Duquesne requires undergrads to take at least one service learning class where students serve the surrounding community. I’m participating in the 1,000 stories project, which brings to light the stories of people who live in the nearby depressed area of the Hill district. In this class, taught by Dr. Susan Goldberg of the Psychology Department, we’ve learned about the history and inhabitants of the Hill. We’ve toured it and been welcomed by people there. We’ve conducted interviews with residents. We’re doing a public reading with their “food stories” in preparation for the opening of the much-needed Shop-and-Save there, tomorrow, and I’m very excited to share what residents had to say.
Very often, I think Pittsburghers tend to see the Hill as a “bad area”. We hear the occasional news story about the violence there, avoid it, and forget about its very real history and significance. This class has opened my eyes to what the hill district was and is. The hill district was a thriving area forced into being by redlining at the time. There, African American settlers from the south were confined to the neighborhood because they were banned from moving to white areas. They formed their own businesses and a self-contained community where residents looked out for each other, and achieved many things in sports, and music. (A lot of our well-known jazz music comes from the hill!) Yet, after the demolition of the lower hill and the riots that followed the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., the Hill District community was left devastated. Many businesses moved, leaving those who could not afford to leave, behind.
Listening to excerpts of my fellow student’s interviews and conducting my own has allowed me to see the “faces” of the people who live there–their hopes, their tragedies and their strengths… Although the interviews we conducted were about food and family recipes, I was amazed at how personal they were. Interviewees shared stories about their childhood, hardships and trauma, families, their commitment to improving life in the hill and their thoughts on having their first grocery store in a very long time.
And tomorrow, I and my fellow students will be reading their stories. Our interviewees, hill residents and some of your fellow students and staff will be there.
This community event is free and open to the public. It takes place 5:30 p.m. this Wednesday, at the Kaufmann Center (1835 Centre Ave.). There’s also free food, which I’ve heard is a plus. 😛 I hope you come for the food and stay for the stories. It was a very moving experience for me, and I think it will be for you also.