I was going to write a letter to Santa, but I suspect he is on vacation in Bali right now. Truth be told, I don’t want anything material from Santa. My wish list has more to do with what we can do for each other.
To begin, if we could all understand how much we deserve as one community, one city. We don’t have to say, “It is not great, but it’s better than it used to be.” Especially if our timeline comparison is so short. We can aim for great, we can aim for outstanding.
We can celebrate the past, even the smoky dirty dusty Pittsburgh. It is in the DNA of the city and in many of us. Our blue collar, industrial heritage has built many of the institutions, libraries, museums, companies, homes, and art around the world. With these lessons, the good and bad, we can create individual, corporate, entrepreneurship, and non-profit leadership that is more responsive to all who live here.
Let’s shelve the gaslighting “Most Livable City” monicker until it is true. Until the day it applies to all who live along the confluence of the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio rivers.
Policy, vision, and leadership dedicated not to “diversity,” but in reflecting a truly inclusive multicultural reality, has to reflect the entire community therefore it cannot be dictated exclusively by white male leadership. The election of more women of the global majority, white women, men of the global majority, LGBTQIA+, and differently-abled people dedicated to intersectional justice are key to reflecting the city as a whole.
When you meet someone who has recently moved to Pittsburgh. Ask them: What do you think works in Pittsburgh? What doesn’t work? How have you made friends here? Too often we ask “Don’t you just love Pittsburgh?!” That is not really a question. There is no perfect place and even if you love Pittsburgh, there is something to be learned from new perspectives.
Newcomers to Pittsburgh, welcome. I know there are not many of you. But welcome and know that yinzers, Pittsburghers, are happy that you’re here. But please understand that we won’t subscribe to a hierarchy of residence. We don’t need saved by anyone, we can work together. You can learn from us and us from you.
Take public transportation for an evening or weekend event. For example, if you live in Lawrenceville, take the bus to Carson Street. Or if you live in Shadyside, take the bus to the North Side for dinner on East Ohio Street or North Avenue. Get a sense of what it is like to depend solely on public transportation to get around our city.
If you see something, say something. All too often, micro-aggressions and discrimination manifest because no one does anything about them. It could be a simple, “Wait, I think she was here first,” to a store clerk or restaurant host. As an African-American woman in Pittsburgh who has been given the “invisible” treatment all too often, this small gesture goes a long way.
The incorporation of the City of Pittsburgh does not tell the whole story of where we live. The erasure of the Haudenosaunee and other First Nations people is more than just an oversight, it perpetrates a nearly all-white narrative of what is in reality a much richer, more complex, and more colorful history of the region.
Speaking of all-white narratives, think about what we about say when we talk about Pittsburgh. Who is a “real" Pittsburgher? What are celebrated as Pittsburgh traditions? Growing up I always heard about the babushka-wearing Pittsburgh grandmother, but a grandmother in our city is also likely to be wearing a sari or chador.
But she is no less a Pittsburgher.
We are all Pittsburghers and are worth seeing, hearing, valuing and celebrating. Because only then do you see the real, wonderful, complex story of Pittsburgh.