Year of Awareness Building – August Recap

Year of Awareness Building – August Recap

In the month of August, more than 170 concerned citizens participated in the half-day Groundwater Training and/or the two-day Racial Equity Workshop: Phase I.   We were joined by representatives of the following organizations:

  • The Cleveland Foundation
  • Cleveland Climate Action Advisory Committee
  • Burton D Morgan Foundation
  • HFLA
  • Metro West Community Development Organization
  • The Greater Cleveland Partnership
  • Neighborhood Connections
  • Cornell University
  • Health Improvement Partnership-Cuyahoga
  • Downtown Cleveland Alliance
  • The Housing Research & Advocacy Center
  • Cuyahoga County Board of Health
  • Community Partnership for Arts and Culture
  • The City Club of Cleveland
  • Cleveland State University
  • Clair Superior Development Corporation
  • Ohio Transformation Fund
  • The Char and Chuck Fowler Family Foundation
  • City of Cleveland- Mayor’s Office of Sustainability
  • The Center for Health Affairs
  • Green Strategies LLC
  • Hough Development Corporation
  • Philanthropy Ohio
  • Slavic Village Development
  • Chronic Disease Prevention Services, Cuyahoga County
  • Union Miles Development Corporation
  • Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation
  • Bellaire Puritas Development Corp
  • Detroit Shoreway Development Corporation
  • BMe Community
  • Infinity Construction Co.
  • City Architecture
  • The Char and Chuck Fowler Family Foundation
  • University of Cincinnati
  • Greater Cleveland Volunteers
  • Bialosky Cleveland
  • Famicos
  • Economic Community Development Institute
  • Cornell University
  • JGL Strategy, LLC
  • Cleveland Department of Aging
  • Birthing Beautiful Communities
  • Campus District, Inc.
  • Destination Cleveland
  • Silver Creek Strategies
  • Eastern Michigan University
  • PNC Bank
  • Central Neighborhood Development Corporation
  • EXL, University of Akron
  • Neighborhood Leadership Development Program
  • Optima Lender Services
  • Prevention Research Center for Healthy Neighborhoods (CRWU)
  • Magnet
  • Community Innovation Network (CWRU)

Thank you to all participants, for your engagement and commitment towards reaching a shared understanding of racial inequality. Special thanks to the Cleveland Public Library for hosting the half-day Groundwater Trainings, and to the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Humanities Center at Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) for hosting the two-day Phase I Workshop.

What we read:

Donald Trump is The First White President
by Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic

In an eloquent, yet provocative, extended essay about the nation’s 45th President, Ta-Nehisi Coates—arguably, America’s most influential black intellectual—declared that President Trump’s ideology isn’t nationalism, conservatism, or even self-interest. Trump’s ideology is, “white supremacy, in all its truculent and sanctimonious power.” Coates argues that Donald Trump is the first president elected by appealing to white supremacy to the exclusion of everything else.

Excerpt: “The focus on one subsector of Trump voters—the white working class—is puzzling, given the breadth of his white coalition. Indeed, there is la kind of theater at work in which Trump’s presidency is pawned off as a product of the white working class as opposed to a product of an entire whiteness that includes the very authors doing the pawning.

The Poisoned Generation
by Vann R. Newkirk II, The Atlantic

Vann Newkirk, policy writer for The Atlantic, recounts the story of a decades-long lead-poisoning lawsuit in New Orleans, illustrating how the toxin destroys black families and communities alike.

Excerpt: “Inside the apartment, her boys were insulated from the crossfire outside. But, like thousands of others seeking shelter behind the peeling walls of muffling the bubbling bass dripping from Crown Vic speakers, the poison of lead would find a way into her sons’ bodies all the same. Ryan and Ronnie, along with thousands of other poor children in New Orleans whose parents believed they could shelter their children from the violence outside, would become an entire poisoned generation.”

A Day in a Life: How Racism Impacts Families of Color [Infographic]
by Living Cities

Living Cities released a new infographic that addresses racism in all its forms, following a family of color as they encounter structural, institutional and individual racism across systems (education, health, transport, etc.) in their daily lives. Acknowledging that there is no easy way to visualize the lived experiences and oppression of people of color, Living Cities attempts to define and highlight different types of racism, and show that racism is intergenerational and pervasive. Only by driving home, over and over, how racial opportunity gaps are created and perpetuated can we—as a society—begin to dismantle them.

Is it Who You Are or Where You Live? Residential Segregation and Racial Gaps in Childhood Asthma
by Diane Alexander & Janet Currie, National Bureau of Economic Research

This working paper indicates that residential neighborhoods contribute to racial disparities. Higher asthma rates are one of the most obvious ways that health inequalities between African American and other children are manifested beginning in early childhood. Using a unique data set based on health records of all children born in New Jersey between 2006 and 2010, authors Alexander & Currie argue their findings show the important role of neighborhoods in the differences between black asthma rates and non-black rates. Their results point to the residential segregation and neighborhoods to explaining persistent racial health disparities.

Making Sense of the Violence in Charlottesville
by Elizabeth Klein & James Forman Jr., The Atlantic

Excerpt: “Justifying and erasing hundreds of years of white-on-black violence has left many Americans ill-equipped to make sense of the racist violence that we live with today. As a result, whites often lack the vocabulary to contextualize even the most obviously racist events. After Dylann Roof murdered nine black Bible study participants at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015, media outlets tended to use vague language like “evil” or “monster” to describe Roof. That kind of equivocal terminology implied that Roof had an inherent, inevitable propensity for violence, a propensity that sprang up organically rather than being nurtured by extremist influences, and that his motivation was inscrutable because evil is incomprehensible and mysterious.”

Harvey is Not a Natural Disaster
by Gregory D. Squires, George Washington University

As a professor of sociology and public policy, Squires makes a compelling assertion that much of Hurricane Harvey’s devastation could have possibly been avoided if their had been adequate consideration towards how communities grow in hurricane-prone areas—and what is done to respond to the overwhelming needs of their most vulnerable and disadvantaged residents.

How Black Communities are Getting Screwed by Climate Change
by Michelle Klug

With ever present realities facing today’s world such as extreme heat, rising seas, and even toxic air; all roads seem to be pointing towards climate change. Unfortunately, even in terms of uncontrollable natural occurrences, not all Americans experience these symptoms equally. Klug claims that neighborhoods/areas with large black populations apparently feel the unfortunate effects more strongly. Dense, urban areas with extreme heat or located in close proximity to coastlines are much more vulnerable to the negative results of climate change. Sadly many black communities reside in these areas as a result of segregation and policies like redlining. Such disenfranchisement fuels even present day inequality.

Roundtable: Policing and Community Development
by Shelterforce Staff

Many people in the community development field are conflicted about the police presence where they work. While they often collaborate with law enforcement to respond to concerns about crime in their neighborhoods or their properties, many community development leaders are also aware that the residents they serve are often mistreated by police and are wary of supporting overpolicing or increased incarceration. Cleveland Neighborhood Progress VP of Government Relations & Strategy, Erika Anthony, joined a group of national community development practitioners to share their experiences and talk through this tension.

Excerpt: The challenge we’re still wrestling with is communicating not only to our CDCs so they understand that this is a priority, but also to our law enforcement [so they] understand that they are a character within the ecosystem of comprehensive community development. It’s not like either we do it with them, or we do it without them. We have to do it together. The negative side of the consent decree is that any time you’re mandated to do something, there’s a negative connotation. I did work previously in criminal justice reform, and any time a defendant or an individual was mandated to do something versus having the option the outcome was vastly different.”

What we listened to:

A Brief History of RacismIbram X. Kendi, Live at Politics & Prose

On this episode of Live at Politics and Prose, Ibram X. Kendi discusses the history of racist thought and how racist policies are the cradle of racist ideas. In his award-winning book Stamped From the Beginning, Kendi chronicles the entire story of anti-black racist ideas and their staggering power over the course of American history. Stamped from the Beginning uses the life stories of five major American intellectuals to offer a window into the contentious debates between assimilationists and segregationists and between racists and antiracists. From Puritan minister Cotton Mather to Thomas Jefferson, from fiery abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison to brilliant scholar W.E.B. Du Bois to legendary anti-prison activist Angela Davis, Kendi shows how and why some of our leading pro-slavery and pro-civil rights thinkers have challenged or helped cement racist ideas in America.

On One by Angela Rye

CNN Political Commentator and NPR Political Analyst Angela Rye has a podcast for the “woke” and “sophistirachet”. She brings her classy clapbacks, unapologetic wokeness and overall realness to her show focused on politics, social issues, blackness, and current events. The weekly podcast features guest interviews, along with different segments including “The Moment in Blackness,” “Political Highlight” and “Political Lowlife”. In her pilot episode Rye brought her former boss, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, on as the first guest. Nevertheless, while tackling pressing topics, Rye insists that her show remains fun, catering to those who comfortably dwell in spaces that are both sophisticated and ratchet (aka “sophistirachet”).

Who belongs in a city? by TED Talks Daily

Underneath every shiny new megacity, there’s often a story of communities displaced. In this moving, poetic talk, writer and activist OluTimehin Adegbeye details how government land grabs are destroying the lives of thousands who live in the coastal communities of Lagos, Nigeria, to make way for a “new Dubai.” She compels us to hold our governments and ourselves accountable for keeping our cities safe for everyone. “The only cities worth building, indeed the only futures worth dreaming of, are those that include all of us, no matter who we are or how we make homes for ourselves,” she says.

The Axe Files: Episode 93 (DeRay McKesson) by David Axelrod, The University of Chicago Institute of Politics

David Axelrod, the founder and director of the University of Chicago Institute of Politics, brings “The Axe Files,” a series of revealing interviews with key figures in the political world. At a pivotal moment in recent social and political history, this episode from November of 2016, Axelrod is joined by DeRay McKesson, one of the most prominent leaders in the Black Lives Matter movement. McKesson talks to David about his decision to endorse Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, his organization’s work to end police violence, the importance of public education, and his turbulent childhood in inner-city Baltimore.

The Dark Side of How We Think Without Thinking: On Amadou Diallo (2005)Malcolm Gladwell

In his book, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (2005), Malcolm Gladwell explains how intuitive judgment is developed by experience, training, and knowledge. Drawing on examples from science, advertising, sales, medicine, and popular music to reinforce his ideas, Gladwell claims that prejudice can operate at an intuitive unconscious level, even in individuals whose conscious attitudes are not prejudiced. Gladwell uses the 1999 killing of Amadou Diallo, where four New York policemen shot an innocent man on his doorstep 41 times, as another example of how rapid, intuitive judgment can have disastrous effects.

What we watched:

“The Black Experience in Cleveland 1865-1932” by Kenneth Kusmer, Temple University

In his 1983 lecture—delivered as part of Cleveland Heritage Program, Kenneth Kusmer discusses research findings compiled in his book, A Ghetto Takes Shape: Black Cleveland, 1870-1930. Tracing the development of Cleveland’s black community from its antebellum beginnings to the end of the 1920s, Kusmer systematically surveys and analyzes the emergence of the ghetto in the city where, prior to 1870, blacks were “almost equal” to whites. The volume deals in a comprehensive way with more aspects of black life – economic, political, social, and cultural – than any previous study of an urban community and presents the most detailed analysis of black occupations available. It is also the first work to make extensive use of manuscript collections of local black leaders and organizations.


One in this series of irregularly scheduled in-depth reports. This program focuses on the lives of nine families living in a dilapidated tenement on Chicago’s south side. It includes interviews with Chicago residents, including those who lived at 3823 South Ellis Street prior to their eviction. Program highlights depict the following: a mother and newborn leave Cook County Hospital; Georgia Johnson, a tenant for fifteen years; a mother washes for a family of twelve; an eleven-year-old cares for younger siblings; members of “The Four Corners” gang; children play in a vacant lot; the tenement at 10:00 pm; church service; a neighborhood fire; high school drop-outs; a tenant’s funeral; and exodus of tenants before the building is demolished.

The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross with Henry Louis Gates

About the series: Written and presented by noted Harvard Scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr, the six-part series explores the evolution of the African American people, as well as the multiplicity of culture all institutions, political strategies, and religious and social perspectives they developed—forging their own history, culture and society against unimaginable odds. Commencing with the origins of slavery in Africa, the series moves through five centuries old remarkable historic events right up to the present—when America is led by a black president, yet remains deeply divided by race.

Dr. Michael Eric Dyson on the state of Black Males in America

In July of 2013, The Congressional Caucus on Black Men and Boys held its first hearing titled “The Status of Black Males: Ensuring Our Boys Mature Into Strong Men.”, focused on the achievement gap of black males, racial profiling, and the justice system. Georgetown University sociology professor, author, and NAACP Image Award winner, Michael Eric Dyson was called to eloquently speak truth to the state of black males and ultimately prescribe what America must do. Proving why he is one the nations most renowned and influential intellectuals, Dyson articulates over the ongoing stereotypes and stigmas of black male identity. This is undoubtedly a “must watch”, even 4 years later!

Watch Dyson’s Testimony here
Watch the entire hearing here

The Black Panthers: Vanguard of Revolution

In the turbulent 1960s, change was coming to America and the fault lines could no longer be ignored—cities were burning. Vietnam was exploding, and disputes raged over equality and civil rights. A new revolutionary culture was emerging and it sought to drastically transform the system. The Black Panther Party for Self-defense would, for a short time, put itself at the vanguard of that change. This film is the first feature-length documentary to explore the Black Panther Party, its significance to the broader American culture, it’s cultural and political awakening for black people, and the painful lessons wrought when a movement derails.


Save the Date

September Film Screening: Dispatches From Cleveland

Date: September 23rd

Time: 4pm-7pm

Location: Shaker Square Cinemas

About film: In Dispatches From Cleveland, Tamir Rice’s mother painfully recalls how Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty failed to fight for her son, instead trying to paint the family as opportunists. Regarding the verdict, one of the activists featured in this powerful film laments, “We needed a championship, but not an athletic one.” For those seeking injustice, the city’s renaissance is bittersweet—its rebirth won’t be complete until everyone can reap the benefits. Sign up for film screening here

Racial Equity Term of the Month: Oppression

The systematic and pervasive nature of social inequality woven throughout social institutions as well as embedded within individual consciousness. This fuses institutional and systematic discrimination, personal bias, bigotry and social prejudice in a complex web of relationships and structures that saturate most aspects of life in our society.


Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice: A Sourcebook. Maurianne Adams, Lee Anne Bell, and Pat Griffin, editors. Routledge, 1997.

As always, please send any feedback, questions, or interesting reading materials to