Hip-hop activist takes issue with "Most Livable City" designation



City officials often boast of Pittsburgh's designation as "America's Most Livable City." But next week, local activists plan to use hip-hop and a community discussion to prove Pittsburgh hasn't exactly earned the title.

On May 31, One Hood Media will premier activist/artist Jasiri X's latest music video, "America's Most Livable City," at 7 p.m. inside the Homewood Library. The video, the first of four to address Pittsburgh-related issues, scrutinizes the "Most Livable City" moniker, trying to square the designation with recent U.S. Census statistics showing that Pittsburgh has the country's highest rate of poverty among working-age African Americans.

"Welcome to America's Most Livable City / Please ignore the invisibles with me," goes the song's chorus. "See Pittsburgh rebuilt its economy / But we still lead the Nation in black poverty."

Directed by activist/videographer Paradise Gray, Jasiri tells City Paper the video shows Pittsburgh's two vastly different sides: "The side city officials roll out, and the other side" -- like Elmer Square, in the Hill District, and the streets of Lincoln-Lemington.

"Going door to door in Elmer Square makes me angry that people have to live like that in 2011," says Jasiri, whose music video "What if the Tea Party was Black" went viral after its release last summer. "What we're trying to do is really highlight the economic disparity in Pittsburgh."

Jasiri will moderate a panel discussion following the video premier. Focused on addressing the city's economic disparities, the conversation will feature panelists including: Bomani Howze, program officer of the Heinz Endowments; Brandi Fisher, chair of the Alliance for Police Accountability; and Khalid Raheem, president of the National Council of Urban Peace and Justice.

"We want people to come up with solutions," Jasiri says. "We recognize the disparity in Pittsburgh. Now what can we do about it?"

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