The blog is named “Hillombo” as a tribute and connection to ”Quilombos”, the name of free communities built in the hills of Brazil by Africans, Indigenous Peoples and Portuguese willing to resist slavery and racial oppression. My intention is that the blog will promote thinking, information and discussion on how we make the Hill District a more beautiful, beneficial and powerful neighborhood, a predominantly African American neighborhood that sits in the midst of a larger Pittsburgh known by many for its racial disparities in housing, education, health…(in other words, its racism). So, Hillombo will also be a place to think out loud about how to connect the big issues of community self-determination, culture and racism at the neighborhood level. For me, that was and is the beauty of… the Quilombo. Muito Axe to Mestre Nego Gato (much energy to Master Nego Gato) for teaching his Capoeira students (of which I was one) about the Quilombos.
The blog’s author, Justin Laing, is the eldest child of Clarence and Susan Laing, the husband of Dr. Bonnie Young Laing, the father of three children and lives in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. Justin was initiated into Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. while a student at the University of Pittsburgh where he majored in Black Studies and Political Science. Justin later went on to Carnegie Mellon University where he spent most of his time in the Masters of Arts Management Program before finishing with a degree in Public Management. Before going to The Heinz Endowments where he works today, Justin spent more than a decade as a student of Mestre Nego Gato and taught for and managed his Afro-Brazilian music, dance and Capoeira organization, Nego Gato, Inc.
The views expressed here are his alone and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone with who Justin is affiliated (family, fraternity, employer, etc.).