Friday, October 21, 2011

Huntington bonanza for nonprofits • NOAH Note

Huntington National Bank’s local HQ move to the former BP Building at 200 Public Square has created a great opportunity for area nonprofits in need of office furnishings.
The Bank is preparing to give away thousands of pieces of office furnishings including desks, credenzas, chairs, tables, file cabinets, fireproof files, book cases and hundreds of other miscellaneous items.
The giveaway will be held on the first two Thursdays in November — Nov. 3 and Nov. 10 — at Commercial Works furniture showroom/warehouse located at 4901 Johnson Parkway in Garfield Heights.
This opportunity is for registered nonprofits only. Interested parties should email Diane Downing at the Bank and copy Sharon Sills. Nonprofits will need to include contact info [address, phone, email] and verification of their nonprofit status.
The Bank is giving away the goods but delivery is not included, so beneficiaries will need to plan for pick up. Help with loading will be available for those that come with transportation. Quotes for delivery service can be arranged at the site.
Questions? Tony Gugliemotto of Commercial Works is the answer man [ 614.851.4301].
Let your favorite executive director, pastor, and board members know about this opportunity. Let us know how it works out for them. And be sure to tell them where you learned about this real deal!

•  •  •

While we are on the subject of nonprofits, one of our favorites is the Northeast Ohio Alliance for Hope, and not just because they retained us to develop a community/agency newsletter for them. 
NOAH and its executive director Trevelle Harp are doing outstanding work in the city of East Cleveland and beyond. They played an instrumental role in the two best success stories East Cleveland has had this century: a negotiated agreement with the Cleveland Clinic valued at $25 million, and involving the Cuyahoga Land Bank to help address the East Cleveland's abandoned property issues. The county land bank was a linchpin to the recently announced deal to build new housing at the city's new gateway on Euclid Avenue at Lakeview Road.
NOAH's annual banquet is tomorrow at the McGregor Home, 14900 Private Dr., East Cleveland. State Senator Nina Turner is the featured speaker. The dinner is NOAH's annual fundraiser, a bargain at $35. The evening starts at 6PM. Call Deirdre at 216.834.2324 for tickets.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Candidate Forum tonight in Euclid

Tonight I will be moderating a forum for candidates for public office in Euclid, Ohio. The program begins at 7PM at Euclid Central Middle School, 20701 Euclid Avenue.

All four mayoral candidates have confirmed their attendance, along with both judicial candidates, and three of the four candidates for Euclid School Board.

The program was organized by Ward 1 Councilman David Gilliham, who told The Real Deal that he was sponsoring the forum as a way to give the residents of his ward the chance to meet the candidates and to ask them questions.

While the forum was designed to meet the needs of Ward 1 residents, Gilliham said that residents of any ward are welcome to attend.

Euclid is a working class city with a recent history of social unrest that figures to be reflected in the outcome of the mayoral contest.

We will be wearing our referee’s hat tonight.  Next week, we will put on our analyst’s visor to take a look at some of the races in Euclid and elsewhere.

Careful teaching

A friend emailed me this morning asking rhetorically,  “At what age do people start hating other people?” His query drew to mind that Rodgers and Hammerstein ditty from South Pacific:

You've got to be carefully taught

You've got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You've got to be taught
From year to year,
It's got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught!

I was on the verge of my eighth birthday when I started third grade under the stern but loving tutelage of Miss Pauline Singley [later to become the well-respected Dr. Pauline Singley Davis at district HQ; assistant superintendent, I think]. That was the class that had Ray Abt, John Mishne, Belva Blankenschoen, Carol Negenborn, and assorted other classmates of East European extraction who were soon to depart the neighborhood. [Any of you guys still around? Give me a shout out!]

One September day, shortly after that first semester started, less than 90 days after moving to our new city, my parents casually inquired as to how many Caucasians were in my classroom of 25 or 30.

Now, I had been an avid reader since pre-school, back when pre-school meant you hadn’t attended any kind of school, except maybe nursery, which I had had the good fortune to avoid. So I had a pretty good working vocabulary for a seven year old. But that “Caucasian” was a new word. What the heck were they asking about? I couldn’t answer their question with an approximate number until they explained some basic phenotype stuff to me.

I had no real concept of race before that first year at Miles Standish Elementary in Cleveland's burgeoning Glenville area. Born and raised in Washington DC, I had spent nearly the first eight years of my life in and around the marvelously sophisticated campus of Howard University, just up the hill from the Hill, i.e., the nation’s capitol buildings. I knew about Africans, whose fascinating accents could be heard all around the campus. But I didn’t know about white folks.  I didn’t know that my neighborhood school in northeast Washington was legally segregated — and remained so until after the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

After that storied decision my fascination with words led me to spend endless hours trying to decipher the nuances that distinguished the new words I began to hear with increasing frequency. What's the difference between de jure and de facto? Is "integration" the same as "desegregation"? 

I think the country is still trying to answer that last one!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Huntington Bank's move to benefit area nonprofits

A chance encounter today led us to the discovery that Huntington National Bank will soon be offering a bonanza to area nonprofits. HNB will soon be vacating or at least downsizing its historic headquarters at the northeast corner of Ninth Street and Euclid Avenue and is setting up a process to donate hundreds of desks, chairs and other items to local nonprofits. We are tracking down the details and will post them here! Watch this space to get on the list.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Looking Back, Going Forward

As far back as I can remember I have found myself repeatedly at points of cultural confluence. As a consequence I have been blessed with an understanding that the black community has never been monolithic, even when we were largely united around certain broad public policy goals like ending American apartheid and promoting equal opportunity. Or celebrating heroes like Joe Louis and Jackie Robinson.

Yesterday I was speaking with my youngest daughter about the radical shift that occurred in Cleveland’s Glenville area when my family relocated here from segregated Washington DC in the mid-fifties. Cleveland was still a high-energy town back then. Unbeknownst to practically all of us, the city was just past its high-water population of 914,808 and about to undergo severe constriction in size and stature.

Much of the town’s energy continued to come from its status as a haven for immigrants and refugees. The renowned Cultural Gardens were less than a block from my neighborhood elementary school and offered endless out-of-school lessons in geography and history. Many a weekend, as we rode to Saturday choir rehearsal or Sunday worship, we passed Lithuanians, Albanians, Italians, Germans, Hungarians, Poles, and others dressed in native garb celebrating or commemorating Louis Kossuth or some other hero.

These experiences helped me to understand that the white community wasn’t monolithic either. I never thought all white folk were alike. I learned that Dutch didn’t care much for Germans; that many western Europeans looked at their East European brethren with disdain; that Turks and Armenians were a combustible combination; that there was historical enmity between Chinese and Japanese. Eventually I came to appreciate that Caucasians [and some Latinos!] didn’t even become white until they emigrated to the United States.

Close to home, as black people were migrating to Cleveland from the hostile regimes of Alabama and Georgia to presumed meccas like Hough and Central and Kinsman, the white folks — with names like Abt, Mishny, Negenborn, Blankenship — were fleeing to Euclid, South Euclid, and Mayfield Heights.

Of course, I didn’t understand any of the social forces at the time, even as I strove to comprehend the lynching of Emmett Till in mysterious Mississippi. What I came to appreciate later was that there was an establishment in this town that sought to constrain the movement of black people and to profit from that constraint. The strategic arenas were political, economic and social. The battlefields were schools, workplaces, and neighborhoods.

In little more than a decade, Cleveland would become the first major city in America to elect a black mayor. This fact for a time seemed to cement the city’s national reputation as progressive, consistent with the civic slogan “best location in the nation.”

But Carl Stokes’ 1967 electoral victory — historic and transformative as it was — actually masked the deep conservatism of both Cleveland’s white and black leadership. Cleveland’s Republicans, for example, were among Barry Goldwater’s staunchest supporters in 1964. And the evidence seems clear, despite the puppet political theater of the 1980s and 1990s, that ethnic-based leaders shook hands around political arrangements that protected interest groups at devastating cost to civic spirit and growth.

For reasons that are primarily historic and systemic, many of this area’s challenges — in housing, education, health, public welfare, criminal justice — have their greatest and deepest manifestations in the county’s blackest areas. Our communal failure to address our divisions honestly is a major factor in our ongoing urban crisis.

The good news is that as the remnants of old-style local leaders — Dimora, Hagan, Forbes, Pinkney, Voinovich — fade from prominence, Greater Cleveland at last has a chance to redefine itself in the public arena. Some of the new leaders are on suburban ballots this year, while others are likely to appear before the decade is out. We will be looking at a few of these bright lights in the next couple of weeks.

• • •

At the end of yesterday’s post I mentioned that I would be on Civic Commons radio today talking about the mischief politicians sometimes seek to create with confusing ballot language. If you missed my dulcet dynamite you can hear the podcast here.

The core of the program is a discussion about ballot initiatives—their language, intent and affect on political behavior — hosted by Dan Moulthrop and Noelle Celeste. Featured guests include Jeff Rusnak, a well-respected local political strategist, and Daniel Coffey, political scientist and a Research Fellow at the University of Akron’s Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics.

The Civic Commons was created last year with a $3 million Knight Foundation grant. Its mission is to educate, engage and empower citizens to be involved and active in strengthening the community using civic journalism, public engagement and social media. Moulthrop is curator of the conversation for the Commons, which describes itself as social media for stuff that matters.

One of CC’s most important issues is to increase northeast Ohio’s collective understanding of our global society. A key initiative in that regard focuses on the Middle East, which is more than a notion for any of us to understand. If your interests, like mine, skew to that sort of thing, check out this podcast, where Neda Zawarhi of Cleveland State University and Pete Moore of Case Western University, both members of the Northeast Ohio Consortium for Middle East Studies, discuss events in the Middle East. You can also hear Case Western Professor Dr. Ramez Islambouli talk about how his students perceive the Islamic world.

The Civic Commons podcast is a regional effort over the sixteen county Northeast Ohio region.  Its podcast is a dynamic half-hour public affairs program that features more citizen voices and  fewer talking heads. It airs Tuesday afternoons at 12:30 on 88.7 FM/WJCU, University Heights and Tuesday evenings at 7:30 on 88.5/WYSU, Youngstown. You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or listen to it on Stitcher Smart Radio. (Download iTunes or Stitcher)

• • •

Monday, October 17, 2011

Uncharted Waters ahead in the 11th Congressional District

The worst kept political secret in town is state senator Nina Turner’s intent to challenge Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge in next year’s Democratic Party primary.

If the contest happens — and, while likely, it is by no means a done deal — the battle between two of the community’s best-known politicians could be epic.

A Fudge-Turner contest would have an immense impact on black community political life, no matter the victor.

Many of Cleveland’s black politicians are of the timid variety. They dodge and duck having to endorse a candidate if the outcome is not clear. But a Fudge-Turner faceoff, which could even attract other strong candidates looking to sneak to victory, would permit no bystanders.

The congressional district Fudge now represents was first drawn in 1968 in the wake of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  The plum — the assurance of becoming Ohio’s first black Congressman — produced a mad rush of candidates, including legendary Cleveland City Council majority leader Charles V. Carr, and the ambitious eastside Cleveland councilman, George L. Forbes.

Louis Stokes, fresh off a huge legal victory before the U.S. Supreme Court [Terry v. Ohio, the seminal stop-and-frisk case], and hugely aided, of course, was the eventual winner, aided by his brother the mayor’s political machine.

Upon Lou Stokes’ retirement thirty years later in 1998, the late Stephanie Tubbs Jones resigned as county prosecutor and seized the seat with a resounding primary victory over the Rev. Marvin McMickle and then-state representative Jeff Johnson. She seemed poised to challenge Stokes’ longevity record until her sudden death in August 2008.

Lou Stokes stepped into the void after Jones’s death to manage an orderly though not uncontroversial transition of the congressional ring to Fudge, a Stephanie confidant and then-mayor of Warrensville Heights.

Fudge declared last Saturday in Richmond Heights that she would be running wherever the district lines wound up being drawn. Her announcement came at an 11th District Caucus town hall meeting, the day after the Ohio Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the handiwork of the Ohio Apportionment Board in securing a 75% favorable GOP-district set up could be challenged by voters in a November 2012 referendum.

That decision becomes relevant only if and when the Democrats can secure 231,000 valid signatures to force a statewide vote.  At the moment, the decision creates uncertainty as to the primary date, the district’s outline, and the filing date for primary candidates.

Amidst all the uncertainty, Turner must decide soon whether she can raise enough money and secure enough endorsements to make at least a credible challenge to Fudge.

It is both ironic and sobering to realize that less than four years ago, neither Fudge nor Turner had a political profile that was discernible more than a few blocks from their respective residences.
• • •

Your humble correspondent can be heard on the airwaves tomorrow over at the Civic Commons, where I will be delivering a three-minute commentary on the maddening obfuscations that assail even educated voters trying to decide how to vote on an issue where they have made up their minds but the ballot language leaves them scratching their heads.

The show starts at 12:30pm. Catch it on WJCU/88.7 FM.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Been wondering about Herman Cain?

Some days you can't do better than cite a Pulitzer Prize-winner. Here is Leonard Pitts:

Explaining Herman Cain

…Modern social conservatives, in my experience, do not hate black people en masse. To the contrary, there are two kinds of blacks they love. The first is those, like [Condoleezza] Rice, who are mainly mute on the subject of race, seldom so impolite as to say or do anything that might remind people they are black. The second is those who will engage on race, but only to lecture other blacks for their failures as conservatives conceive them. And that, friends and neighbors, is Herman Cain all over.

“I don’t believe racism in this country today holds anybody back in a big way,” he told CNN recently. Had he contended too many African Americans use racism as an excuse for failure to succeed and even failure to try, Cain would have gotten no grief from me; I’ve made that argument often.
But what he said was that racism is no longer a factor. He surely warmed the hearts of his conservative fellow travelers who swear blacks have the same opportunity to succeed as whites if they’d only get off their lazy so-and-sos and do it.

It is a claim spectacularly at odds with reality, given that African-American unemployment runs twice that of whites, given that the Agriculture Department admits to systematically discriminating against black farmers, given documentation of a “justice” system engaged in the mass incarceration of young black men.
But what made the claim truly bizarre is that two days later, Cain branded himself a victim of racism. Specifically, he said some black people are “racist” because they disagree with his politics. So blacks aren’t held back by racism, but Cain is?

One of the least-discussed impacts of the black experience in America is its emotional toll. African Americans were psychologically maimed by this country, the expression of which can still be seen in the visceral self-loathing that afflicts too many.

Meaning the black child who equates doing well in school with “acting white.” Meaning the famous black man who bleaches his skin. Meaning the famous black woman who rationalizes her use of a certain soul-killing racial epithet. Meaning Herman Cain.

In his diminution of African-American struggle, he comes across as a man profoundly at odds with the skin he’s in. He seems embarrassed he’s black.

For what it’s worth, I suspect black folks aren’t real happy about it, either.