Saturday, April 21, 2012

Cleveland's Black Culture & Community Interconnectedness

As a reporter I am always alert to those posts and stories that seem to find a special resonance with my readers. My best gauge comes from the people who take the time to respond either via the comment feature or by sending me an offline email.

I can say with assurance that the posts striking the broadest and deepest chords have usually been rooted in either a personal narrative experience [see here and here] or a compelling local issue.

But over the last couple of days, when I have resumed posting after a lengthy hiatus [initiated by a sudden, urgent, and consuming remunerative writing assignment, followed successively by recuperation, inertia, and then a personal family loss], I have been surprised by the number of “thank you’s” I have received for posting, even with late notice, about various community events.

I think the cumulative response speaks to a number of issues, including how under-reported positive activity in the black community is, and how refreshing it is to appreciate our diversity and heterogeneity.

Of equal and perhaps greater significance is that the evolution and dispersal of both the larger and the African American communities over the years has, coupled with the communications revolution,  wrought such change to our local world that being in touch is simultaneously easier and more difficult in ways that are challenging to appreciate and difficult to adjust to.

We are going to work on this disconnect by doing a better job ourselves at timely reporting upcoming community events. Most likely that will take the form of a regular weekly post. We invite you to send notices of your civic events to us here.

Meanwhile, here are two free, family-friendly events taking place later today:

“You Decide”, “Tu Decides”

 A faith-based rally, supported by leaders from more than sixty Hispanic Evangelical churches throughout Greater Cleveland, takes place today from 5-8PM, at the Saigon Plaza, 5400 Detroit Avenue, near Gordon Square.

Rally goers will worship, reflect, network, and become educated on how to become agents of change in order to address social and economic issues affecting the Hispanic community.

The rally is a product of a group of active Hispanic community folk who have united around motivating, organizing and mobilizing faith-based community members, especially Evangelicals, to become more engaged in civic and community matters, and specifically to help narrow the gap in voter participation among Hispanics and Latinos in Northeast Ohio.

TU DECIDES is open to the general public, and will include free food, free parking, and musical performances by local Hispanic Evangelical church bands throughout Greater Cleveland. Special guests will include Reverend Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition (NLEC), who will speak to Hispanic and Latino political participation from a national perspective. No candidates will be allowed to speak.

 “Voting and civic involvement … traditionally is  not encouraged within the church,” according to Pastor Jesus Laboy of Cleveland’s west side La Iglesia Elim.

The US Hispanic population now numbers more than 50 million, with over 60,000 Hispanics reportedly living in Cuyahoga County. Fewer than half of the county’s 28,000 registered Hispanic voters half turned out to vote in the 2008 Presidential election.

The Tu Decides event is expected to lead to political training sessions to be scheduled later this spring.

For more information, call 216.235.1578.

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Madam C. J. Walker Extravaganza
Our good friend Prester Pickett, coordinator of the Howard A. Mims  African American Cultural Center at Cleveland State University, wrote us yesterday to tell us about today’s 2012 Madam C. J. Walker Extravaganza and its special tribute to Whitney Houston, Don Cornelius, and Etta James.

The free, family-friendly program — the “signature price” for most of Bro. Pickett’s AACC events — includes a special exhibition opening in celebration of black music, courtesy of the African American Professional Network at Rockwell Automation.

The program starts at 7PM will also be a special tribute to some legendary African American Clevelanders portrayed by students from CSU’s Campus International School.

Find more information online here.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Black Culture is Alive and Well in Cleveland, Part II

Black Culture is Alive and Well in Cleveland, Part II

Among the abundant evidence of black Cleveland’s rich civic life we promised more detail about is today’s wine-tasting hosted by The President’s Council Foundation. The event, which is being held today from 6-8 PM at the Tavo Martini Loft & Restaurant, 850 Rockwell Ave, is intended to be the Foundation’s first annual salute to African-American Entrepreneurs. Tonight’s event will celebrate the life of the late John Bustamante and will include the inaugural John Bustamante Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year award.
Proceeds from the event will help support the Foundation’s Emerging Entrepreneurs Program, which has supported the growth and development of more than over 120 Northeast Ohio African American entrepreneurs over the last 12 years. Individual tickets are $50.

• • •
 Also taking place tonight is the second performance of “The Compromise”, a work of historical fiction that had its world premiere last night at Oberlin College’s Hall Auditorium.
The play is set at Tuskegee Institute in 1895 and reimagines the relationship between the two titans of black America at the dawn of twentieth century: Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. DuBois.

The cast combines Oberlin students, local residents, and professional artists, including former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones as Washington. This play helps commemorate Oberlin’s 175 years of admitting African American students, as well as the importance of continuing the discussion about the commitment to African American education in the new millennium.

The performances tonight and tomorrow begin at 8PM. Tickets range from $4-$11. The play is directed by Oberlin alumnus Justin Emeka, [‘95] who is currently Visiting Assistant Professor of Theater there.

Jones, incidentally, is a busy actor this weekend.  Between his Oberlin stage performances he is moderating a panel discussion at the Greater Cleveland Urban Film Festival. He also appears in two of the films screened there today.

• • •
Case’s Social Justice Institute is host to POWER UP! -- the inauguralSocial Justice Institute Student Leadership Conference, tomorrow at the University’s Thwing Center, 11111 Euclid Ave. 

The driving force behind the conference is SJI’s passionate belief that inter-generational exchange between youth, students and practitioners is crucial for promoting social action.

Co-sponsors are Case’s Office of Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, and the Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio.

Jonathan Lykes, founder of the statewide action group Ohio Youth Voices, will be the keynote speaker.

Conference presenters will lead discussions on the how-to's of building movements [Joseph Worthy of the Children’s Defense Fund], grassroots organizing [Trevelle Harp, Northeast Ohio Alliance for Hope] and legal strategies [Shakyra Diaz, Cleveland ACLU of Cleveland].

The conference is free.
• • •

The 2012 African American Philanthropy Summit will take place tomorrow at Tri-C’s Corporate College East, 4400 Richmond Rd, Warrensville Hts.

The half-day event, hosted by African American Philanthropy Committee of the Cleveland Foundation, is designed to provide valuable information and resources regarding giving circles made up of individuals, member organizations, churches, and businesses.

The opening session will be presented by leading professionals in black philanthropy.

Honorary chairpersons for the program are Inajo Chappell, Esq., partner, Ulmer & Berne LLP; Margot Copeland, executive vice president, KeyBank, and Steven Minter, former CEO at the Cleveland Foundation and currently executive in residence, Cleveland State University.

Register for the 8am-1pm program here.

• • •
Finally, the Cleveland Chapter of Top Ladies of Distinction will honor Debra Adams Simmons, Plain Dealer editor, and Randell McShepard, RPM International, Inc. vice president of community affairs for outstanding community service and we are pleased to salute them. 
Wayne Dawson of Fox 8 News will serve as m.c. for the 11am luncheon at Landerhaven.

Tickets for the luncheon are $40; proceeds support our programs.  Contact Cheryl Williams for further information at 216.295-0107 or
• • •
And don't forget to check out the Greater Cleveland Urban Film Fest or the Tri-C Jazz Fest.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Black Culture is Alive and Well in Cleveland

Black Culture is Alive and Well in Cleveland

The concept of black culture can be an elusive one. Exactly what is it?

For some people, it is dismissed by reference to song and dance, or young black males with sagging pants, oversized shirts and hoodies. This portrait is used to justify black underachievement, unemployment, crime statistics, incarceration, and just about any societal pathology commonly projected as black-related through the daily newspaper, or nightly news, or right-wing cable shows.

But of course, these images are far from encapsulating the African American community, or even the dominant portion of it. Cleveland this week is phenomenally alive with expressions of what black culture is about. Consider what’s happening around town just this evening:

Starting at 5PM, Successnet and 100 Black Men are presenting a program at Cleveland State University’s Drinko Hall on “Who’s Mentoring Black Children?” The program will honor four active Clevelanders as 2012 Mentors: Ted Ginn, Kwa David Whitaker, Yvonne Pointer, Ilinda Reese.
• • •
A quick ride away on the Healthline, at Case Western Reserve University, Karamu Theater will be presenting a play April 19 about foster care experience in Strosacker Auditorium. The free, public performance of Michael Oatman’s “Sometimes Hope is Enough” will be followed by a discussion about foster care. The event is a collaboration among Karamu,  Case’s Schubert Center for Child Studies, and the Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services.

The program aims to bring to light the situations of the more than 2,000 foster children in Cuyahoga County without permanent homes. Each year, roughly 200 youth turn 18 and “age out” of the foster care system, many with few connections or resources to begin living on their own.

The panelists — Gregory Ashe, executive director, Karamu House; David Crampton, associate professor, CWRU Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences; Jessica Horne, executive director, Cleveland Urban Minority Alcoholism Drug Abuse Outreach Project (UMADOP); Gregory Kapcar, legislative director, Public Children Services Association of Ohio (PCSAO); Jacqueline McCray, deputy director, Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services, Resources and Placement; and Melinda Sykes, director of children’s initiatives, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine — will discuss the research and policy implications of the realities portrayed in the play.

For information, visit or call Kate Lodge at the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services at 216.881.4343 or Gabriella Celeste at the Schubert Center at 216.368.5314.
• • •
Also on Case’s campus this afternoon will be Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, courtesy of the Case’s active Social Justice Institute, which is led by Professor Rhonda Williams. Coleman, a M.I.T.-trained social scientist and Ph.D., is the author of No Fear: A Whistleblower’s Triumph Over Corruption and Retaliation at the EPA.

The program, which will include a book signing, starts at 6:15 PM in the University’s Biomedical Research Building [Biomedical Research Building • BRB 105 •]
• • •
Meanwhile, starting at 6PM in at North Broadway Methodist Church in Slavic Village, the second of a of the 4 part series of 2012 Voter Education Forums will be offering important information on voter education. A panel of prominent Greater Clevelanders, including Dennis Anderson of the Cuyahoga Board of Elections, Shakyra Diaz of the Cleveland chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, Hiram College political science professor Jason Johnson, and Will Tarter III, president of the Cleveland Young Professional Senate, will address important issues as voter disenfranchisement, how to be a more informed voter, and the voting rights of formerly incarcerated persons.
• • •
On the entertainment tip, non-procrastinators will be attending yet another campus event, as part of the 2012 Tri-C Jazz Fest, where Esperanza Spalding will be performing before a sold-out crowd at Metro Auditorium.
• • • 

But lovers of culture need not go starving tonight. They merely have to head to Shaker Square, for the opening night of Cleveland’s first-ever Greater Cleveland Urban Film Festival. Tonight’s schedule will feature “The Contradictions of Fair Hope” starting at 7:15PM, followed by a post-film reception next door at Zanzibar Restaurant. More details on the Festival, which runs through Sunday, can be found here:
• • •

Either the film or the reception is likely to attract early attendees from the
Cleveland Realtists Association’s monthly business networking event, which takes place down the street and around the corner at Jezebel’s Café on Larchmere Blvd.
Consider this is just one day in the life of Cleveland’s African Community. There is positive activity everywhere for those who care to look. We will do a better job going forward in bringing timely information concerning these kinds of activities. 
Tomorrow we will tell you about this weekend’s events, including Friday’s wine-tasting hosted by The President’s Council, a session of African American philanthropy offered by The Cleveland Foundation Saturday, the annual luncheon of the Top Ladies of Distinction, and an all day Saturday student leadership conference at Case Western Reserve.