By MARTY LEVINE
For a Bedford-Stuyvesant native who feels, “I always have to keep it really Brooklyn,” new Africana Studies faculty member Amanda Boston says Pittsburgh is already expanding her ideas for research and teaching.
“Brooklyn is really a center of Black diaspora,” Boston says, “and incredibly vibrant” with arts and culture. “I knew it wasn’t perfect,” she adds, having seen police brutality while growing up in the 1990s.
She also saw gentrification, with the advent of the Barclays Center for the Brooklyn Nets, which caused the displacement of long-term residents “who had stayed in Brooklyn when people said it was done, it wasn’t worth saving — who stayed there and built communities and institutions.”
She values her hometown for embodying “different extremes of the beauty and the struggle. When you live through something like that I think it lends itself to the work.”
Her work has included teaching African-American studies and political science at Duke, earning her Ph.D. at Brown University in African-American studies, and gaining a post-doctoral fellowship at New York University, where she taught an introductory African-American visual culture class.
Today, she is writing a book on race and gentrification in Brooklyn and teaching here about early 20th-century Black social movements.
“Pitt is an excellent university with a lot of resources to help me with my research and teaching,” she says. “The location is crucial … with its historic African-American communities.” She finds that changes today in East Liberty and Homewood “connect with my current research and make me think of expanding it.”
She also is happy to be in Pitt’s 50-year-old Africana Studies program because “African-American studies is still a growing field — there aren’t as many (big departments) as there should be.”
The city “reminds me a lot of Providence (R.I., where Brown is located), another post-industrial city that is rebuilding,” she said, although Pitt’s campus seems more open to the city, she feels, than either Brown or Duke.
She has already connected here with Jasiri X and his 1Hood Media to discuss his work at the intersection of education, social justice and art. “I’m really interested in what he is trying to do,” she says, “making Pittsburgh really the best city to live for everyone, not just a tag” of the Most Livable City.
She is aware that the city has historically been losing population and is more segregated than some others. “Frankly, that’s a trend across cities,” she says. “As an academic, my job is to ask why and where are they going? Part of it is gentrification, and part is the reason anyone leaves – better opportunities elsewhere.”
Here just two months, she already has a few friendly suggestions for Pittsburgh:
“You all got to have stuff open on Sundays — I don’t understand that,” she says. “You all got to fix that.
“And maybe a subway, just for me?”
Somehow, the “T” — which can look like a rural train route even to long-time residents — isn’t quite Brooklyn enough.
Marty Levine is a staff writer for the University Times. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-758-4859.
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