About Sarah Dixon
Born on November 29, 1924, Sarah Durant-Dixon was an entertainer, activist, and organizer who dedicated her life to uplifting the Greater Hazelwood community.
- Co-founder of the Malcolm X African American Society at Gladstone School
- Founder of PREP Mothers (Preparing and Researching for Educational Services) to support local
youth with race-related issues
- Founder of the Ujema Theater at the Glen Hazel Recreation Center
- President of the Glen Hazel Heights Tenant Council
- Founder of the Glen Hazel Citizen Association Community Development Corporation (GHCA-
Even now more than 10 years after her passing in 2011, Dixon’s influence and work continues to make a positive impact – including the establishment of affordable housing, bringing the Rite-Aid pharmacy to the Hazelwood Business District, and the rehabilitation of the HOPE Center on Second Ave.
In the spirit of Sarah Dixon’s life-long work and love for the Greater Hazelwood community, we are naming this community-founded, -owned, and -led center in honor of her legacy.
Sarah Durant-Dixon was born on November 29, 1924, the third child born to Marie and Arthur Durant in Lynchburg, SC. Sarah attended the Homestead Public School where she graduated. She later met and married Albert Dixon Sr. Sarah “Say Roe” affectionately called by her husband & “Top” known by family & friends out of this union came five children four(4) boys and one(1) girl. In 1951 Sarah and Albert moved to the Glen Hazel Heights area, while her children were very young she became involved in community work organizing and developing programs whose emphasis would be placed on children & their individual needs along with a variety of activities such as Carnivals, summer school, Tiny Tim Club, dance, field trips and talent shows with Leonard Duncan (former Pittsburgh parks and recreation supervisor). Mrs. Dixon was the God Mother of the community.
She later became involved in the entertainment business her oldest son Wayne Dixon & Thomas Washington started a musical group named the Caprells. But in 1964 her second eldest Glen Dixon reorganized the group & continued to use the Caprells name. The Caprells would perform in the city-wide talent show with the assistance & guidance of their mother Sarah Dixon (Owner, Manager, Costume Designer, and Seamstress) while volunteering as a community leader. As an advocate for her children and their interest she helped the Caprells turn professional and also produce a television pilot called Fun City.
Through her community work her concerns grew stronger for education. In 1967 she encouraged her son Glen Dixon to get involved in African American Culture by assisting him in establishing a black activist group at Gladstone High School called Malcolm X organization/African American Society along with Ronald Jones.
Through their involvement, Mrs. Dixon along with seven other parents formed an organization called the PREP Mothers which stood for Preparing and Researching for Educational Purposes. The organization was formed to assist the inter-school youth with race related issues. They worked with Ed Ellis, Sala Hadium, and the Black Action Society from the University of Pittsburgh. Because of the impact and power that Malcolm X organization and African American society had in the summer of 1968 along with the PREP Mothers, Gladstone High school was the first school to have African American Studies, first Black Home Coming, and first Black Home Coming Queen. They were responsible for Chuck Gladney becoming the first black Assistant Principle and later the first Black Principle at Gladstone High School. They also networked and helped form other African American Society groups throughout Pittsburgh Public Schools.
Mrs. Dixon began to work as a Vista Volunteer and later attended the University of Pittsburgh and also took classes at Carnegie Mellon University. She began working as a child advocate for Neighborhood Legal Services and also worked for Light House and Ward Home for Children.
In 1973-1976 Mrs. Dixon Joined forces with August Wilson Pulitzer Price winner & Dr. Robert Penny. They formed August Wilson’s first theater group the Ujema Theater out of the Glen Hazel Recreation Center. August Wilson later became a well-known producer, publisher, and writer. The group performed throughout the City of Pittsburgh. Mrs. Dixon’s love for the entertainment business had her assisting and appearing in movies as an extra in Dawn of the Dead (originally filmed in Glen Hazel), Sho-Gun & Fish That Saved Pittsburgh where Debbie Allen met her husband Norman Nixon. Mrs. Dixon was often given credit for that union, as well as August Wilson (Piano) and many more movies. She also helped in employing people as extras.
One of her focuses in life was to always make her community better for all. She went ahead and became the Glen Hazel Heights Tenant Council President and worked with women such as Frankie Geters and Bernice Crawly Washington to form the Metropolitan Tenant Oragnization (MTO). While President, Mrs. Dixon worked with Dan Patreagally, Bernice Crawly Washington, Oliva Doswell, Betty Robinson, and Stanley Lowe just to name a few. She later formed her own organization the Glen Hazel Citizen Association-Community Development Corporation (GHCA-CDC). In 1973 while serving under the Umbrella organization to Nutrition Inc, GHCA-CDC was commissioned to monitor eighteen (18) feeding centers throughout the city of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County under the direction of Nutrition Inc. If you’re wandering yes, this was the pilot program that is nationwide now.
In November 1974- 1975 the GHCA began working with the Pittsburgh Housing Authority in the reconstruction of the Glen Hazel housing project, the GHCA played a key role in surveying the residents after construction and helping to secure jobs for residents on the construction site. The history is blessed with many successful ventures. In 1982 this partnership resulted in GHCA heading up new renovation for fifteen (15) units, also working along with the City of Pittsburgh, Senator Romanelli, Mayor Richard Calliguri & the Pittsburgh Housing Authority. The GHCA negotiated to bring a 360 bed John Kane Regional Hospital into the Glen Hazel Community. The facility was completed in 1984, and the hospital remains today, and has become a very important part of the community.
Since that time GHCA had been involved in a number of community-related programs and services including Youth Summer Employment, Food Pantry Program, The Seniors in Community Program, and the Hazelwood Football Organization.
In 1993 GHCA along with Lutual Love began a program entitled “Action for Life” a three (3) part revitalization strategy aimed at improving the housing & business district in the Greater Hazelwood community. The program was designed based on a vision for the community to be restored back to its traditional greatest by the year 2009. The purpose was to implement a series of housing and community economic development initiatives, which also advance the organizational goals as well as the city goals. GHCA-CDC partnered with the Urban Redevelopment Authority and City Planning in conducting a revitalization strategy for upgrading the 4800 Block of Second Avenue. The study resulted in the determination that the building structures located in the 4800 Block of Second Avenue needed substantial work. Armed with the promise that the city would make a substantial investment in the 4800 Block, Sarah Dixon and the GHCA-CDC led the way in convincing the owners of the property (who were black and brown residents)to sell their property to the Urban Redevelopment Authority. This was done based on the promise made by the city to reinvest in the 4800 Block and to prioritize black and brown owned businesses to be restored there.
The GHCA-CDC had successfully secured state, county, and city status as a Community Housing Development Organization (CHDO). Through this status, the organization had successfully purchased and renovated fourteen (14) Housing units and a newly constructed million-dollar building in order to relocate KEROTEST CORPORATION. Mrs. Dixon also lead the way to establish the Rite Aid Store and purchased and rehabbed a three-story building located at 4835 Second Avenue known as the HOPE CENTER.
The GHCA had collaborated with the City of Pittsburgh Housing Authority & partnered with the ex-president, June Williams-Smith, and Glen Hazel Resident Management Corporation to ensure the marketing and purchasing of fifteen (15) single family dwellings homes located on Johnston Avenue for homeownership. In addition, Sarah Dixon and her organization led the way for the new construction of the largest for-sale townhouses ever constructed in Allegheny County, located on Glen Caladh Street in the Greater Hazelwood Community. These homes were marketed by GHCA-CDC and sold to residents of the community.
Once retired she became an avid boxing fan attending all boxing events following her nephew Arthur “Baby Face Allen” Carl Sullivan, Paul Spadafora, Roberto Duran, Hector Camacho, Mike Tyson and Oba Carr always smiling and making friends with them all.
Although Mrs. Dixon had retired from the GHCA she still remained active in working and taking computer classes. She still continued to work with different organizations. She was an executive Board Member with the Mon Valley People Action Committee for 27 years and an Advisor to the African American Convention of Talk Magazine. Mrs. Dixon was a very accomplished woman of honor and respect. She lived up to her name “Top” by making sure that everything that she put her hands on always benefitted her community as a whole and paved the way for future success.