Urban Heroes Vol. 2 by Center for Urban Biblical Ministries by Center for Urban Biblical Ministries - Read Online

Book Preview

Urban Heroes Vol. 2 - Center for Urban Biblical Ministries

You've reached the end of this preview. Sign up to read more!
Page 1 of 1




Many of the Urban Heroes are reluctant to talk about themselves. They are quiet, self-effacing and not comfortable drawing attention to themselves or their work. Nancy Bolden is just such an Urban Hero. In her own quiet way, Nancy went about her life’s’ work of helping people, white and black, in her career as a social worker. Since her retirement, she has continued to serve in many different capacities, all of which have served to qualify her for this year’s Urban Heroes class. Read this interview and see if you agree. (We had more than our fair share of problems with this recording, so please excuse the occasional breaks in continuity.)

JS: Long-time resident of Squirrel Hill?

NB: We bought our home in 1967.

JS: Oh yeah, that’s long. That’s 46 years. That qualifies. And who is we?

NB: My husband and I.

JS: Tell us about your family.

NB: Two parents and a brother.

JS: Pittsburghers?

NB: No. I’m from Kentucky.

JS: Tell us about growing up in Kentucky.

NB: A little town in Kentucky. When I was there, there were about 1,500 people who lived in that little town.

JS: Tell us about mom and dad.

NB: My mother had been a school teacher before her marriage. And after that she was a stay at home housewife. When [my father] came back from college, [he] changed his plans and bought a partnership in his dad’s business, which was a general store.

He was an extremely involved person in the community. And whatever values I have, I got from my parents. My dad was very interested in education. In my little town there were four one-roomed schoolhouses for African-Americans. And my dad, thought that wasn’t the best way to get an education. So he provided about an acre of land [and] was instrumental in getting a Rosenwald Foundation Fund, to fund something better.

I grew up in the African American Methodist Episcopal Church. [My father] was very active there, locally as well as nationally. He was politically involved. He was a Republican. He was, for many years, on the State Central Republican Committee.

[parts of the interview were inaudible – editor’s note]

My father worked for a candidate who promised, if [he was] elected, he would put him on the State Board of Education. And there had never been an African-American on the State Board of Education. So, his candidate won, and he appointed him to the State Board of Education.

My dad used that position to see that the salaries of African-American teachers were equal to that of white teachers in the state, and to improve the quality of education for all corners. That gives you some sense of the value system in my family.

So my brother and I grew up with this. And we understood that you have a responsibility.

JS: So how did all of translate for you individually? What path do you take?

NB: Dad would come home and tell these stories, and we’d say, Boy, isn’t that nice. And you don’t realize the impact of it, or the importance of it, maybe until you’re grown.

JS: So, did you go to schools that your dad helped impact?

NB: I went to that school through the 11th grade. Then I left the state and went to college [at] Wilberforce, in Ohio. Then, I graduated from Central State University. Left, and then went to Ohio State for graduate school, for Social Administration.

JS: So what was the church involvement along with all this political and community involvement?

NB: My dad was instrumental in forming a layman’s league. Nationally, he was on the Finance Committee. He was on the Education Committee. Any one of a number of the National bodies.

JS: You go off to school. What kind of decisions are you making at this point about how to make a difference while you’re here?

NB: I changed my major about four times in college. Somewhere I took a course in social work, and became very interested in that. And so when I went back to school in the fall after I graduated from college. I went to the School of Social Work at Ohio State.

JS: And that’s where you got your masters. MSW.

NB: Yes. Masters of Arts in Social Administration.

JS: So then what?

NB: My first job was in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I went there as the assistant teenage program director. When you’re in a school of social work, you do field work. My fieldwork placement had been at the YWCA in Columbus. And there I got introduced to racism. That sounds strange, because I grew up in Kentucky and I went to segregated schools.

But that fieldwork placement, I began to learn about racism, and, doing something about it. The real reason I took the job in Grand Rapids, was because the YWCA had recently adopted an interracial charter.

JS: Mom and dad were supportive?

NB: My dad had a different notion of what I ought to be doing for a living. My dad’s notion was that I would come back and be a schoolteacher. What I did was humor him by getting a teaching certificate. I knew I was never going to end up in the classroom.

JS: So Grand Rapids was a good experience?

NB: It was a very good experience. It was a growth experience. I was there for two years. After two years, I took a job in Pittsburgh and worked for the YWCA.

[Then] I took a job in Detroit. I went there and I learned a lot about folks who live in housing projects. And, I stayed there until I married and moved back to Pittsburgh.

JS: Your husband was a Pittsburgher?

NB: Yes. He lived in Pittsburgh. He came here to go to college and never quite left. Except for a few stints during WWII.

JS: He worked for The Courier?

NB: Yes. My husband never intended to be a journalist. He was a science major at Pitt. He had intended to go to medical school. They weren’t taking folks of color at that point.

WWII came along, and there was a campaign to get African-American war correspondents because the white war correspondents were saying that black troops were cowards and wouldn’t fight, and that sort of thing. He ended up being one of the first two African-American war correspondents in WWII. When he came back, he did not go back to school. He stayed with The Courier, until about ’63.

JS: So now what were you doing in Pittsburgh? You’re married and you come and you’ve got all this life experience?

NB: When I first came back I worked for a year with the juvenile court. But I thought I should have regular working hours for a change. So I went to work for the school system as a school social worker.

JS: How about church involvement? Stayed true to that as your parents raised you?

NB: I am an Episcopalian, which is not the church I grew up in. I started going to the Episcopal Church when I was in graduate school. When I went to Detroit, I started going to the Episcopal Church exclusively, and was confirmed there.

JS: How long were you with the school system?

NB: A little over 30 years.

JS: To do what after retirement? Have any involvements?

NB: I’m very active with my church. My husband was active with the John Heinz History Center. He died, and they thought I should inherit his position. So it’s become rather interesting recently. But I’ve been involved with them all along. What else do I do? For a number of years, in my sorority, we did some work with kids who were teenagers…

[parts of the interview were inaudible – editor’s note].

Then we also did a thing in the summer with them.

I don’t feel like I’ve done anything except be myself. And I don’t see that as being anything extraordinary.

JS: I teach on purpose. When you see your purpose, you think the whole world sees it and you think this is nothing very special. But obviously, they don’t. And that was makes you unique.



An Urban Hero knows no age limits, whether young or old. Charles Chapman began his work with the homeless when he was a freshman at the University of Pittsburgh. In his sophomore year, he started his nonprofit ministry that is still thriving and growing today. While he was at it, he got married and now has two small children. Charles is a no-nonsense person, but is anything but intense when you meet or talk with him. Here is an excerpt from his interview as he talks about his vision for working with the homeless and poor.

JS: Today I’m honored to have Charles Chapman, who was nominated by Jerry Cronenweth. So Charles, welcome to the Urban Heroes program.

CC: Thank you. Thank you so much.

JS: Well, as we have done with all of our Urban Heroes, let’s start out by you talking to our listeners and readers. So talk to them about who Charles Chapman is.

CC: Well, I was born in Baltimore, Maryland, to wonderful parents, John and Joyce Chapman. I’m the oldest of five children; I have four younger siblings. I