Breaking the Ice

1.23.07 – 1.25.17

To understand more about the community of Hazelwood, we began with some preliminary research. We began by looking at various online resources and discovered information about Hazelwood’s demographic and historical background. Here are some brief summary points that stood out to us:

  • 1750-1820 Scottish immigrants came as bankers and businessmen
  • 1820-1960 primarily Irish, Italian, Hungarian, Polish, and Slovakian immigrants that came to work in the steel and coke mills
  • There were larger estates for the bankers and businessmen, which were later broken into smaller areas for the steel workers
  • 40% of the people working, worked at Jones and Laughlin Steel and B&O Railroad Co.
  • 1960 marked the beginning of the end of industrial activity
    • Because the large businesses left only 52% of the buildings along second ave were occupied
  • As a result of displacement due to the Pittsburgh Civic Arena Urban Renewal Project in the Hill District, Hazelwood became largely an African American community
  • The avg. housing pricing $39,492 in 2000 while Pittsburgh mean price was $59,700

Following our online research, we went to Hazelwood to walk around with the guidance of Pastor Tim and understand a bit more about the surrounding infrastructure and culture as well as what’s in store for their future. Here are some key shots from that day:

Hazelwood 3.jpg

Click here the rest of the photos from that day.

During our first discussion with the community at the Center of Life, we noted some key quotes that described how residents felt about Hazelwood:

“Hazelwood is home”
“Welcome to Hazelwood”
“Hazelwood feels safe because everyone knows me”
Hazelwood is filled with “peculiar people”

  • Everyone is connected in someway through blood and marriage
  • Remembered how it was to have a full home
  • Hazelwood used to have more business, shops etc.
  • Now people are being pulled apart because of separate schools, shops etc. which leads to separation of unity that once existed
  • “it’s like football” there are different territories and teams which can lead to tensions
  • Community members feel that there is a lack of connectedness and discipline within the younger generation and current parents

1.30.17 – 2.01.17

Following the tour and independent research, in order to understand the Hazelwood community in greater depth, we created an activity to help facilitate conversation


We chose to work with the game Jenga because we believed it would a fun and quick way to get people to share their stories and thoughts. Because the question were pre-written, it left little decision making for the participants. The randomized nature of the block-choosing accounted for a wide variety of responses and breadth in conversation.


We tested out the game and questions sets to get a better feel of how people would react and respond to it. This helped prepare us for our visit to the Center of Life.

During our visit, we found that the community members we engaged with responded well to the game. They enjoyed the suspense and skill required in playing a normal game of Jenga while learning about one another. Here are some notes and observations we gathered from our activity:

  • Mikie – Misses her Uncle Davie died last year or the year before, likes to watch This is Us (mother with triplets taking care of black baby, very “real” show),  enjoys Jazz and a glass of wine.      -More to find out: What does she do? What motivates her? 
  • Anthony – Plays football, very goal oriented, wants to go to university (Penn State?), part of the music programs at Center of Life, opinionated about social media (“anti-social media”), his meaning of life is furthering himself for his goals.
    • We liked his youthful perspective and would like to find out more about the thoughts from his generation
  • Joy – Works for Center of Life’s “Fusion” tutoring program, loves to learn, from the Poconos

    • Potential contact/facilitator to other community members through “Fusion”
  • Jayden – Plays trombone, from Wexford, likes Jazz, one of his friends was his most inspirational person
    • Might be difficult to learn more though him because of his age (10)

What’s next?

We are hoping to dive deeper into the stories and perspectives of the community members. This will involve more targeted questions and interaction. We plan on getting in touch with Anthony to see if he is interested in having more conversation with us. We believe that Anthony provides a unique and current perspective of Hazelwood with fresh ambitions and outlooks regarding the potential of the community. Further insights can be drawn by talking with his friends and family.

We think that Joy could be an important contact to understand the community because of her widespread involvement with the program “Fusion.” We also hope to meet with Mikie again to learn about her experiences growing up.

A question in the New Testament is, “What good can come out of Nazareth?” If somebody said, “What good can come out of Hazelwood?” what would you say? If you think something like recycling can come out of Hazelwood, or the next leader of Alcoa, or the next President of the United States, or the next ball player…if you think like that, if you can imagine that, then that’s what good should be coming out of Hazelwood. You gotta recognize that something good’s got to come out of not just the place I live, but who I am.”
– Dr. Rodney Hopson (Professor, Social Justice Advocate)




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