African American Neighborhoods of Choice

African-American Neighborhoods of Choice (AANC) is a Pittsburgh-based research group studying trends among the city’s African-American residents and historically African-American neighborhoods. Much of the discourse and activities proposed by government, elected officials, and others continues to focus on African-American residents living in, or near, poverty. The members of this group wanted to explore the challenges this presented to middle-class African-American professionals who were living in Pittsburgh or moving to the region for educational and professional opportunities. In early 2014 AANC, including UrbanKind director Jamil Bey, invited the University of Pittsburgh's University Center for Social and Urban Research (UCSUR) into the conversation to help with the investigation.

Since then, AANC and UCSUR have worked to investigate why African-American millennials were leaving Pittsburgh, what various “push and pull factors” of those who stay and those who leave were, and what the desirable characteristics of neighborhoods were that would make African-Americans who have a choice in where they live decide to live there. This work analyzes and gives voice to a silent, underrepresented segment of Pittsburgh's population. The collaborators hope that their work will help stimulate initiatives to support this and other underrepresented groups. Report now available click here to view.

p4 Conference
In October 2016, UrbanKind took center stage at the p4 Conference in Pittsburgh. Hosted by the City of Pittsburgh and Heinz Endowments, this conference brought together 600 local leaders from the public, private, and non-profit sectors to discuss and build a new model for urban development based on economic and social justice and equity. For this conference, UrbanKind compiled background guides for four conference breakout sessions: “Pittsburgh 2025 – A New Vision of Regional Economic Growth,” “Creating Housing Opportunity and Building Mixed-Income Neighborhoods,” “Most Livable City? Wrestling with the Challenges of Environmental and Public Health,” and “Pittsburgh’s Creatives: Their Role in p4.” These guides are available on our Publications page.

Recent Work and Reports


Segregation Summer Institute

In July 2017, the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work Center on Race and Social Problems held a two-day summit titled, "National and Local Perspectives of Residential Housing and Segregation Issues." Organized by Professors Mary Ohmer and Jamie Booth of the School of Social Work, this event brought together national and local experts, representatives of foundations and non-profits, community organizations, and others to discuss issues in which segregation plays a large role in shaping inequitable outcomes. The focus areas included: housing, health, education, and law. As part of the institute, Dr. Beery and Professor Ohmer introduced the housing panel. Dr. Beery provided a brief history about the ways in which wealth, race, ethnicity, industry, pollution, and topography all fundamentally created and shaped Allegheny County's segregated patterns of housing decades ago  - and how some of those same factors still reinforce the same patterns of segregation today. More information is available here.

Current Work

My Brother’s Keeper 

In 2016, the Sprout Fund awarded UrbanKind a grant to engage young African American and Latino men to develop strategies to improve life outcomes. The process captured youth input that will help the greater Pittsburgh region close the opportunity gap for young men, and support the acquisition of technological, social, and academic skills to enhance their quality of life and ability to secure future employment.

In a final report, UrbanKind Institute identifies several major and recurring themes that arose from the discussions, particularly as they relate to programming and activities that achieve My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) initiative goals. Be sure to check back here for next steps in the My Brothers Keepers project.

Intergenerational Poverty

Lack of opportunity, poor nutrition, inadequate education, and healthcare - combined with few assets - contribute to and result from chronic poverty. Too many of Pittsburgh’s African-American population live under conditions of chronic poverty that has often been transmitted from one generation to another. People who remain poor over a long period are likely to raise children who will become poor adults. Poverty persists and becomes inter-generational as the cycle continues. UrbanKind's Dr. Jamil Bey  and independent consultant Dr. Stephanie Boddie are currently making the final edits on their paper. Their work provides recommendations and highlights potential polices, programs, and practices that have the potential to break cycles of inter-generational poverty.

The paper was conceived of and then commissioned following conversations within the African American Neighborhoods of Choice group and eventually with Rob Stefany of the Heinz Endowments and Shad Henderson and Presley Gillespie of Neighborhood Allies. Mr. Stefany was intrigued by recent academic work on the impact of neighborhood improvements and zip codes being a predictor of life outcomes. Mr. Henderson and Mr. Presley were interested in recommendations for catalytic investments in neighborhoods that could begin to break cycles of intergenerational poverty.

Pittsburgh Housing Summit

The Global Studies Center at the University of Pittsburgh convened a two-day summit in November 2016 on housing and the affordability crisis. This summit, entitled "Pittsburgh Housing Summit: Human Rights, Affordable Housing, & Urban Development Strategies," brought international and local academics, non-profit organizations, community members and others together to discuss the local affordable housing crisis and its connections to other housing crises across the world. At this event, Dr. Bey and Dr. Beery participated in a panel discussion about other elements besides housing that are necessary for strong, healthy, and healthful communities. At a follow-up neighborhood bus tour in February 2017, Dr. Beery talked about landscapes of housing and segregation to 25 participants as the bus traveled between Oakland, Uptown, North Side, and Hill District. Information about the summit is available here.

Urban Redevelopment Authority Mayor's Action Team
​UrbanKind is partnering with Fourth Economy Consulting (lead) to work with the URA’s Mayor’s Action Team to facilitate the retention and attraction of companies and the creation of new jobs in the City of Pittsburgh. The details of this project are currently being negotiated. Stay tuned for more information! 

On the second day of the conference, UrbanKind Institute's Executive Director, Dr. Jamil Bey, presented findings from UrbanKind’s Friday Forum discussions held earlier in the year and then led all participants in a small-group discussion about equity and inclusion. He challenged participants to take equity personally, to speak out against injustice and against business-as-usual policies that continue to produce inequality, and to commit to a transformational agenda. See Dr. Bey in action in the video to the right. 

UrbanKind Institute specializes in applied research and policy analysis that uses a critical, interdisciplinary lens. Broadly, we are interested in questions related to equity and justice. Within this framework, we focus on housing, youth, environment, education, and community and neighborhood development. Rather than see these areas (and others) as isolated, we recognize that all issues are fundamentally interconnected and believe that they must be analyzed as such. To this end, we draw from many disciplines to better understand the issues we study. Our research informs our community and youth engagement projects, which in turn inform our research. In all of our work, we approach questions with a critical eye that gives credit where credit is due and that calls out policies and projects that continue to produce inequity and injustice. 

Friday Forums 

In spring and summer 2016, UrbanKind led an eight-month engagement project in which we spoke with 125 participants, including elected officials, public, private and non-profit practitioners, representatives of community organizations, and other local leaders about justice, equity, and inclusion in the Pittsburgh region. We wanted to know where our region stood in achieving justice, equity, and inclusion, and what challenges and impediments prevented more action and change. After analyzing these conversations, we detailed our findings from these discussions and identified persistent challenges facing the region. Our report is available on our Publications page.