Sunday, November 29, 2009

Brothers, Clinton and Semaj participated in the first Mount Pleasant Art Day for Kids. We had good discussion about school and family while the boys created.

Our hope is to have students express how they feel after the their neighborhood has become a focus of attention by media, law enforcement, and activists due to the discovery of 11 women's remains found on property on Imperial Avenue, Cleveland.

Neighbors and Friends of Mount Pleasant, and Peace in the Hood will continue the project at Second Trinity Missionary Baptist Church every Tuesday after school.

Pictures top to bottom: YVON discusses art themes with students; Willie Stokes invites passerby's to participate in the project; Clinton and Semaj show their artwork.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Grassroots Organizations Stand For Murdered Black Women on Imperial Avenue

By Don Bryant
(National and Cleveland, Ohio-area news)

On Monday, Nov. 16 "Stand For 11 Black Women Vigil and Forum" brought a diverse group of people to Imperial Ave. site of the 11 Black women murdered allegedly by Anthony Sowell. Many of
Cleveland's local social justice organizations and agencies were represented at the event including the Mount Pleasant Task Force, Domestic Violence Center of Cleveland, Black on Black Crime, People's Fight Back Center, and Inter-Religious Task Force on Central America. Additional groups were Women Speak Out For Peace and Justice, The Revolution Books, Party, The Greater Cleveland
Immigrant Support Network, The Middle East Peace Forum, and The People's Forum, among others.

People from all over world have paid tribute to the 11 African-American women found allegedly murdered by Anthony Sowell. Many from around the country have visited the Imperial Avenue site where the home once occupied by Sowell is located. Some, if not all of the victims, were raped, and at least two of the bodies were found in the the back yard, once occupied by Sowell.

Monday's vigil was preceded by a press conference organized by the grassroots organization, Black on Black Crime to express appreciation to the Cuyahoga County Coroner's
Office for its swift identification of the women's remains, where all but one of the victim's have been identified. County Coroner Frank Miller was represented at the forum by spokesperson, Powell Ceasar, who said that they had DNA on the eleventh body but they had nothing to cross-reference it with.

Just a few months ago, President Barack Obama spoke about national health care in the affluent community of Shaker Heights, just a few miles from Cleveland's
Mount Pleasant area, where the murders were committed. Eleven women's bodies laid either in Sowell's house, or in the back yard, moldering in the graves not far from Shaker Heights High School where Obama spoke.

"It's more than ironic and it is representative of the extreme disparity between rich and poor
in our communities," said a vigil organizer.

He went on to say that, "tonight we stand for these eleven African-American women, because they can't stand for themselves, and tomorrow let us breath for them."

A strong local activist and Yoga instructor, Rebekka Willow, said that women must be respected and crimes against women must cease.

Activist and retired school teacher Thomas Kim Hill said that the nation's military budget, which funds current wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Columbia and Palestine is bleeding taxpayers while the war on poverty gets little, if any, funding.

Following the vigil the group gathered at Second Trinity Baptist Church, two blocks from Imperial Ave. There, JoAnn Moore, the older sister of Imperial Ave. victim, Janice Webb, spoke.

"My sister would call our 91-year old mother daily,"said Moore. "When my mother did not hear from Janice for a couple of days she knew that something was wrong."

Webb was allegedly reported missing by her family in June of this year, and the story of the Imperial Ave. murders broke on Nov. 1, two days before Cleveland's mayoral election, where authorities announced the discovery of the bodies for the first time.

Sherri Smith, a member of the Mount Pleasant Task Force and a liaison for the Pastors'
Alliance, announced the establishment of the Imperial Avenue Family Fund at U.S. Bank, which is designed to help the families with funeral expenses.

Affiliates of the Cleveland Domestic Violence Center were also on hand.

"The system often deters women from reporting rape," said Amanda Ruiviejo.
"Women that rape are often labeled not credible."

Activist and journalist Kathy Wray Coleman reported on the Nov. 16 meeting with Cleveland Communications Director, Blaine Griffin, who represented Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson. Twelve women, six Black and six White attended and presented demands to Jackson and Cleveland City Council that include city ordinances around the missing persons' issue, more minorities and women in leadership roles in the Cleveland Police and Law Department, and an investigation of police and city prosecuters following a report that five of the 11 women were killed after a police report from a Black female that she was raped by Sowell was rendered "not credible."

Grassroots organizations are urging Cleveland residents and others to attend the meetings of Black on Black Crime which are held Wednesdays at McCall's, at Euclid Ave. and Lee Rd. 146th block, and Peace in the Hood meetings, held every Thursday.

The women's group that met last week with the mayor's representative and grassroots organizations are holding a rally on Tuesday, Nov. 24 at 6 p.m. on Imperial Ave, close to the site of the murders. It is to demand that all reports are considered credible, and investigation of Cleveland police and prosecutors around the matter, and the review of police reports of alleged rape over the past ten years, including those branded "not credible."

Contact Sharon Danann for more information at 216-571-2518.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Stand For Eleven Black Women




CONTACT 440-623-0492

The remains of the eleven slain African-American women were discovered
in a Cleveland neighborhood, less than two miles from the affluent
Shaker Heights community where President Obama recently visited to
address national health care.

The Cleveland neighborhood where the horrific crimes occurred has been
hit hard economically. In Cleveland's Ward 4 known as the Mount
area, 414 homes are in foreclosure, 887 vacant houses were counted,
and 72% of homes are run by single females.

Local community groups feel that most of these deaths could have been
prevented if Cleveland Police and city government would take reports of missing
people seriously. There are currently 77 women reported missing in
Cleveland; 21 women reported missing in the Mount Pleasant area.
(WOIO-TV news, Nov. 7, 2009)

The Eleven Black Women found dead and buried at the home of alleged
serial killer, Anthony Sowell, has brought Cleveland's
African-American Community, and some
supporters, out to support the families of the dead women and
other missing people, and to get answers.

Following the lead of Survivors/Victims of Tragedy, Inc. and Black on Black
Crime, Inc., the People of the Imperial Avenue area and the Mount Pleasant
Task Force are demanding the creation of a Missing Persons Department in
the city of Cleveland and other proactive initiatives.

People of the Imperial Avenue area also recognize that they have a
certain responsibility of getting to know their neighbors, like "the
way it used to be."

As ten of the victims have now been identified,
a vigil and community forum are planned for November 16. An intense
effort has been initiated for wider participation from all people of
diverse ethnic and economic sectors.

Vigil organizers stated, "African-American activists associated with
the Mt. Pleasant Task Force have supported plenty of rallies for other
people and causes. It's time to come to the aid of our
African-American Sisters and Brothers. It takes the whole community to
aid in the healing of the victim's families and overcome the fear and
horror felt by the people of Mt. Pleasant."

The impact on the children of the Mt. Pleasant area is a special concern. What
fears are they living with? These fears are known by all the children
of many of Cleveland's poor, ethnic communities and religious faiths.
The fear of someone coming for them in the night, losing their
parent(s), or being hungry or homeless.

Organizers proclaimed, "the women and children of Mount Pleasant area
deserve to feel safe and secure. All women deserve relief from the
fear of being preyed upon."

Many ethnic communities have experienced this scale of racism in the
USA, in our jaded history. Fear-mongering against certain races or
faiths in this nation disparages the integrity of the US, it divides the nation,
perhaps by design; it divides the cities and the neighborhoods

Cleveland and Cuyahoga County are highly segregated There are Black
neighborhoods, and Latino neighborhoods, and White suburbs; and the
list goes on. This has a detrimental effect on the viability of the
underprivileged sectors, perpetuating unemployment, poverty, poor
education, breakdown of family structure, increased crime, children in fear,
and at-risk, and further disparity between rich and poor.

From Palestine to Kabul, to Baghdad to Cleveland, Ohio, human rights
suffer for the sake of colonial wars and occupations perpetrated by the US
and its corporate and military allies. The exorbitant military expenditures of the US
leave few resources for meaningful economic recovery for the nation's cities and peoples.

Governmental and social neglect of human rights and dignity of the
poor, and people of color, breeds crime, violence, and despair in our


Monday, November 9, 2009

Origins of the People's Forum

Spaces Gallery
By Kim Hill and Don Bryant

“We may have all come on different ships but we’re all in the same boat now,” said Ted Guerry about the State of the People Forum on Friday night. Guerry represents the community group, Black on Black Crime, and he was quoting Martin Luther King.

The Forum was held at Spaces Gallery coinciding with it exhibition, “Bi-Lingual,” combining the works of African American and Latino American artists.

African American speakers described the lack of employment, failed schools, gang and police violence, and unfairness in the judicial process which results in tragedy for so many young people. The Wall of Sorrow in East Cleveland contained the names of 2000 young people lost to urban killings.

Ruth Standingford, of Peace in the Hood, reported on the recent national gang summit in Kansas seeking to reduce urban violence.

Priscilla Cooper of the Family Connection Center explained that welfare reform has forced many mothers into “voluntary” community service, which she called virtual “slavery,” rather than providing real job training in NE Ohio’s depressed economy.

The Lucasville Five Committee representative, Sharon Danann, spoke of the wrongful convictions of Lucasville, Ohio prisoners, now on "death row."

Local Arab Americans and Muslims were represented as well. A Muslim American prison chaplin noted the disproportionate US rate of incarceration of Black Americans.

Julia Shearson, Director of the Council on American Islamic Relations,
Cleveland office, described how US authorities violate the constitutional
rights of Americans of Muslim faith, including the totally unsubstantiated
designation of Ms. Shearson as a "suspected terrorist." Ms. Shearson
was detained and handcuffed as she attempted to return to the US with
her four year-old daughter,in 2006, as they returned from a vacation to Canada.

Psychologist Evelyn Rivera described the abuses suffered by immigrants and their families in Ohio. She deplored the post-traumatic stress disorder suffered by children, due to racial-profiling against their Latino parents, often U.S. citizens, as parents are imprisoned in workplace raids and deported.

Alejandro Rivera (not related) noted America’s cynicism in bringing in Hispanic laborers to do many of our most grueling and necessary jobs and then discarding them as “throw-aways.”

Sarah Sommers of the InterReligious Task Force on Central America spoke about the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), passed by Congress under the Clinton administration, which drives family farmers off their land in Central America and Mexico, resulting in their migration into the US seeking jobs to help their families simply survive.

A Palestinian American, Nader Mustafa, and others, reported on human rights violations in the so-called “War on Terror.” As the US and Israel collaborate on this “war,” there are massive human rights abuses not just in Iraq but also in Gaza and the West Bank supported by billions of US tax dollars. Iran, Afghanistan and perhaps Pakistan portend more trouble ahead.

Jewish-American peace activist, David Berenson, discussed the toll war takes on our own soldiers, Iraqi people, Afghan people, and on needed social programs, which are starved of tax dollars diverted into the military. He also criticized "environmental racism."

Maria Smith and her husband, Presbyterian minister, Charlie Hurst, described non-violence and tax resistance against our militarized culture.

Kim Hill, who taught school, in the 1960s in the Hough area, and in Lebanon, focused on the combination of racism, poverty, and violence resulting from our policies toward the “Third World.” This third world exists not only in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Latin American but also here at home, internal to the US. The cost for the Bush administration’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, though predicted to cost just $50 billion, are now estimated at between $3 trillion and $7 trillion dollars!

Several members of the audience made closing statements. Norma Freeman warned against catching the “disease”of the dominant culture. American ethnic groups must not fall into the divide and conquer trap of oppressing each other as sometimes happens in their competition for limited opportunities in the American economy.

Evelyn Rivera urged unity in the future, that the groups assembled must seek mutual understanding, cooperation and projects for unified action.

Yoshiko Ikuta, who lived through World War II as a child in Japan, drew loud applause when she said the issue is "human rights."

Alicia Kirkman, whose 17-year-old son was shot in the back and killed by Cleveland police in 2007, called for equal justice as promised in the US Constitution.

Sam Phillips, a video journalist of grassroots groups and community action events in NE Ohio, reminded everyone of the $700 billion “cash for trash” bail-out under consideration in Congress at the very moment we were meeting at Spaces. Politicians should not be allowed to abandon Americans living along West 25th Street, Lorain, Cedar or Warrensville as they desperately try to save Wall Street.

Don Bryant, of the Immigrant Support Network, which organized the Forum, thanked all participants and the volunteers who worked to make the event possible.

Special thanks go out to Angelica Pozo, the Curator of the Spaces exhibit, to Nicole Edwards, the communications manager of Spaces, and to Liberation Brew Cable TV programmers. Panelists: Nava Ibrahim, social worker, Saudi-American Muslim; David Berenson, the Green Party and Cleveland Peace Action; Priscila Cooper, Family Connection Center; Don Freeman, co-editor of Vibration magazine; Ted Guerry, Black on Black Crime; Kim Hill, Middle East Peace Forum; Nader Mustafa, Palestinian American and Iraq war vet; Alejandro Rivera, Mexican-American community activist; Julia Shearson, Council on American Islamic Relations; Evelyn Rivera, psychologist; Charles Hurst, Presbyterian minister, war tax resistor; Maria Smith, nonviolence activist, war tax resistor, Sarah Sommer, InterReligious Task Force on Central America; Ruth Standingford, Peace in the Hood on youth violence; David McCarthy, Muslim chaplan; Sharon Danann, Lucasville Defense Committee; Lady Dove, domestic violence survivor. Thanks go out to those who helped plan and put on the event for Immigrant Support Network: Vera Hall, Liz Lavelle, Yoshiko Ikuta, Linda Park, Nava Ibrahim, Don Bryant, Janet Loehr, Stewart and Valerie Robinson, Kim Hill and Anna Ruiz.