Last Monday night, I started writing this blog post. I was so excited for Election Day, I couldn’t sleep and I wanted to put some thoughts on paper. I wanted to capture some of the things I have been thinking about over the past few weeks and months. This election has been incredibly challenging to watch [because there was a lot of hateful rhetoric]. It was not really a debate of ideas and solutions, but an ongoing parade of hateful words. The post I started writing on Monday had the draft title “Hope in Our Neighborhoods.” I was never that into the message of hope from President Obama’s campaign 8 years ago. I’d rather talk in plans, solutions, policy. So it stands out to me that I keep coming back to the word hope.
The day after election day, several people have texted me asking if I know of a protest to attend and I’ve already seen several Facebook events for emergency meetings, protests, etc. I want to offer some suggestions of ways to respond to the presidential elections… get involved locally. Find out what is happening in your neighborhood and on your block, listen to the people who have been working on these local issues for years, and see how you can help.
In 2004, I quit my job to work on John Kerry’s campaign for president. 12 years and one week ago, I was sitting with my fellow campaign workers in the Sheridan at Station Square. A few months later, I started working on a mayoral campaign, I started learning about Pittsburgh. Ten months later, I started blogging about Pittsburgh.
Here is where the hope part comes in – over the past 11 years, I have met the people who love this city. I have blogged about them. I go to their businesses. I have learned about the neighborhood groups and nonprofits, filled with people who are trying to make this city, this country and the world a better place in ways big and small. It took me 8 years, but I now get the hope thing. I am incredibly hopeful for this country based on what I see happening right here in Pittsburgh. A few of my favorite recent examples of things happening locally are…
- The Freestore which started in Braddock and has expanded to Wilkinsburg & Penn Hills.
- House of Gold in Wilkinsburg – I just had the chance to hear artist Dee Briggs talk about how she used the demolition of an abandoned building into a community place making project.
- Kiva Pittsburgh – incredible community of people making zero interest loans to local businesses.
- PUMPed to Run – a running club that works to get homeless women running.
This blog is an account of some of those stories. I have many more that haven’t been typed yet.
4 Ways to Make an Impact Locally
So if you are unhappy with the results of the presidential election, use this as an opportunity to make an impact locally.
- 1. Spend your money at locally owned businesses – I think this is the easiest thing and it is something you can do everyday. Patronize the business owners who live right here and care deeply about their community. It can be as simple as buying your next cup of coffee from Zekes, Commonplace, or one of the many locally owned coffee shops instead of Starbucks. [Share your favorite locally owned businesses on Twitter/Instagram with the #ShopPGH hashtag]
- 2. Join your neighborhood community group – there are email lists, websites, Facebook groups, paper newsletters where you can find out about what is happening in your neighborhood. Learn about these groups, go to the meetings, see who is already working on issues right on your block. [Know of a neighborhood group or newsletter? Help build a list of Neighborhood Organizations]
- 3. Meet your local elected officials – find out who your City Council representative is, follow them on Facebook and Twitter. Do the same for your State Representative and State Senator. These are the people who make decisions that impact your life on a daily basis. These are also the people who are most likely to become the next Congressional Representative, Senator, Mayor and possibly even President. Meet them now, and make sure they are representing your values. [Find out who represents you here.]
As I was typing this the day after the election – I received a phone call from a local business owner who was helping with a campaign event. He called to ask me how I am doing. He talked about how shocked he is with the results and how his family, who are immigrants that don’t speak English, are terrified they will be deported. So I need to add a 4th item to this list.
- 4. Be kind – when ever I start writing about the people of Pittsburgh, I feel like I need to use the word neighbors instead of people. I woke up this morning thinking of Fred Rogers, and I know his advice would be to be kind to your neighbors. Pittsburghers are lucky that we actually live in Mr. Rogers neighborhood. (For those who are new to Pittsburgh, Mr. Rogers Neighborhood was filmed at WQED on Fifth Ave. in Oakland.) [I don’t think that kindness can be summed up in a link or with a hashtag]
I feel lucky to be able to wake up in Pittsburgh after this election. I know that Pittsburgh isn’t a perfect place for everyone, (Pittsburgh still has a lot of work to do to be a liveable city for everyone), but it was nice to see Mayor Peduto post this on his Facebook page last Wednesday:
“The sun rises, a new day begins. Pittsburgh remains a place of innovation, hard work & compassion – for everyone.”
I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. I try to limit my Facebook time and do most of my posting on the IheartPGH page. But more often than not, I open up Facebook to find a feed of updates from amazing people who are working to make Pittsburgh or their home cities (thanks to IheartPGH, I have acquired many friends, who are now Facebook friends, who love their hometowns more than I love Pittsburgh).
It has been inspiring to see many of the posts from the last week from around the city and the country. I think it is important to share this press release that Mayor Peduto issued yesterday, (thanks to Councilman Gilman for sharing on Facebook otherwise I might have missed this – refer back to item #3 above):
PITTSBURGH, PA (November 15, 2016) “Over the past week, I have been repeatedly asked my reactions to the Presidential race and its affect on Pittsburgh. I want to reassure everyone with a stake in our wonderful city that Pittsburgh remains a city for all, both welcoming to outsiders and supportive of those here for generations who built the city we love.
Pittsburgh is a city built by immigrants and that will not change. All rights of demonstrators – no matter where they stand on the political spectrum – will be protected. Our defense of the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, women, LGBTQ residents and others fearful about the future will not waver.
Our dedication to being a global center of innovation will not waver either. We will continue our work on 21st Century transportation, infrastructure improvements, advanced manufacturing, sustainable energy production and job creation. We have many partners – from business, foundations, nonprofits and government – already working with us, and we welcome the new Presidential administration to join us in ensuring all workers have a place in the new economy.
Pittsburgh is a city for all, and I stand ready to prove it.”
I would like to offer up this blog as a space to help share information about local events, local stories of kindness and ways that neighbors are making this city better for others. If you have an event to share or a story of kindness, you are welcome to post here on IheartPGH. Just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the information. I’ll do my best to help spread the word.