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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

50 Years After Cleveland's 1968 Race Relations and Mass Media Conference, We Still Suck at Reporting on People of Color

Posted By on Wed, Sep 5, 2018 at 2:49 PM

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • Wikimedia Commons
Ten months after Carl B. Stokes took office as Cleveland's 51st Mayor, and the first black elected mayor of any major U.S. city, the Community Relations Board of the City of Cleveland held the Race Relations and Mass Media Conference, melding the minds of Cleveland's marginalized communities and local news outlets.

The goal of the conference was to find ways to "bridge the racial news gap," and a report of the event was recently made available thanks to the always incredible work of the Digital Preservation department at the Cleveland Public Library. The report is a digest of many hours of taped dialogue in which members of the community and the mass media engaged in an attempt to examine themselves and each other. This report sought to go beyond reporting what was said, and instead serve as an interpretation of what was meant by what was said.

The Community Relations Board provided the report hoping that media officials would study the results of the Conference and better conduct themselves in how they handle stories about people of color and the issues that impact their communities. Fifty years later, this report reads like it could have been written yesterday.

Bertram Gardner, at the time the Executive Director of the Community Relations Board asked the media to show "an understanding of the impact of everything it does in the community and that the turn of a phrase, the use of a word, the choice of an expression, all have relevancy and impact and require responsibility."

An example of this is something called coded language, a word or phrase that appears to mean one thing to the general population but has an additional, different, or more specific resonance for a targeted subgroup. The report calls out Cleveland's most dubious use of coded language, the phrase "east siders."

Even today, media outlets and individuals say "east side" or "east siders" to mean "black people." Crime reporting often features "Shooting on East Side" in its headlines, a way to continue perpetuating the narrative that crime is committed in communities of color. This was a critique of the media 50 years ago, and a quick look at the comments on any Scene, The Plain Dealer or Cleveland.com article show that it's still a problem today.

The report asserts that the problem of the white-lead media is one of perspective, that white reporters have deeply rooted problems of conscious and unconscious racism. "I wonder if what we're hearing is that whites tend to talk about 'problems' and the black community is telling us about life...it isn't just a problem to them, it's life," it said.

And this is true. We as news outlets still tend to talk about gentrification in broad terms, analyzing the devastating effects of something like the housing crisis, with many outlets failing to identify that it disproportionately impacts communities of color. Sure, saying "the housing market is bad for Cleveland" sounds inclusive, but it's also discounting how detrimental it is for poor communities and people of color, who are statistically hurt the most.

The report cited an article printed in Cleveland after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. The former head of the Congress of Racial Equality, Floyd McKissick, was being guarded by two armed black men, fearing for his safety post assassination. The charges were dropped by the city, but news outlets failed to report the dismissal, instead reporting on the front page that two black men had been arrested on charges of carrying concealed weapons.

"You're missing the point if you think we got hung-up on the newspaper article," a community representative said. "The article is just a microcosm of the kind of treatment the Negro community gets all the time."

The closest comparison we could make to a situation like this is the police justification coverage some outlets gave in the killing of Tamir Rice. Almost five decades after this conference, and black communities are still plagued by unfair media coverage that paints them as villainous, and in turn, reflects the unfair treatment they receive in their daily lives.

Below are screenshots from the report's capsule judgements of the conference as a whole. It's almost painful to read, because it legitimately looks like it could be the twitter feed of Fox News and those that are critical of their reporting. The "fair and objective" comment from the media is only a synonym away from being the delusional Fox News motto of "fair and balanced."

COURTESY OF THE CLEVELAND PUBLIC LIBRARY
  • Courtesy of the Cleveland Public Library
COURTESY OF THE CLEVELAND PUBLIC LIBRARY
  • Courtesy of the Cleveland Public Library

It's important to note that this conference was held only three months after the Glenville Riots which occurred after gunfire was exchanged for roughly four hours between the Cleveland Police Department and the Black Nationalists of New Libya. During the first day of the riots, mayor Carl B. Stokes, refused to allow white police officers to patrol the area but when African-American leaders in the neighborhood were unable to quell the violence, the Ohio Army National Guard and the rest of the Cleveland Police flooded the area to stop the violence.

Financial losses caused by the riots were estimated at about $2.6 million, and proved to be the political death knell of Mayor Stokes' Cleveland: Now! redevelopment effort to fight the problems in Cleveland's inner city.

A white member of the media was not named in the report, but accused the black community of "nitpicking," while another executive moaned, "Anything we do, you turn around and blame it on race."

Today, "nitpicking" has evolved into what many of the plentiful comments on Scene's Facebook page would call "race-baiting." We try our hardest to cover the racial disparities within Cleveland, and without fail, every time, people accuse our publication of race-baiting. Addressing legitimate and research backed realities is not race-baiting, it's providing fair and factual information to the public.

Many people like to believe we live in a post-racial society, but the unfortunate reality, as proven by this report, is that much like our map of redlining inspired segregation, not much has changed.

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The Great Lake Erie Boat Float Returns to Edgewater Park This Saturday

Posted By on Wed, Sep 5, 2018 at 1:35 PM

COURTESY OF THE GREAT LAKE ERIE BOAT FLOAT
  • Courtesy of The Great Lake Erie Boat Float

Presented by Sustainable Cleveland and the Cleveland Metroparks, the 10th Annual Great Lake Erie Boat Float returns to Edgewater Beach this Saturday. Part design competition, part boat race, participants take to the lake to test the seaworthiness of human-powered boats made completely out of upcycled post-consumer materials.

For the last 10 years, this event has raised awareness about the impacts of plastics on the environment, in particular oceans, lakes and streams.

As we've covered before in Scene, local efforts, including plastic straw bans, have gained momentum in recent years to combat the plastic pollution problem, but we still have a ways to go to have plastic free lake water. Last year, Cuyahoga County council, led by councilwoman Sunny Simon, introduced an ordinance that would impose a fee on plastic bags (and paper bags) in an attempt to fund efforts to clean up Lake Erie, but that legislation has stalled.

In order to raise awareness of the pollution, all boats must be constructed of materials that have been previously used (that is, no newly purchased material, except duct tape). All materials must be clean and safe for the environment. No swimming, pushing, or towing a boat is allowed, all boats must be propelled by poles, self-made oars, paddle wheels, sails, etc. Most importantly, all racing crews must "leave behind no trace" of their boats. Boats must either be recycled or carried out. This includes any debris that may result from a boat malfunction.

In addition to the race, author Marcus Eriksen is promoting his book, Junk Raft: An Ocean Voyage and a Rising Tide of Activism to Fight Plastic Pollution, at the Beach Book Box immediately after the Boat Float trophy ceremony. Eriksen is also co-founder of the 5 Gyres Institute, studying plastic pollution worldwide, and will serve as the special guest judge.

The boat race begins at 10 a.m. at Edgewater Beach and spectators are encouraged to attend. For more information, visit the Boat Float website here.

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A Remarkable, Chamber Version of 'Jane Eyre' From Cleveland Musical Theatre is Playing Now

Posted By on Wed, Sep 5, 2018 at 1:15 PM

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When is a work of art just the right size? That is a question that comes to mind when watching the remarkable production of Jane Eyre, the musical with music and lyrics by Paul Gordon and book, with additional lyrics, by John Caird.

This production is billed as a “world premiere revised version” since it has taken the sizable show that opened on Broadway in 2000 and cut the cast and orchestra rather significantly. What we have now are ten performers, seven of whom portray multiple characters. The cast is a mix of Broadway and local Cleveland actors, and they acquit themselves splendidly in this tale of the young woman from the eponymous Charlotte Bronte novel.

The goal of the producers is to craft a show that is a manageable size, a chamber version that could more easily be attempted by small to medium-sized theater companies. That goal would appear to have been attained, since the play is a fast-moving affair thanks to the lean and inventive direction by Miles Sternfeld.

Still, the original novel presents challenges aplenty since it covers many years but not a lot of visible action. Poor Jane makes her way from one miserable situation to another while she burns, internally, for freedom from the stultifying confines of being female in 19th century England. Since most of Bronte’s most glorious work happens inside Jane’s head, it doesn’t afford opportunities for brash and bold staging.

Sternfeld and the creators amp up the wattage by having the ensemble of actors share the narration which came originally from Jane herself. And thanks to the near-constant stylized movement fashioned by choreographer Martin Cespedes, there is a sense of things happening all the time when in reality it’s pretty static.

The play is blessed with two immensely strong performers in the leads. In the title role, Andrea Goss cranks a powerful voice from her small frame, and while she isn’t as homely as Jane Eyre was said to be, one feels her vulnerability as she tries to forge a life for herself against all odds. As the wealthy Edward Rochester, Matt Bogart invests each of his songs with rich nuance that sometimes isn’t present in the words and notes.

About the music: While the show isn’t sung-through, it is often in recitative mode, and this can become a bit repetitive at times as it follows the dips and swells of a composition that, while beautiful, eventually becomes overly familiar. This situation improves in Act Two when some more distinctive songs—a humorous turn in “The Gypsy” and the equally diverting “Slip of a Girl”—drop in to break the pace.

The supporting cast does yeoman work with multiple roles as Alison England, Laura Perrotta and Gregory Violand change characters with swift assuredness. The outstandingly talented group also includes Fabio Polanco, Cody Gerszewski, Lauryn Hobbs, Emma McLelland, and Genny Lis Padilla.

What works particularly well in this production is the highly coordinated ensemble movement that often end in a variety of tableaux with well-honed body lines or gestures that convey the mood of the moment. It is fascinating to watch.

What works less well is the music when it settles into its comfortable groove and doesn’t seek out surprising new avenues to pursue. This is particularly noticeable in the three duets featuring Jane and Rochester that, while sung skillfully and with passion, never rise musically to the distinctive level one might desire. When you find yourself paying more attention to the vocal craftsmanship rather than the soaring emotion, there’s a problem.

The missing element, it seems, is some way to dramatize Jane’s inner conflict and burning desire for personal liberty while staying true to the period. Once that is in place, the mundane geography of Jane’s journey can become a battlefield (#MeTooJane), and the play will truly take flight.

“Jane Eyre” is a romance tucked inside a not-so-quiet feminist screed, down to the well-known crazy woman in the attic. Back then, the words had to be softer and the attacks more oblique back when Bronte wrote them. But this production shows a clear path to making Jane Eyre, the new revised musical version, an outstanding theatrical experience for years to come.

Jane Eyre
Through September 9, produced by the Cleveland Musical Theatre in association with Cuyahoga Community College East, Simon Rose Mandel Theatre, 4250 Richmond Road, Highland Hills, 216-584-6808, Clevelandmusicaltheatre.org.

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If nuCLEus is Ever Built, it Sure Won't be a 54-Story Skyscraper

Posted By on Wed, Sep 5, 2018 at 12:03 PM

Architect's rendering of the nuCLEus project. - NBBJ
  • NBBJ
  • Architect's rendering of the nuCLEus project.
The Plain Dealer's Michelle Jarboe published one of the more important news updates of the year yesterday. A unique Tax Increment Financing proposal for the the theoretical nuCLEus skyscraper complex is no longer being considered by the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.

Jarboe reported that Eric Gordon, CMSD's CEO, said that the TIF package was no longer on the table — the school board will not vote on it — due to "changing circumstances" which made the deal "less compelling."

"There's the very real issue of why would we be giving tax relief to this builder or any builder ... when taxes are going up," Gordon told Jarboe.

The TIF proposal would have allowed Stark Enterprises, the nuCLEus developer, to pay CMSD a one-time upfront payment of $18 million in lieu of 30 years of property tax gains, estimated at $120 million. Like other TIF dollars, that portion of the increased taxes, (which arise from increased property value), would help finance the debt on the skyscraper's construction. The disparity in Stark dollars ($18 million vs. $120 million) is extreme, but the $18 million was sold as a good deal because CMSD could have immediately applied the funds to school construction and been eligible for matching state funding: up to two dollars for every dollar spent, supposedly. Gordon, for his part, said that he believed Stark has made a good-faith effort to treat the district well.

But with rising tax values, the $120 million estimate may be low. And Jarboe reported that CMSD is currently mired in intense disputes with the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission about school construction costs and which funds may be eligible for additional state money.

If it had gone forward, it would have been the first such TIF arrangement locally. Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson has always insisted that the schools, which receive about 60 percent of property taxes, not be short-changed, so current TIFs only apply to the non-school portion of property tax increases.

After Gordon hosted a series of meetings with parents and community members last summer, the board was slated to vote on the proposal. But it stagnated.

Then, in March of this year, a bill was drafted by a Stark Enterprises financial advisor that would give investors into nuCLEus and other potential "transformational mixed-use development" projects an automatic 1o-percent rebate. The bill was championed on the merits of nuCLEus' business-attraction potential and its icon-status aspirations. 

"Can you imagine if the Terminal Tower Complex was never built, what the Cleveland skyline would look like?" Stark VP Steve Coven asked a statehouse committee in March. "You can’t, because it is forever associated with our skyline. It is our goal that our great-grandchildren will be saying the same things about the nuCLEus project 100-plus years from now."

Jarboe reported in June that the bill had been broadened considerably. Though it was tailored specifically for nuCLEus at the start, much smaller projects, including the Flats East Bank, are considered "transformational" in the bill's new language. The bill has passed the Ohio House and is pending in the Senate.

But evidently the market just isn't hot enough to build nuCLEus without additional subsidies. The project was initially pegged at 54 stories and $500 million, but plans have now changed.

"Revised plans are more modest," Jarboe wrote, "with shorter buildings, fewer apartments, more office space, no hotel — and a smaller budget. Stark also has broken the development into phases, spreading out the investment over time."

But can you imagine a nuCLEus that's not a 54-story downtown icon?







You can't. 

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Walk Through This Francisco Lindor Corn Maze at Mapleside Farms This Weekend

Posted By on Wed, Sep 5, 2018 at 11:29 AM

lindor.jpg
No matter that it still feels like summer in Northeast Ohio, corn maze season is officially kicking off this weekend.

And this ridiculously-immaculate Francisco Lindor-themed corn maze opens to the public at Brunswick's Mapleside Farms Friday.

As the farm is known for its Sports-inspired mazes, owner Greg Clement offered some insight as to why they chose the Indians player for this year's family-friendly maze, saying on Facebook: “We’ve had an incredible string of great teams here in Cleveland over the past 3-4 years and we love the way the Cleveland Indians represent our great city, and specifically how Francisco plays the game with his whole heart and soul.”
No word yet on if Lindor is planning on taking on the maze himself. We'll keep you updated as more Northeast Ohio corn mazes, apple orchards and pumpkin patches open in the weeks to come.

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'Chained for Life' Director and Star to Appear at the Cinematheque for the Film’s Local Debut

Posted By on Wed, Sep 5, 2018 at 11:24 AM

COURTESY OF THE CINEMATHEQUE
  • Courtesy of the Cinematheque
Charlie Korsmo, a Case Western Reserve University law professor and lawyer who's had roles in films such as Hook, What About Bob? and Dick Tracy, returns to the screen in Chained for Life, a new film directed by Adam Schimberg (Go Down Death).

Continue reading »

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Jim Brickman's A Joyful Christmas Coming to Severance Hall in December

Posted By on Wed, Sep 5, 2018 at 11:01 AM

COURTESY OF JIM BRICKMAN
  • Courtesy of Jim Brickman
A Northeast Ohio native, singer-pianist Jim Brickman routinely brings his Christmas tours to town in December. This year is no different. Brickman has just announced that his A Joyful Christmas tour will include a stop at Severance Hall at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 26.

Tickets are on sale now.

Special guests include singer Anne Cochran and electric violinist Tracy Silverman. The show will include “carols, classics and original songs.”

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