Saturday, May 14, 2016

Low-key Larchmere affair affords rare sighting of Black Republicans

A famous dictum attributed to former US Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill declares,  “All politics is local.” While no doubt an exaggeration, it is probable that if black Republicans are ever to increase in number — especially given the current toxic national political environment — it will be due to the efforts of people like Laverne Gore, who is simultaneously and unapologetically black, proud, and Republican.

L-R: Arkeya Thomas, Laverne Gore,
Judge Michael Sliwinski, Sam Gantous
Gore has for sometime been convening groups large and small of black Clevelanders and bringing them together with local and national GOP hierarchy as well as rank and file party members. Last summer, for instance, she hosted a cookout at her home in the tidy CHALK neighborhood just north of Shaker Square featuring GOP national chair Reince Priebus. That brought black Republicans from all over the state, including Youngstown and Cincinnati. 

Gore has also been busy connecting with black conservatives around the country, facilitating get-togethers that put all manner of black people in the same space with Republican operatives and officeholders. Her diligent efforts began well before the GOP hierarchy decided to hold its 2016 convention here in Cleveland and will likely place her in the thick of much of the activity that surrounds a national convention spectacle.

An example of Gore’s efforts could be seen two nights ago
Shalira Taylor, GOP District 11 candidate for state
representative, between Rev. Jeffrey and Mrs. Lori Jemison
at the Academy Tavern, a well-known and popular eatery owned and operated for years by Sam Gantous on Larchmere Avenue. The restaurant is on the border of Shaker Heights and Cleveland, an area that has weathered ethnic and socioeconomic transformation far better than most neighborhoods in Greater Cleveland. Situated on the crest of the first foothill of the Allegheny Plateau — the beginning of the Heights — one can stand in the middle of the street and see clear downtown, though the route is fraught with many demographic changes. 

Larchmere turns into Woodland Ave. as it moves westward towards downtown, passing through areas once heavy with industry and residential areas full of European immigrants who could either walk or take public transportation to work in the factories, foundries, and machine shops that once comprised the heart of the city. Today, one traverses westward along Woodland towards downtown and the largest complexes encountered are housing projects, churches, and one of the city’s oldest cemeteries. Conversely, if you headed the other way, you could enjoy a serene walk into Shaker Heights, where former Mayor Carl Stokes lived during his years as the first black mayor of a major American city.
The history alluded to here somehow made the unpretentious and homey tavern’s rear patio an ideal spot for a low-key mingling of black Republican hoi polloi and adventurous white politicians. There were no speeches, no heavy-duty politicking; in fact, had you innocently wandered into the space — as some Academy regulars may in fact have done — you would have been hard-pressed to discern that you had stumbled upon a political gathering.

It just may have been the kind of political affair that could bring some healing to this era of political malignancy.