When does race matter?



A few weeks ago, I attended a luncheon conference to discuss race as part of Duquesne’s Rice on the Road series. We talked about race—openly and honestly, and discussed our feelings and experience on the issue. We began by reading a piece Pia Glenn wrote in response to an article concerning a white woman’s reaction to the only black woman in her yoga class.

Pia made a point worth making again. While the author, named Jen, of the yoga piece lamented and imagined what the black woman behind her was thinking, she fails to simply make contact—to talk to the woman behind her, to offer her words of welcome and support. As Pia asks, “If you were having so many thoughts about Unnamed Black Woman in Your Yoga Class, why not make direct contact?” (Glenn 2014). I believe that is a question worthy of reflection.

During our discussion in the group, one of the black women from the Hill community shared a similar experience she had in Pittsburgh. She felt that people were looking at her, wondering about her as the only black woman in the group, and yet no one made an attempt to reach out to her and offer an introduction.

How sad, I thought. I have been in situations of the reverse, where I am the only white person in a meeting. I guess I am very lucky, and now thankful, that I have never been treated in such a way. I have always been welcomed, greeted, and made to feel comfortable.

In thinking about this idea of contact, of simply reaching out, I find myself asking, “Why does race matter?” In everyday dealings, such as saying hello, offering kindness to a new person at a community meeting or class, or even deciding who to sit next to in class, should race matter?

I believe the idea of kindness, of hospitality, and of compassion go beyond the walls of race. They are part of the human experience. We are first and foremost human. In normal everyday dealings, I believe this fact—our humanness—should be what guides our decisions in how to interact with one another. Beyond the walls of race, gender, culture, or appearances there lies a connection—a human connection.

 To read the original article by Pia, check out the link below:



Photo from: http://www.duq.edu/life-at-duquesne/sports-and-fitness/fitness

From Start To Finish

When the semester first began and our class first began to do our work, things were confusing, to say the least. We weren’t necessarily very organized and didn’t have a clear idea of what we needed to do with our time for the semester. For the first few weeks of the class we honestly didn’t get much accomplished, and although we visited the Hill district and got to learn about the area, we still had no idea how we could do anything in our short time to help the Daisy Wilson Artist Community in their mission. I worried that the time spent this semester would be a waste.

But now, with only a month left in the semester, I am proud to say that I believe we have made an impact and have done something that will help the Daisy Wilson Artist Community in their goal to renovate the August Wilson House. Over the past few months we have worked hard as a class to gather information to create a pitch that we can present to the board. It has been successful, insightful and even fun. We have interviewed Hill residents, worked well together as a class, learned more about August Wilson and the Hill, and done all that we set out to do .

I am proud of all of the work we have done this semester and excited for all that we have yet to do. We are making an impact, learning, and growing. And no matter what comes of all of this, it was not a waste. We have been a part of something important and amazing and we should all be proud of that.


Crowdfunding Survival Guide


Recently, Dr. Stoddard asked the Community and University class to compile our individual research that we have done for the DWAC. My research focuses on how the DWAC can carry out a successful crowdfunding campaign, a feat that less than half of the campaigns on major crowdfunding sites accomplish. Whether the statistic is high or low is irrelevant, because I realized an important underlying theme throughout my research: success is created by the campaign owners, not by the backers. This theme inspired me to construct a concise crowdfunding survival guide for those daring souls who are interested in either aiding the DWAC’s crowdfunding efforts or starting a project of their own.

Equation 1: Passion + Promotion = $$$

Surely, the backers are the ones who ultimately decide whether a campaign’s goal of $5,000 is met. Yet backers, much like money, do not simply pop out of thin air. They must be recruited through the promotion, hype, and overall excitement surrounding the project. A project with no advertising, no communication, and no passion is as boring as it is invisible to the public.

Equation 2: Passion ǂ Purpose, but there is a correlation

In order for the project to be funded successfully, there needs to be some aura about it that makes it exciting and interesting. Whereas excitement stems from the campaign owner, the project’s content does play a role in the interest it stimulates. Sometimes, there is no way around this—the $5,000 for that goat-breeding clinic may not be the subject that drives a person’s hand into his wallet. However, if a person can provide a passionate, thrilling, and intricate explanation that the fate of the world depends on those goats to be bred, then they have my attention. The take-home message: As a backer, I want to fund a project that gives me goose bumps. Energy works in mysterious ways, and if a project does not seem important to the majority of the public, then it may need to be spiced up or rethought. (Note: this is why the Pitch-then-Plan methodology is a drastically important step before any crowdfunding takes place).

Proper prior planning and punctuality

Crowdfunding is not meant to be a consistent source of income. Instead, the best crowdfunding efforts are those that are raising money for a specific purpose within a set time frame. Because there is an element of time involved, the campaigners must work out the intricacies of the project before the crowdfunding portal is developed.

The significance of location

There are general differences among the various crowdfunding sites. In the past, the main differences were based on the type of project and the target crowd of the campaign. Nowadays, however, each crowdfunding site contains a virtual hybrid of various types of projects and backers. If a campaign owner follows the aforementioned suggestions, then the site of the crowdfunding campaign should not differ too drastically in the campaign’s predicted success. Having said that, I compiled a table of three major crowdfunding websites and listed some statistics and general comments about them.



Not surprisingly, there is no witty title for this section. Initially in my research, I easily overlooked any of the legal aspects of crowdfunding. It turns out that taxes are an important crowdfunding topic. I am not an accountant, nor do I have any true legal experience, but I did find some tax information for 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations that are interested in crowdfunding. Funds raised on certain crowdfunding websites may be subject to taxes. On sites such as Kickstarter, an organization can potentially classify the donations as a nontaxable gift. Nonprofits must be aware that, although they are exempt from federal income taxes, they may be subject to taxes on unrelated business income (UBI). The IRS defines UBI as “income from a trade or business, regularly carried on, that is not substantially related to the charitable, educational, or other purpose that is the basis of the organization’s exemption.” As long as the crowdfunding endeavors of an organization do not fall under the IRS definition of UBI, then the campaign owner will not have to include the donations on a Form 990-T. However, there may be other details to the tax system that I am unaware of.



This post does not contain all of the pieces to the crowdfunding puzzle. However, reviewing these guidelines can potentially transform a mediocre outcome into something to take pride in. With more time and elbow grease devoted to the project, campaigners will be much more adamant about its success.



Further Reading

Bray, Ilona. “Using Crowdfunding to Raise Money for Your Nonprofit.” Retrieved March 31, 2014 (http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/using-crowdfunding-raise-money-your-nonprofit.html).

Graf, Jason. 2013. “CrowdFunding, The Ins and Outs.” Retrieved March 31, 2014(http://crowdfundbeat.com/the-ins-and-outs-of-crowdfunding/).

HandsOn Suburban Chicago. October 25, 2012. “Review of Online Fundraising Websites.” Retrieved March 30, 2014 (http://www.volunteerinfo.net/blog/?p=1046).

Internal Revenue Service. 2014. “Unrelated Business Income Tax.” Retrieved March 31, 2014 (http://www.irs.gov/Charities-&-Non-Profits/Unrelated-Business-Income-Tax).

Kassan, Jenny. February 5, 2013. “The Ins and Outs of Crowdfunding,” Retrieved March 31, 2104 (http://goodfoodfestivals.com/blog/chicago/the-ins-and-outs-of-crowdfunding).

Kickstarter. 2014. “Kickstarter and Taxes.” Retrieved March 31, 2014 (https://www.kickstarter.com/help/taxes).

Kickstarter Coaching. February 1, 2014. “Top Websites.” Retrieved March 29, 2014 (http://kickstartercoaching.com/Top_Websites.html).


Table created by Joseph Hornak, April 1, 2014.

Logos were acquired from the official websites of the respective organization.




One Man and a Quilt


Last week, our class took a trip to the hill to try and gain a better perspective on what exactly the community members want to see. We began at the YMCA but as there was seven of us, we decided to split the group to try to gain a better sample. So Dr. Stoddard, Joe and I ventured across the street to the retirement home, Legacy. I have always loved conversing with older adults. I find that their stories of the past and the perspective on life can be truly inspiring, so naturally, I was very excited to talk with this group of people. I found myself imagining a fun conversation with an elderly man, him telling me stories of the past, when the hill was young and the culture flourishing. I could see myself conversing with him as if he were my grandfather, who had passed away a few years before. When we walked in however, I found myself feeling very awkward as the lobby was quite empty and everybody seemed preoccupied.

But I decided that I was going to have to take the initiative and prod my way into somebody’s relaxation time. I walked up to a group of three elderly ladies and politely asked if they had a second to talk to me about something. One lady stood up and told me that she had to leave. The other two remained in their seats and just stared at me. So I took that as a yes and introduced myself, stated that I attended Duquesne University and explained my purpose. Before I had even finished explaining why I wanted to talk with them, they had all turned their eyes from me and had continued their own conversation. At first I was kinda shocked. I couldn’t believe that they were just going to ignore me like that. So I tried again, this time asking them a question so that they would at least have to talk to me. But after 30 more seconds, they decided to carry on with their conversation once again. At this point, I could tell that not only did they not care whatsoever about what I wanted to say, but they also didn’t have any sort of constructive feedback to offer, so I walked over to Joe, exasperated.

Joe had also found himself stuck in a similar situation. The people in Legacy just didn’t seem extremely interested in discussing their ideas for the August Wilson house. We decided to just tell Dr. Stoddard that we had tried, but unfortunately hadn’t obtained much more information. Dr. Stoddard however seemed grossly invested in conversation with two older gentlemen. You could tell that they were enjoying whatever it was they were discussing. When he got up to leave, he pointed out some of the art work scattered around the room explaining how the two gentlemen found it all extremely interesting and beautiful. I was shocked to realize that I hadn’t even noticed any of it at all! The work was extraordinary; all very cultural, vibrant, historical and abstract. The three of us found ourselves focused on a beautiful quilt overlaying the wall above the fireplace. I was mesmerized. The pattern was a multitude of colors, all sewn together in what looked like a giant puzzle. If my camera on my phone worked, I would have definitely snatched a picture of it. One of the men could evidently tell that I found the work extremely interesting and approached me.

“There is another quilt back behind this door if you want to see it.”

I agreed immediately and followed him around the back door where I found myself in a short hallway and to my right lay the most beautiful quilt I have ever seen. I wish I could put everything into words regarding how I felt about it. My first thought when I gazed at it was, “man this is history and culture literally sewn into fabric.” And I mean LITERALLY. On the right of the quilt, there was a strip of actual photographs that had been screen-printed onto fabric. The black and white photographs showed musicians, weddings, family portraits, all depictions of actual scenes from the Hill’s history. On the left side of the quilt, there was a tree, with ribbons and other eccentric items attached to the branches. The colors were so vibrant and invigorating I found myself truly amazed that a person could manufacture such a wonderful piece of artwork.

But I soon realized, however, that I needed to get back to Dr. Stoddard and Joe, since I hadn’t exactly told them that I was leaving the main room. So I thanked the man and told him how much I truly appreciated him showing me such a masterpiece and walked back over to Dr. Stoddard and Joe. From that point on, my mood had changed. At one point in the hour I had thought that my time at Legacy had been a waste. I hadn’t made much progress in terms of the project nor had I been able to talk to somebody and hear their stories. But thanks to one kind man and an extremely amazing quilt, I departed quite happy and with a new understanding of the fantastic appreciation of art in the hill.


All Nervousness Aside


“I get nervous for everything – literally everything”

~Taylor Swift

On March 14th, Rachel and I went to the monthly meeting of the Hill District Consensus Group. There were between thirty and forty people at the meeting. I had been communicating with the directors of the meeting, but I wasn’t sure what to expect when we arrived. We went hoping to conduct our survey. We brought both paper copies of the survey and notepads to keep a few notes on the responses we received. I was nervous about the meeting. These fears seem unfounded looking back. 

I was nervous that no one would answer our survey. I was nervous that no one would care about our project. I was nervous that I would have to speak in front of the crowd. 

Rachel and I did have to go up in front of the crowd and I had to explain why we were there. Talking to a crowd of people always sounds worse than it is. We handed out our paper surveys while the meeting continued and we didn’t receive many back. However, the people that turned them in seemed really happy that we were there. People were excited about our project and that there is a plan for August Wilson’s childhood home. 

It has been mentioned in other posts that there will soon be a webpage. I’m excited that it will soon be up and running because it will allow more people to learn about the Daisy Wilson Artist Community. It is my hope that those people will have the same reactions as the people in the meeting, excitement. 




Photo Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/August_Wilson_House

August Wilson in Schools


In high school, I didn’t learn about August Wilson. I knew he was a playwright, but I didn’t know he was from Pittsburgh. When this semester began, I didn’t know if I was the only one who didn’t know much about August Wilson and I began to wonder if other high schools taught Wilson’s works. However, this semester I have learned a lot about his life and his works. I was pleasantly surprised last week at the Duquesne University Academic Challenge (DUAC).

DUAC is hosted annually by the Integrated Honor Society and is a academic competition for high school students. This year there were multiple questions about August Wilson and his works. I was pleasantly surprised because most of the teams answered the questions correctly. I’m glad to see that high school students are learning about August Wilson. August Wilson’s story is very influential. He became his own educator and one of the greatest playwrights I’ve read. If these high school students are able to answer these questions then August Wilson must be getting at least some of the attention he deserves in schools.


Photo Credit: http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2005/10/04/arts/04wils.1.ready.html

Have a Very Hilly Spring

                Summer is coming.  The sun is back, and sidewalks are fun again.  In the winter, sidewalks mean snow, ice, cold, danger, heads down, eyes down, walking with purpose.  This week, we will see sixty degree weather again, and sidewalks will mean a good reason to be outside, jogging running, walking in the sun, smiling, meandering, exploring. 

Some of the best views in Pittsburgh can be found by following the sidewalks to the Hill District.  The Carnegie Library will be flooded with warm sunlight again soon, and people will happily carry their groceries home from Shop’n’Save instead of huddling with them on a dirty bus.  People will sit on the steps outside the Hill House, and I guarantee that more strangers will ask you how you are doing on a sidewalk in the Hill than on any other sidewalk in the city. 

Encourage your friends to come with you on a run or a walk to the Hill.  Now that the weather is on our side, we can fulfill our purpose as a community and university class by teaching our classmates about the beauty of the Hill.  There is a large knowledge problem concerning the Hill among Duquesne students, and we can break through this apathy, ignorance, and stigma by example.    

Get a friend and go for a walk this week.  Show off what we have learned about our neighboring community, and let the Hill show itself off to you. 


ErikaGrace Davies

Website in the Works

Website Screen Capture

The Computer Science students of the class have been hard at work putting together the website for the DWAC. The picture above is a screen capture of the home screen which was worked on this weekend. The images will be replaced as more relevant pictures are obtained or created, so don’t worry, it will be more relevant than a flower. This image is just a great place holder because it fills the space nicely. Every other page follows a similar layout, so as to keep the site consistent and professional.

Our next step is to compile and add all of the information that Mr. Ellis expressed a desire to have on the website. His email to us is on the class account for any of my class mates or Dr. Stoddard interested in its entirety, but for those who either don’t have access or would like a quick summary the ideas included are to add data from the Pitch-then-Plan approach we are taking, information from the Feasibility Study which includes demographic, biographical, and historical information about the house, crowdfunding information, and the information put together by the previous year’s class which includes a virtual tour of the house and historical information on the house and Hill District.

We welcome all criticism and suggestions. You can comment here or email canduduq@gmail.com or kotsond@duq.edu to let us know what you think or if you want anything more out of the website.

-Daniel Kotson

August Wilson’s Legacy

In the early stages of the seminar, when our class was trying to figure out what purpose or purposes the August Wilson house was going to serve, it was made very clear that the Daisy Wilson Artist Community had no intention of making the house into a museum focused on August Wilson. Instead, the Daisy Wilson Artist Community hoped to create a place that would offer the writing and artistic outlets that were not available to August Wilson.

As we have been working to identify the needs of the Hill district community, we have found that children and young adults desire a place to express themselves artistically and to further their academic goals. In addition to these needs, many community members have expressed the desire to preserve their own family history with the aid of a historian who would offer insight into what collected items were significant.

As I see it, incorporating these two functions into the August Wilson house is a realistic possibility. Additionally, I believe that August Wilson’s Legacy plays a very important role in both of these functions. By telling August Wilson’s story of growing up in the Hill district and going on to be a successful playwright, young people would be able to set similarly lofty aspirations for themselves. August Wilson’s plays accurately depict the Hill district within the time periods that they are set. Surely community members have collected artifacts from these time periods that have historical relevance. By displaying some artifacts that have relevance to August Wilson, but also all of the Hill district, the community would grow closer and become more deeply rooted in its history.


Change is Here … But We Still Need Your Help!

Offer us feedback in the comments section!

After some deliberation during class recently, we have decided it was time for some change! Everything must eventually change to remain prominent, and our blog stands no different than our approach to this class. Often, people are naturally resistant to change. I personally think change is great. It keeps us aware, often represents progress, and is hopefully synonymous with improvement.

With that said, I hope you can see the first change. We voted on a new theme for the blog and want your feedback! Do you like the colors on our site? Any suggestions for a Hill District banner? How about any additions to the blog that you, the reader, might enjoy? Feel free to post in the comments section below.

On a second note: We are still working to make a new and welcomed addition to the Hill District through the August Wilson House. We want change and are asking for YOUR help! We developed an ‘Information Gathering’ questionnaire (that I know Joe mentioned in his post) and are looking for feedback about the August Wilson House, the Hill District, and the needs of the community.

Thus far, we have collected information from members of the Hill District community at the YMCA, library, and Legacy Apartments. The questionnaire we developed as a class consists of seven questions and is meant to offer us insight into what the community wants. The first two questions can be answered with just yes or no:

1. Do you know where the August Wilson House is located?

2. Do you know what the Daisy Wilson Artist Community is?

These two questions truly introduce our questionnaire. They give us insight into what the interviewee already knows about our topic and help us measure their responses to the rest of the questions. The other questions are very open-ended and prompt for a much more personalized response:

3. Do you feel there is a place in the community for a center devoted to the arts where people could gather and socialize while doing artistic activities? Please explain why this is needed/unneeded in the Hill.

4. If a center offered artistic courses, would you be interested in taking them?   What kind of classes would you like to see (painting, music lessons, ect)?

5. The Afro-American Music Institute in Homewood offers 8-week music classes    (1/week) for $140 total. If courses were to be offered at the August Wilson House for those prices would be of interest to you?

6. Do you feel there is a need for rentable space in the Hill for events such as   weddings, meetings, receptions, etc.,? If so, what is the most needed space?

7. What benefits would a visitor gain from residing in the Hill as opposed to staying elsewhere in the Pittsburgh area?

The information we have gathered up to this post is pushing our project much farther forward than ever before. This week, we added the last two questions to the list as a result of discussion we had in class based on feedback from the community. Both of these questions relate to other ways in which the August Wilson House can generate operational funds. If you would like to make a comment or answer any of our questions, please post in the comments section below.

Deciding to collect information from the residents of the Hill District was a great choice and I think there is much more invaluable feedback we can collect over the coming weeks. As a class, we hope that our work on the August Wilson House will bring a desirable and satisfying change to the Hill District.

Also, Daniel and I will be going to the library in the Hill tomorrow from around 12:30-3:00. We hope to gather more information from people in the community and maybe even play some chess! Bring your best game and we hope to see you there!


Offer us feedback in the comments section!