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A new mural of Cecilia Price-Knight, who had to close her popular Jamaican restaurant in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty after the area gentrified.

A new mural of Cecilia Price-Knight, who had to close her popular Jamaican restaurant in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty after the area gentrified.

Courtesy of Alison Zapata

CityLab
Culture

When a Tech Company Tries to Be a Good Neighbor

The language-learning company Duolingo aimed to set an example for its technology peers after moving into a swiftly gentrifying area of Pittsburgh.

Corrected

The tensions caused by rapid neighborhood change were already simmering when the language-learning technology company Duolingo Inc. arrived in the East Liberty neighborhood of Pittsburgh in 2016, but it only got worse from there.

Moving from another part of Pittsburgh, Duolingo became a tenant in a building that had just painted over a mural called “Lend Me Your Ears,” depicting Black and brown children at play. It was a widely celebrated work of public art that caused a community uproar when it was covered with a solemn coat of gray paint. Residents of East Liberty, once one of Pittsburgh’s premier Black neighborhoods, were already reeling from recent demolition of low-income housing, and with new luxury apartments moving into the area, many took the paint-over as a sign that they, too, were facing erasure.