Pittsburgh Changemakers in the Spotlight

Local Changemakers on Stage at Majora Carter Lecture
Local changemakers on stage, April 11th, Pittsburgh

Last night in Pittsburgh, the Green Building Alliance and Phipps Conservatory held their latest INSPIRE Speaker Series event, attracting the largest and most diverse audience they’ve had so far. evolveEA is proud to have co-sponsored the evening, which we selected because headline speaker Majora Carter‘s approach to community empowerment through neighborhood planning and design parallels that of our own Urban Strategies work. Carter has been an inspiration to us and many others in the sustainability and urban revitalization fields ever since her Sustainable South Bronx initiatives gained national acclaim.

Staying true to Carter’s message of “Hometown Security” through inclusive community building and economic empowerment in post-industrial urban neighborhoods, the evening kicked off with several Pittsburgh community leaders and entrepreneurs who are making a difference by improving our city. Speakers from Homewood Children’s VillageUjamaa CollectiveGTECH Strategies, the Frick Environmental Center, and Mount Washington Community Development Corporation each talked about their efforts to improve Pittsburgh’s communities through sustainability. By the time Majora Carter took to the stage, her message had already been made clear by the impressive work presented by these changemakers: communities need to shape our own sustainable futures.

The Ujamaa Collective are women of African descent fostering economic independence, cultural pride and awareness, and agricultural knowledge in Pittsburgh’s Historic Hill District. Co-founder Celeta Hickman inspired the audience by highlighting some of Ujamaa’s initiatives which have revived green spaces in the Hill District and helped local women artisans sell their wares in Ujamaa’s boutique. The Homewood Children’s Village is improving the lives of Homewood’s children by “reweaving the fabric of the community in which they live.” And Mount Washington’s CDC has a program that enables citizens with a troubled past to join the workforce and connect with nature by building trails through Mount Washington’s neighborhoods and surrounding green areas.

All of the speakers are making a difference in their own way, while working toward the shared goals of sustainable community development and resilient urban neighborhoods. Majora Carter’s story is empowering because it is relatable—we all want to be able to change the negative aspects of our neighborhoods, but can often feel too small to achieve this on our own. And as several speakers pointed out, “it takes a village” — meaning sustainable urban planning is not something that can be imposed on a neighborhood by architects and designers; communities need to drive their own processes toward a sustainable future.

With changemakers like these, citizens have plenty of inspiration to get involved and we are seeing this in the community planning meetings and design charrettes we’ve been leading in several Pittsburgh neighborhoods!


Mount Washington CDC trail builder

Presentation on Homewood Children’s Village

Majora Carter with picture of a South Bronx mural with the message “You don’t have to move out of your neighborhood to live in a better one”

The next INSPIRE event takes place on May 9th at Phipps Conservatory, bringing author and professor David Orr to talk about his groundbreaking sustainability work at Oberlin College. Leaders from two Pittsburgh neighborhoods, Larimer and Millvale, where evolveEA has helped facilitate collaborative Ecodistrict planning will join Christine Mondor in explaining their processes. Join us!

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