Thursday, January 30, 2014

Restitution: Two Entities That Should Help Save The August Wilson Center

Can't say I didn't see the sad August Wilson Center Train wreck coming. Built on tax dollars and a few large (Including one from the RK Mellon Foundation) grants, just big enough to get it to the ribbon cutting ceremony and very little grass roots groundwork, in a city that has lost (forced out) most of its middle class black community, the Center seemed on shaky ground

See a brief grim synopsis here (Notice the flawed study by the same URA which thought tearing down The Hill was a great idea)

 I'm not usually one for bailouts, but in this case two entities, The Richard King Mellon Foundation & The Pittsburgh Penguins stand out as owing something to Pittsburgh's black community for the crimes committed against it.

From The Post Gazette- Look For The Name Richard King Mellon

 Mellon's heft allowed his deputies, Richards and Van Buskirk, to spread their fingers everywhere, creating a shadow Mellon government. In 1945, they lobbied the state to approve the Urban Redevelopment Authority, a powerful tool that allowed Pittsburgh to seize private properties through eminent domain.............yada yada 
 Lawrence eventually settled on the Lower Hill District, a popular neighborhood for Italians, Jews, Eastern Europeans and blacks. Politically, it was a better choice. "There was not a lot of opposition," Weber said, in an interview. "Was that easier? Absolutely."

It was a lively neighborhood, bulging with shops, nightclubs, restaurants and small businesses. But it had problems, too. There were more than 1,000 tuberculosis cases reported in 1933. A 1953 building's inspector's report, cited in Weber's book, rated 681 of the 901 homes as "substandard....

"The URA's demolition, which began in 1956, forced out 1,239 black families. About 800 relocated to the nearby Third, Fourth and Fifth wards -- predominantly black neighborhoods. And the relocation did not go well.

The federal government, at the time, did not provide displaced homeowners with relocation money, as it does today. Also, homeowners had no contact with the city until the acquisition had been made. They got a notice in the mail. "Chaos. It was absolute chaos," URA official Irving Rubinstein told an interviewer in 1974. "We didn't know what to do."

Mellon looms so large in the Hill district's fate, he plays a big part in August Wilson's play, Two Trains Running. ( $$$$ mysteriously critical entries about him are hard to find online)

Well.. anyway, he left a large foundation behind to help out the city. What better way than by supporting a potentally important cultural center for a community you "accidentally" damaged?

As for The Penguins who happily sit on the grave of that community and then helped themselves to another slice... pay up.

As for the city taxpayers, I don't believe in collective guilt. But, if you worked in any capacity or supported in any way the policies named here, please pay up.

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