounds of oral history projects that pair elders with youth, and the latest one, Crossing Fences, features men and boys from the North Side, Beltzhoover and McKeesport.
 
SLB is a radio show that plays in  several local markets and whose staff has held workshops for children, teaching them what jobs in radio look and sound like, giving them some experience at interviewing, recording and sound presentation.
 
The latest oral history/storytelling project is the second one, with financing from the Heinz Endowments, and it is having three CD and book release parties this week to celebrate the participation in each neighborhood and give the public a chance to meet the participants, hear their stories and get a copy of the booklet and CD.
 
+ Tomorrow, from 5 to 7p, the Beltzhoover/Hilltop event will be held at the McKinley Park Recreation Center, 900 Delmont Ave.
 
+ Wednesday, same time, is the North Side’s event at the Cafe ‘n’ Creamery, 2700 Shadeland Ave.
 
+ Thursday, from 6 to 8p, the event is at the McKeesport Library, 1507 Library Ave.
 
+ Wednesday of next week, from 6 to 8p, all three neighborhoods will join a citywide celebration of at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, 980 Liberty Ave., Downtown. 
 
Walk-up attendance is OK, but the SLB folks want to know how many people to plan refreshments for, so RSVPing is recommended. Call 412.586.6300 or email  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .
 
This is SLB’s description of the project: 
 
“Crossing Fences connects generations of African American boys, youth and men through conversations. The program celebrates and archives these connections by creating multimedia publications while also sharpening skills that students can use to support success in school and beyond. 
“A first-of-its-kind program in the region, Crossing Fences combines cutting-edge audio technology with intergenerational communication, historical research and youth media arts. 
 
“Last year’s program included African American men and boys from the Hill District, Homewood and Hazelwood. The project will continue in three additional neighborhoods next year. 
 
 

 

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Public works to the rescue

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

 

bag 
The timing could not have been better: the city’s curbside collection of yard debris is Saturday.
 
For several weeks, big paper bags full of old branches, weeds and the vegetable plants I tore out at the end of harvest have been huddling under an alcove behind my house trying to stay dry until I could get them to a city composting center.
 
That trip was going to have been tomorrow. Thank you, SanMen, for saving me that trip.
 
Being in the information business has its advantages.
 
The trucks will be running citywide Saturday morning to get yard waste but it has to be in those big paper bags that come advertised as water tolerant but are only barely so. (You have to get them at big box retailers.)  If it’s a rainy morning and you put them out the night before, the bottoms could fall out on the SanMen, so consider putting them out in the early morning. 
 
Here are some of the rules you should follow to have a smooth transition on Saturday morning: 
 
+ Bags should not exceed 35 pounds;
 
+ Tree branches and bushes must be cut, bundled and tied in lengths not more than five feet and less than four inches in diameter.
 
+ No dirt, rocks, stones or cement will be collected (but the dirt that happened into your bag with the weeds you pulled will probably sneak through).
 
+ This has to be residential detritus. No contractors or lawn care services can cadge a free ride on the city.
 
If you miss the chance, you can take your yard debris to a city drop-off center but you have to be a city resident to do this. There are three of them. The details are at this site.
 
Questions? Contact Environmental Services at (412) 255-2631 or (412) 255-2773.
 
photo from elephantjournal.com

 

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National Register honors Allegheny Commons Park

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

 

commons 
 
Allegheny Commons Park on the North Side has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places, a status it shares with two other parks in the city — Schenley Park and Point State Park.
 
The commons is Pittsburgh’s oldest park, established during the emergence of Allegheny, which was a separate city before Pittsburgh annexed it in 1907.
 
The Allegheny Commons Initiative nominated the park, which was already a city historic district. The initiative is leading the implementation of a multi-phase restoration.
 
“We are thrilled that Allegheny Commons has joined an elite group of landscapes included on the National Register,” said Alida Baker, the initiative’s project director. “As stewards of this very special place, we hope  the designation will help us to attract much-needed investment and inspire our city to treat it with integrity and respect.”
 
Speaking of which... the city has made plans to begin  demolition of the pedestrian bridge that spans sunken railroad tracks. The bridge has been closed for about 12 years. 
 
Almost exactly four years ago, when city officials stated the concrete span was crumbling and presented a threat, the city proposed demolishing it. The Historic Review Commission delayed the decision that ultimately favored that request.
 
To say that neighborhood and park advocates objected doesn’t begin to describe the outcry. The arguments were to restore it or, if it must be demolished, to replace it. At the time, Pat Hassett, the assistant director of public works, said  he “would very much like to have the bridge replaced, but I have no money to do it. I have 120 bridges and two engineers.” 
 
The neo-classical concrete bridge was cast in place in 1906. It links two parks of the park that are separated by Norfolk Southern’s submerged tracks. 
 
One of the fears expressed by historic review commissioners and residents is that once the bridge is removed, the neighborhood has no leverage to pressure the city for a replacement. Without a replacement bridge, the site will act as a broken hinge on a door that is supposed to open for pedestrian flow. It was the intent of the designers of the park.
 
It is difficult to restore something to its original. Concessions sometimes have to be. But restorations are quite skewed when pieces disappear. The bridge demolition without a funding commitment for its replacement makes the news of the National Registry a little bittersweet.
 

 

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Fighting the world view that "nobody cares"

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

 

 
vanessaVanessa German has been called an activist. Thinking just of her artistic merit and her ability to redirect the thinking of her audience, she is that. But outsiders easily ascribe that word to people who make efforts that would be much less remarked upon in a “safe” neighborhood. 
 
The performance artist and sculptor will be performing Friday at the Pavel Zoubok Gallery, 531 W. 26th St., in New York, where her show “Homewood” has been up since mid October. It closes on Nov. 9.
 
The photos here are of two pieces, “Self Portrait of the Artist with Physicalized Soul,” left, and “Defiance,” below.
 
Her activism is what the mainstream would consider quiet. She is an educator. One of her projects is the Art House, a city-owned building in which she oversees children who come after school to make art several doors from her own house in Homewood. She cleans illicit detritus from around it before anyone shows up. 
 
Her art is not quiet if you spend time with it. It is laden with the stuff of every day life and the stuff of everyday life where she lives, including intangibles.
 
Her description of “Self Portrait” goes like this: “Old masted model ship, oil tin, tar, black pigment, white pigment, blue spray paint, cell phones, twine, wire, toy alligators, toy guns, toy hand cuffs, toy boats, pistol key chains, in honor of the ocean, blue iron, 3 birds as thought caught and killed, 2 ceramic horses, blue beads, blue bottles, wooden ashtray feet, my mother’s mother was Cherokee, my father’s mother’s mother was Native American -- her name was Hattie McWoodson, carved wood souvenir head of little girl from Africa, no conclusions to be drawn, porcelain doll heads from bombed out doll factory in Germany, souvenir clock brought back from Versailles in France, hearts, beads, buttons, twine, keys, the sense of drowning, the fight to stay afloat, tears, blue cloth, wire, wood, plaster, wood glue, wooden stand.”
 
When I interviewed her recently for my Walkabout column, which is scheduled to run in the Post-Gazette next Tuesday on page 2, she talked about her campaign to prove kids wrong when they say “Nobody cares.”
 
In talking to and instructing children, she hears that mantra often: “They say, ‘Nobody cares,’” apropos of nothing and everything, she said.
 
She is trying to prove to the Westinghouse High School Band that people do care. The band had raised about $6,000 of $20,000 it needs to stay afloat. The indiegogo campaign at  http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/help-the-westinghouse-bulldogs has just a few days to go.
 
She is actively promoting the campaign to help the band buy instruments and uniforms by offering art and performances to people who donate. 
 
“I will make you a handmade, hand painted dress if you donate $150 to the Westinghouse Bulldog Band indiegogo campaign,” she wrote on Facebook. 
 
“Would you like this sculpture?” she wrote in another post. “I am gifting this new sculpture to some generous soul who donates to the Westinghouse Bulldogs Band indiegogo campaign. This sculpture is called ‘stop crying already, sing a song.’”
 
She had 22 names in the hat and one person’s name in it 10 times in a drawing for the sculpture. german
 
 If the band fails to raise the money, it wouldn’t prove that nobody cares. Lots of organizations for which people have cared greatly in the past are experiencing the affects of frugality these days. But it would be fodder for an already pretty intransigent world view.
 
"It hurts my heart," she said. "I think about that in Homewood as a whole. I see so many kids who are hard, kids who think that whatever people think about Homewood is true of them too.”
 
Photos courtesy of the Pavel Zoubok Gallery

 

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Polish Hill's twist on treats

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

 

showdahnThe Polish Hill Civic Association has devised a clever response to what's really scary about Halloween in the neighborhood — drivers short-cutting between the Strip and Bigelow Boulevard and going too fast with trick or treaters afoot.
 
The association’s board, led by Alexis Miller, has gathered a group of volunteers who will wear costumes and hand out candy to drivers who slow down
 
“With only four roads in and out of Polish Hill, cut through traffic and speeders take a heavy toll on Polish Hill residents,” she wrote in an e-mail.
 
"During rush hour, from 4.30-7p on Halloween, residents will be promoting ‘treats for safe streets’ to drivers at the intersections of Melwood Avenue at Fleetwood Street and Dobson Street at Hancock Street.’
 
This ploy could increase the traffic volume among drivers who have a sweet tooth. I wonder if they’re passing out Skittles. I’d slow down for Skittles. Or dark chocolate. Mounds, preferably. 
 
Residents in costume will hold signs reminding drivers to slow down and offer sweets to those who drive slowly and make complete stops at the intersections.
 
Frankly, if I saw drivers making a complete stop -- and that goes for anywhere in the city -- I’d faint and blame it on the ghost.thanks
 
 
 
 
Photos of Catherine McConnell,a resident participant, by Alexis Miller

 

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