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People’s Planning in Pittsburgh: Terri Baltimore

8/24/2009 by Gilda Haas - 1 comment

On March 30, 2007, SAJE kicked off its People’s Planning School by gathering people from other cities who were facing the same problems of gentrification, redevelopment, and expulsive zoning and who had already taken up the challenge to plan for themselves, claiming their history and rightful standing.

Here is a transcript of Terri Baltimore’s presentation along with some of the images that she showed us.  It is longer than most posts, but well worth it — it is full of history, a people’s planning process, and Terri’s love for her neighborhood:

Terri BaltimoreBefore I start, I just want to apologize, because I have an awful lot of slides. And I’m going to try to get through them quickly, but a lot of people don’t know the Hill District very well, and I wanted to make sure that you understood the place where I work and the place that I love so much.

And before I get started, I just also need to say how honored I am to be here. But I couldn’t be here today without the elders in the community.

Pittsburgh is a really strange place. Most people kind of stay in the neighborhood where they grew up. And I grew up in an Eastern neighborhood of Pittsburgh called “‘Sliberty.” And for those of you who speak English well, that’s East Liberty. And so growing up I never spent a long time in the Hill District. And in 1992 I got a job there. And I was terrible. I didn’t know the neighborhood at all. And the reason that I was able to get inside the neighborhood, stay there, and learn to love it is was because elders taught me their stories. They taught me about places that weren’t there any more. They taught me about living through urban renewal and losing their homes. So they shared their lives with me. And what they did in the process was help me love the place that they loved. So I need to say, “Thank you,” to Miss Edna. Thank you to Miss Stella. And thanks to all the elders. Because without them I couldn’t tell you anything about ‘Sliberty.

Freedom HouseThe Hill District is a really rich neighborhood. And in the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s, if you wanted to listen to jazz, this was the place to be. And if you were a Black musician and played downtown, you came up to the Hill and played at clubs after hours. If you were a White musician and played downtown you came up here to the Hill and played after hours. So there is a rich cultural heritage in this neighborhood, and in addition to the music (Art Blakely, Lena Horne, Ahmad Jamal, Stanley Turrentine, George Benson), we also had August Wilson and the Pittsburgh Crawfords. Also, the Freedom House Ambulance Service. For a lot of people who don’t know, the whole paramedics movement started in The Hill with a really progressive funder and unemployed Black men and women who responded to a need in the neighborhood at a time when ambulances didn’t come.

The next few slides I’m going to show you were taken by who was a Pittsburgh photographer who took at least a hundred thousand pictures of Black life in Pittsburgh.

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