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.

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