Tucson woman fights to keep Sugar Hill neighborhood from being forgotten

‘We were a close-knit neighborhood. We were like family on the northside’
Local woman begins project to save the history of the Sugar Hill neighborhood
Updated: Feb. 20, 2020 at 8:13 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The Sugar Hill neighborhood is a historically black neighborhood, but as Tucson has grown and changed, so has the neighborhood.

One Tucson woman is hoping to keep what was once there alive in memories.

Sadie Shaw, who grew up spending time in Sugar Hill, is collecting oral histories of the neighborhood. Her uncle would often tell her stories of her family or characters who lived there.

“I learned to swim over here at the Mansfield pool. I learned how to whistle here,” she said.

When he passed, she missed the stories of this Tucson neighborhood, so, she set out to make them permanent.

“A lot of people don’t know about this community, and they don’t realize it was once a black community and it still is,” Shaw said.

With her microphone and recorder, she interviews people who lived or live in Sugar Hill.

Ada Redd Austin is just one of her characters.

Sitting next to each other on a couch, Shaw asks Austin questions about the place she grew up.

“What was it like growing up in Sugar Hill?” Shaw asked.

“We were a close-knit neighborhood,” Austin said. “Those were the days. We were like family on the northside.”

Austin was a neighborhood performer.

She sang at the Dunbar Pavilion, her school talent show and any chance she could use her voice.

As the neighborhood crossed into the shadow of the university, this historically black neighborhood became something different.

“The dynamics of it seemed to change,” Austin said.

According to governing.com, the median home value in Sugar Hill has increased by 36 percent since 2000, but the median household income hardly changed since 1990.

“Our house was right across the street from the water tank, of course there are college town homes and apartments there now,” Austin said.

Shaw hopes by keeping stories like Austin’s alive, the history of the neighborhood will help keep its future safe.

“Hopefully development in Sugar Hill, gentrification, that’ll kind of be prevented,” Shaw said.

You can find all of her interviews HERE.

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