Friday, July 24, 2015

Internship Blog: Cynthia Caul Post #3

The G-Word

Gentrification. The jazz saxophonist Oliver Lake began a residency with City of Asylum Pittsburgh in January of 2014. Towards the end of his residency he, in collaboration with City of Asylum, decided to create a performative piece about the organization’s surrounding neighborhood—The Northside. And so began the makings of what would finally be titled “Stoop is a Verb.” It’s a 60-minute collection of jazz poetry pieces comprised of music composed by Lake and the words of Northsiders who he interviewed in the subsequent year.

                                                                                             Photo Credit: Brennan Maine

If you are familiar with Pittsburgh neighborhoods, it will come as no surprise that when Lake asked people to talk about their neighborhood, the g-word was inevitable. As one interviewee was quoted: “I love the Northside, but I hate the Northside politics.” But love it or hate it, gentrification is a reality in the Northside and a reality for an organization like City of Asylum. As a recent recipient of a CITF (Community Infrastructure and Tourism Fund) grant, which will enable City of Asylum to transform the former Masonic Temple into a community literary center in the North Side’s currently dilapidated Garden Theatre Block as a part of the Federal-North Redevelopment project, the delicate dance of making positive contributions to the neighborhood while maintaining its current integrity and indigenous population is one with which the organization is destined to grapple.

                                                                                                     Photo Credit: Brennan Maine

Perhaps one of the best ways to do this grappling is with a healthy sense of self-awareness and objectivity.  I think the project “Stoop is a Verb” illustrates the organization’s willingness to openly dive into that dialogue. Towards the middle of the work, one Northsider is quoted:
But the new people have more resources and more capacity. They are very disrespectful of the indigenous, home grown people in the community and it causes a lot of culture clash and a lot of problems for people.
Culture clash not getting support to make the coalition stronger, instead, help is going to foreign writers.  
The words sparked a knowing laughter in the audience comprised of founders, board members, staff, and the interviewed neighbors themselves. The piece didn’t result in any finite conclusions, but continued the dialogue-- the grappling. In that vein, a few questions to ponder from the text of “Stoop is a Verb”:
“What is the ‘North Shore’?” (The individual challenges the seeming fabrication of a neighborhood to differentiate it from the negative connotation of the Northside”
“But if something happens on the East End, they’ll say Squirrel Hill, Homewood, Point Breeze…14-15 neighborhoods, and every time something happens, you say the ‘North Side’?” (The individual questions how local news stations report stories differently throughout the city.)
“Three crack houses, and we turned them into functioning houses again, and I said ‘We are the bad guy?” (A individual questions his role in gentrification.)      

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Internship Blog: Abraham Kim Post #4

A Week Remains 

Told you I was terrible at blogging. Two months later (already!), my work is finished.
Bright Kids Uganda, the children’s home that I’ve been interning with, has about 100 children now and provides food, shelter, and an education for all kids. In order to have funds for this, they do receive donations majorly from the States, Canada, and UK, but they also have income generating projects. So in addition to the already existing projects, I wanted to bring in rabbits into the mix.


I built a 3 roomed rabbit hutch and a 2 roomed rabbit hutch. I taught the kids, warden, and matron what to feed it, how often, and how to breed and handle the rabbits. I started with 3 rabbits. The two roomed hutch will be used for the baby rabbits. The kids named the whitest female rabbit Snow White. Then the other female, Cinderella. Lastly, they named the male rabbit… Abraham.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Internship Blog: Anthony Griffith Post #1

My name is Anthony Griffith and I am a part-time Security & Intelligence Studies major, Urban & Regional Affairs minor at GSPIA in my third year.  When I first enrolled at GSPIA, I had intentions of working in local government, but as time passed and I took classes that covered a global capacity, specifically those of Dr. Michael Kenney and Dr. Muge Finkel, my interests had changed.  Late in the spring semester, I changed from an Urban & Regional Affairs major to Security & Intelligence Studies.

I am currently employed at the Allegheny County Sheriff's Office detailed to the Investigations Division as a civilian.  My current duties range from administrator of our reporting system, handling the Office's social media platforms and assisting detectives in their pursuit of locating wanted fugitives.

Upon graduating from GSPIA in spring 2017, I would like to pursue a career in counter terrorism with either the CIA or FBI.  Unfortunately, being a part-time student does not leave much time for me to fit in an internship.  I discussed my dilemma with Sheriff Mullen and he explained that I could do an internship with the ACSO, specific to the Investigations Division with whom I work with on a daily basis.

Since beginning my internship at at the end of the spring semester, I have had the opportunity to work with all three of the office's fugitive squads (AM & PM Fugitive and Non-Support), as well as in conjunction with our FBI-detailed deputies and their squads.  We have pursued fugitives of all sorts; including Megan's Law Violators, Firearm Violators and Homicide suspects, to name a few.  

Friday, July 10, 2015

Internship Blog: Cynthia Caul Post #2

Targeting a Diverse Demographic

            Part of City of Asylum Pittsburgh’s mission is to “offer a broad range of literary programs in a variety of community settings,” and the Summer on Sampsonia programs are a huge part of that. On one of my first days here, the rest of the staff and I met with the co-founder to discuss his vision for the future growth of the organization. Including an increasingly diverse population in the organization’s activities was one of the focal points of this discussion—how to ensure that the organization’s events and programs are relevant and inclusive of the entirety of the North Side neighborhood and Pittsburgh as a whole. Effectively targeting a diverse population is achieved by the “broad range” and “variety of community settings” aspects of their mission. 
Cave Canem Poetry Workshop and Reading (Photo credit: Jason Cohn)

            Since my last post, I’ve worked a number of events with City of Asylum (as a part of the Summer on Sampsonia program), and it’s truly been a variety. We’ve hosted documentary talk-backs about the Amistad Rebellion, new play productions, poetry workshops, book readings, jazz concerts, and family reading programs, to name a few. On the line up for the rest of the summer, we have hip hop concerts, open stages for local artists to showcase their work, censored film screenings, and a number of events catered to youth and families.

                                                                    “Raising Readers Together”

            Our audience base shifts from families with children to young hipsters to retirees and many places in between. Sometimes we draw a large audience from the neighborhood. Other times our net reaches wider (including one attendant who traveled down from Erie for a jazz concert!). For each target, the way we plan and market the event evolves accordingly. In many ways it’s a delicate dance. In all ways it’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of fun too, though; and when a successful and well-attended event comes to an end, it’s definitely gratifying. 

Amnesty International Reading and Letter-writing
              Is the process perfect? Have we successfully captured the diversity of Pittsburgh? Certainly not. However, we take stock of what works and doesn’t work, and we use that information to govern our next move. 

Thumbscrew Jazz Concert