2/1: A fruitful night at Hazelwood

We spoke to four individuals: Sidney, a sophomore at CAPA, Moanne, also a sophomore at CAPA, Robin (senior at Allderdice), and Jackie (social worker). The first three are participants in the KRUNK program and Jackie is a member of the Keystone Church.


Sidney worked with all the colors, but pointed out that “Red – Relationship” was the most important to her. School is the most important relationship to her right now. She loves going to school, as it is very diverse and inclusive. All the teachers and students are encouraging and help each other learn and grow. She aspires to be a vet or a musician, but “in two years, anything can happen, so [she’s] not sure.” She wants to be a vet because she does not like to see animals in pain, and she wants to do music since she has always been musically talented. She used to play piano for recitals, and now she plays the backing track for rappers at KRUNK.

Sidney also talked about how her grandma was the person that brought the whole family together, and her grandmother would cook for family gatherings. After she passed away, Sidney hasn’t see her cousins and extended family as much. Her family lives in Hazelwood, about 20 minutes away from her school in Downtown.

Her mom talked about how vibrant and friendly  Hazelwood used to be, and how everyone knew almost everyone. They used to play on the streets after school until the sun came down. Sidney wishes that more of that spirit was still in Hazelwood, even though she does love her community at school.

img_1963Sidney (left) and Moanne (right) making their bracelets while sharing their stories

Moanne and Robin are sisters from a family of nine. They come from a musical family (their parents are both singers), and follow closely in their parents’ footsteps. Moanne plays the saxophone, like her father, the flute and the piano. Even though she’s only a sophomore at CAPA, she already has her sights set on a few different music schools. If she studied at Oberlin, she would be able to focus more on a more classical, symphonic practice, while Berklee’s program emphasizes incorporating digital technologies and modern techniques. Duquesne is also one of her dream schools; Moanne really loves how passionate Pittsburgh’s jazz scene is. She says there no other place that does jazz quite like Pittsburgh and often gigs at James Street Cafe. She’s been able to have a few solos there and describes jazz improvisation as “making sentences with music.” She also plays in the the Center of Life Jazz Band at Saint Stephen’s every week. With KRUNK, she’s hoping to incorporate jazz into hip hop. She also wants to see jazz worked into game and anime soundtracks. Moanne values mixing together different genres and disciplines; outside of music, she’s interested in science, especially genetics, French, and African American history and hopes to mix all of them into her musical practice as well. She currently has one original composition entitled “Happy Days” for two pianos and two flutes, which she recorded herself.

Sidney didn’t talk too much about the threads specifically but did mention how much she values community. She misses when Hazelwood was a much tighter community and everyone knew each other. Sidney loves the jazz community of Pittsburgh and participates in a lot of different musical groups. She also mentioned the cosplay community in Pittsburgh; it brings together people who normally wouldn’t talk to each other.


Robin picked red, green, yellow because they reminded her of reggae colours. She said she wanted to make it for her mom.

Robin sings at KRUNK and writes her own songs. She says that she writes all the emotions that she has bottled up inside her into lyrics to release stress and express herself. She also loves expressing herself through hoop earrings– it’s her signature look. Moanne said, “You should see the other ones she has at home!”.

Robin doesn’t feel quite ready for college yet and wants to take a gap year, but she is interested in pursuing a career in graphic design. Throughout the conversation, Robin showed us photos of her paintings. She’s always enjoyed drawing ever since she was younger. She’s painted murals for both her school and her church and loves experimenting with colors and painting portraits and people in different poses.

Moanne and Robin’s family had spent majority of their time in the Pittsburgh area but lived in Arizona for 4 years before moving back to Pittsburgh. Moanne is especially relieved and happy to be back. She thinks that in Arizona the community is nowhere as warm and intimate as Hazelwood, where families all know each other and children play together.

img_1970Jackie and us, showing off our bracelets 🙂

Jackie chose a few different colors: blue (“change is the only constant in life”), red (family relationships), yellow (hopes for herself and her family), and green (cherishing current memories of family and friends and looking forward to memories to be made in the future).

Jackie grew up in inner city Chicago, and her family was on assistance, public housing, and other social programs. She talked about the importance of representation and role models. As a young girl, watching the Bill Cosby Show gave her a glimpse into a different world and something to aspire to. The social workers she met throughout her life inspired her to pursue a career in helping others. She met a lot of supportive teachers who encouraged her to achieve great things and could be whoever she wanted to be. She was especially inspired by her middle school teacher, Miss Houston, who grew up in the same community under similar circumstances. She left to pursue a degree and returned to Chicago to teach where she grew up, which was especially inspiring to Jackie: “if she could do it, I can do it too.”

Her brother has been bouncing in and out of jail and trying to manage substance abuse while seeking employment. It can be difficult for her at times; at her job, she’s helping others but can’t seem to help her own brother. However, she recognizes that change has to come from within. It can be difficult to commit, as change is a long haul commitment and a small process. It can be hard to stick to a long term plan because there often isn’t much visible improvement at times.  She emphasizes the importance of acknowledging and celebrating small steps and the importance of providing support. One thing that she mentioned about change is that people all have to take ownership over the change they can make for their own lives. By affirming each small step that one takes, we can also affirm the significance of each individual’s life.

Jackie notes that teenagers, too, suffer from a similar shortsightedness; it can be hard for them to fully understand the impact and consequences of their actions. Quick money today can mean inability to find employment later. It’s important to educate individuals from a young age about such responsibilities. On top of that, education of all sorts is important. She mentioned a program that some schools have, where parents can come in at the end of the school day and get emotional support and practical advice. It’s important for kids to have a solid education, but just as important for parents too, so they can be better and smarter decision makers.

There are many opportunities and programs out there to help individuals, but families are not always aware of how to or lack the resources to access these services. Many programs will have an online form for convenience, but it isn’t particularly convenient if one comes from a household without a desktop computer. Or other programs suffer from an outreach program, as flyers can only do so much.


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