Honors College celebrates August Wilson’s birth

Claudia Hardy | Staff Writer

04/26/2018

This year would mark two-time Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson’s 73rd birthday, and Pittsburgh’s legendary Hill District cannot wait to celebrate.

Wilson was a famed African-American playwright who was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. One of his most famous works, Fences, earned him his first Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award in 1987. Wilson dedicated the majority of his plays’ settings to the Hill District of Pittsburgh where he grew up.

Wilson’s work highlighted the joys and struggles of an African-American life in the U.S. during the 20th century. His rise from humble beginnings to stardom left a memorable mark on the world, especially for the city of Pittsburgh.

The annual August Wilson Block Party celebration will take place on Saturday, April 28 to honor and reflect on Wilson’s accomplishments and legacy. The party will go from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and will take place on Bedford Ave. in the Hill District. It will start at the August Wilson House (AWH), Wilson’s childhood home on 1727 Bedford Ave. and extend east for several blocks. Should it be rained out, the celebration will be moved to Sunday, April 29. Admission will be free to the public, and attendees are encouraged to bring their families.

Sponsors who have helped to make this celebration possible include A. Martini & Co, McAuley Ministries, University of Pittsburgh University Library System, Mistick Construction, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Trek Development Group, State Representative Jake Wheatley, Councilman Daniel Lavelle, Ujamaa Collective, Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and our very own Duquesne University.

Activities include games, community groups with information tables, a variety of performances (including a dramatic monologue competition), children’s activities and a variety of food trucks and vendors. DJ Selecta will be playing music in between shows.

The celebration is helping fund the restoration of Wilson’s childhood home to honor his legacy and serve as a community arts center that will sponsor roundtables, classes, exhibits and plays.

“The most important thing is to celebrate the community of the Hill District, where August Wilson set most of his plays and where he learned the most as a child,” Kathleen Roberts, head of the university’s Honors College said. “It’s a celebration of his family, his community and his art.”

The university has partnered with the August Wilson House since 2011, and students from the Honors College help to support its programs to merit his legacy. This year Erik Garrett, a professor at the university teaches two classes that work closely with the AWH.

These students work to promote the literary and social legacy of August Wilson throughout the past few years. Students take on various responsibilities each year to help refurbish and replenish the house and create programming around it, which includes the annual block party that falls near or on April 27, Wilson’s birthday.

“Students work with the city to figure out the permit and logistics for the block party,” Garrett said. “They have multiple chances to interact with the wonderful people of the Hill District, who are our neighbors at Duquesne.”

The annual block party celebration serves to bring the community together to not only feel united, but to remember a Pittsburgh legend.

There will be a free AWH shuttle bus that will be open to all students, staff and faculty. It will stop by campus every half hour starting after 11:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. The shuttle will have a large sign indicating that it is for the August Wilson Block party.

“It’s a day for everyone … to learn and share,” Roberts said. “The Hill District is an incredibly special place and we are proud to have this partnership with August Wilson House. Please come and see for yourself.”

Courtesy of pghmurals.com
This mural in the Hill District has 10 scenes along the bottom, each to represents one of Wilson’s plays. The mural was painted in 2017 and designed by Tarish Pipkins.

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