August 8, 2013
Dear Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh,
As residents of Pittsburgh, many of us born and raised here, we have celebrated, fallen in love, given birth, created beauty, experienced tragedy and made irreplaceable memories here. We have played on the hills of Pittsburgh as children, watched fireworks from its overlooks and somehow managed to make homes here despite your reckless development, tearing the fabric of our communities apart and making us unwelcomed strangers in the landscape of our own lives. This is economic violence, regardless of how good your intentions might be. Despite our undeniable connection to this city, we write as outsiders in our communities, witnesses to the revitalization that has been touted as miraculous yet requires that we be invisible.
We love Pittsburgh, and we are here to demand that the URA stop its campaign of economic violence against Black neighborhoods. This is our home. Long after your contractors and developers have finished their projects, we remain. If the genuine goals of the URA are to “improve the vitality of businesses, neighborhoods, and the City’s livability as a whole”, we demand that this is done with the explicit consent of the communities the URA works in. We demand that the URA use the power and resources that it is given to improve our communities by building authentic relationships with the people who live there.
Our hopes are higher than exposing the thinly veiled intentional creation of blight and the white land-grab that is business as usual for Pittsburgh development. This is an opportunity for action and justice. You will no longer sit comfortably in your offices, far-removed from the impact of your developments on the lives of black Pittsburghers. You will no longer experiment with Pittsburgh like our lives are a game of Monopoly, displacing black people over and over and over again. You will no longer hold up precious local businesses as the flagships of “progress”, only to undermine their development and ruthlessly appropriate them.
Trayvon Martin was profiled because he was seen as a threat in his own neighborhood. Jordan Miles and many others continue to be profiled because they are seen as threats in their own neighborhoods. Deep in our hearts we hold a vision of Pittsburgh that is livable for all it’s residents, where property is not valued over Black lives. What does it mean to design a neighborhood where Black people feel safe?
We present these demands with sincere love for Pittsburgh and expect a response within 3 business days.
Pittsburgh for Trayvon