CLEVELAND, Ohio – Making a diverse city great requires more than just finding ways for people who are different to live together in harmony.
To succeed, says a new report, a city and its people must find ways to work together so that all residents can equitably share in wealth and opportunity while working to check bias and privilege.
Those were among the findings from the report prepared for Cleveland’s Community Relations Board, sponsored in part by MetroHealth System’s Department of Diversity and Inclusion.
Mayor Frank Jackson, members of his cabinet, community leaders and researchers who prepared the work unveiled the study Wednesday. The intention is to use it as a guide to bolster equity among Cleveland’s population.
The Community Relations Board began a Race Relations Initiative in 2012 following the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, a black teenager, by George Zimmerman, a white neighborhood watch volunteer, in Florida.
Zimmerman ultimately was acquitted of criminal charges. But national dialogue in the wake of the case convinced community leaders that there should be more discussion of race in Cleveland.
The study – Transforming Cleveland: Building Equity for All to Thrive – is a product of that initiative.
Here are some things to know.
Cleveland has always been a leader in working toward improving race relations, said Peter Whitt of the Principal of Enlightenment Consulting Group who worked on the study.
But talking about race is difficult for many people. “We’re not saying it’s easy,” Whitt said.
As part of the study, forums were held in each of the five police districts to talk about race and race relations. Those conversations need to continue among civic leaders, Whitt said.
For Cleveland to be a great city, “we have to be willing to have the hard conversations,” said Grady Stevenson, the interim executive director of the Community Relations Board.
Allowing all to benefit
Candid conversations throughout the community are an important part of leveraging growth and development projects to benefit the community, Cleveland’s planning director, Freddy Collier, said. Those conversations help lead to neighborhood benefits that ensure those who live around development projects also benefit.
An example, Collier said, is the Opportunity Corridor project, a boulevard that will connect Interstate 490 at East 55th Street with University Circle.
An agreement between the city and the state on utilities, including internet access, and infrastructure should aid residents around the corridor’s path – an impoverished area known as the Forgotten Triangle – as neighborhood businesses and jobs grow up around the roadway.
What’s important, Jackson said, is for the project to deliver long-term benefit to the area around it. That means spurring long-term job creation and not just short-term employment from construction.
Not just for government
The hope for the study, which examines race relations in Cleveland since the Community Relations Board was created in 1945, is to be a blueprint for the community for addressing race relations and working to end disparities.
That means continuing dialogue and working on strategies inside and outside government to make sure all benefit from a community’s success.
“This is just a beginning,” said Adriennie Hatten, an independent non-profit management consultant who teaches at the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University. “Our goal, of course, is continuous improvement.”