Black History Month is an important time for recognition of men and women who have made a change in our country but have been pushed from general history and marginalized because of the color of their skin. We believe opportunity should be provided for everyone, including the opportunity to be recognized in history. Proper representation of people based on culture, race, ethnicity, or place is important because it provides hope for the people who identify as a member of that community. Proper representation also breaks down stereotypes and clears up misconceptions. This is particularly important because one of Fahe’s major goals is to provide accurate representation of the stories of the people of Appalachia, free from stereotype.
For Black History Month, Fahe recognizes the contributions of a leader whose efforts in community development and affordable housing helped pave the way for Fahe and other community developers.
In the 1960, Dorothy Mae Richardson was a Pittsburgh community member turned activist when her neighborhood was deemed risky and unfit for business development and slated for demolition. Richardson was tired of seeing neighborhood decay in the city and she believed the solution wasn’t to vacate and demolish neighborhoods, but to rather bolster the people where they lived and fix the houses and community buildings.
Richardson created a community group known as Citizens Against Slum Housing, which mobilized hundreds of community members to join together to improve their homes. Their efforts included holding sit-ins and protests, raising money to help poor renters become homeowners, and attempting to work with local landlords to improve their property. Despite their efforts, Dorothy realized they wouldn’t make enough impact without substantial financial investment. She began talks with local banks and government officials to convince them to invest in her neighborhood. Ultimately, their efforts paid off and they were able to recruit several financial institutions to make loans, establish a revolving loan fund, and later to raise funds to create the Neighborhood Housing services of Pittsburgh which later inspired the creation of NeighborWorks America, a leading national community development network. Richardson’s courage and determination has led to successful community development and affordable housing programs on a national level. As of this year, NeighborWorks has helped creat opportunity for over 4 million families through affordable housing and other services.
The neighborhood Dorothy Richardson preserved has flourished and is now home to the Andy Warhol Museum, Heinz Field, and PNC Park.
Just like Persistent Poverty Awareness Month, we hope for and are working towards more awareness and acceptance in our society so that Black History doesn’t have to be packaged into a special month to receive the recognition and remembrance it deserves. People like Dorothy Mae Richardson, whose legacy impacts thousand across the country, should be well known and represented year round.