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Thursday, April 30, 2020

Allegations of Sexism, Racism and Intimidation Lodged at Akron Art Museum

Posted By on Thu, Apr 30, 2020 at 2:51 PM

click image Akron Art Museum - FLICKR: PHOTO BY "OZINOH"
  • Flickr: Photo by "OZinOh"
  • Akron Art Museum
The Akron Art Museum may have used the coronavirus pandemic as a convenient excuse to purge its staff of those who had complained about mismanagement and called for the removal of a CEO known for racist language.

A scorching story published Thursday by Art News disclosed allegations of racism, sexism and intimidation against museum leadership. All but one of 27 employees who signed a 2019 letter to the board of trustees outlining these complaints have either resigned, been fired, or were laid off during the Covid-19 shutdown.

The story quotes multiple former employees on the culture at the museum — "chaotic, disorganized, and unstable" — and describes a series of gasp-worthy incidents of racist and sexist language and behaviors. The women were forced to scrub floors while the men got to set up exhibits, for example. Members of the facilities staff, (among the most racially diverse departments at the museum), were banned from the employee break room and asked to to take breaks in the boiler room.
After an investigation led by an outside law firm in response to the letter, the Akron Art Museum's board of trustees elected to retain CEO Mark Masuoka, a decision that "rankled" the staff. Many of the workplace culture issues were thought to stem directly from him.
Employees said that their decision to pen a letter of complaint was prompted by Masuoka’s firing of the museum’s former education director, who had pushed for greater diversity, equity, and inclusion while at the institution. Three employees also told ARTnews that Masuoka used derogatory language in a meeting to describe the city’s black population, calling them “Summit Lake people,” a reference to a poor Akron neighborhood with a large African American community. According to the employees, Masuoka said that black visitors from Akron wouldn’t be able to access the mobile applications the museum developed because they used “throwaway gangster phones.”
Many of the museum's staff have now either been laid off or have had hours reduced in light of the pandemic. But the museum's public and private messaging has not been aligned. Executives told the press that some of the 35 full-time employees would be furloughed or have hours reduced, but that everyone would receive full wages until May 1.

But several staff members received emails that very day saying they were effectively laid off and that their final paychecks would arrive on April 17. As of the story's publication, the laid-off employees had not received their checks or had been underpaid for previous hours worked.

The full story is absolutely worth a read.

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Cleveland Bagel Hopes to Reopen West-Side Shop Around the Middle of May With East-Side Location to Follow

Posted By on Thu, Apr 30, 2020 at 2:07 PM

  • Photo by Doug Trattner
Dan Herbst and Geoff Hardman knew right away that they were not going to be able to continue making bagels at the east- and west-side locations of Cleveland Bagel. The week leading up to Governor DeWine’s restaurant shutdown order grew tenser by the day, culminating with a decision to stop production that coincided with DeWine’s.

“Saturday was so tense, with the staff and customers starting to get freaked out and everyone thinking that everyone else was a mini Chernobyl,” Herbst recalls. “After the press conference the next day, we shut it all down.”

The old-fashioned production method involves the hand-shaping, boiling and baking of thousands of bagels in close quarters – an arrangement that is the opposite of physical distancing, Herbst explains.

“We don’t use machines, we use people working together around the production table and it’s hard to maintain social distancing,” he notes.

Armed with more data and time to reflect, Herbst says that Cleveland Bagel is looking to get back in the bagel biz by the middle of May.

“We have a tentative plan to open up in a smaller fashion, but we want to do it right; we don’t want to contribute to any second wave,” he adds.

That means a scaled-back menu, fewer customers in the shop at one time, a requirement that all shoppers and staff wear masks and maybe even temperature checks at the door.

All of the above is predicted on the procurement of essential equipment like touchless thermometers, masks and hand sanitizer. And then there’s the issue of rounding up enough warm bodies to work two smaller shifts instead of one larger team. Herbst says that despite paying his employees a wage of $15 per hour or more, not all of them are eager to return.

“Out of a staff of 30 people, only seven said they were willing to come back right now,” Herbst admits. “Some are terrified, or if their situation is better on unemployment they don’t want to come back to work part-time. And who knows what’s going to happen with this virus. They might shut everything down again in a month or two.”

That said, the goal is to reopen the west-side shop by May 14th or 15th with the east-side shop to follow.

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Springtime for Cleveland and Cum Trees

Posted By on Thu, Apr 30, 2020 at 1:43 PM

  • Avia Venefica, FlickrCC

Perhaps you haven't noticed because you've been obeying Ohio's stay-at-home order, but springtime in Cleveland is coming and the surest way to confirm that news is to walk by any local Bradford pear tree, which is, and has been for the last ten days or so, enthusiastically indicating this truth.

Their pungent, distinctively semen-y wafts have been disgusting bystanders in America since they were brought over by the U.S. Department of Agriculture from their native habitat in China some 70 years ago. Since then, Americans have realized that not only do they smell bad but that they are particularly virulent, sprouting just about everywhere you don't want them to and dominating whatever they come into contact with, nature wise. They're also able to do that while being shockingly weak themselves, with branches brittle enough to be snapped easily in mildly stormy weather, like the male ego itself.

The invasive species has largely fallen out of favor since the 1980s when it was planted everywhere, but plenty of suburbs still line subdivisions with this hideous tree and its funk, which isn't even its worst quality.

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Michigan-Based Beyond Juicery & Eatery Will Open in Downtown Cleveland

Posted By on Thu, Apr 30, 2020 at 1:19 PM

  • Beyond Juicery & Eatery

Beyond Juicery & Eatery, a Michigan-based chain that recently signed a deal to open 20 franchises in Ohio, will plant a flag in Cleveland at Public Square in the spot most recently occupied by J. Gumbo's.

With signage up, it's time for Cleveland to get acquainted with Beyond, which offers options, as the name suggests, beyond juice.

The health-focused menu with plenty of vegan items includes smoothies, fruit cups, wraps and salad bowls. With the current shutdowns, Beyond has been offering boxed packages of fruits, veggies and mixers to make or assemble at home.

Founded in 2005, the chain is a back-to-back-to-back winner for Best Juice in Scene's sister paper's annual Best of Detroit voting.

Beyond's corporate office didn't immediately respond to inquiries about a possible opening date, but we'll update you if and when we hear back.

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Rock Hall Van to Bring Music to Neighborhoods and Food Distributions

Posted By on Thu, Apr 30, 2020 at 11:58 AM

  • Courtesy of the Rock Hall
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame temporarily shuttered last month to help stop the spread of coronavirus, but it’s still promoting the importance of rock 'n’ roll.

Beginning today, it’s sending Joy Ride, a branded Rock Hall van, to neighborhoods, food distributions and “celebratory activities” where social distancing protocols are in place.

The van will be at the Greater Cleveland Food Bank’s drive-thru distribution at the Muni Lot from 2 to 5 p.m. this afternoon.

“The Joy Ride’s appearances highlight music’s ability to connect and bring us together while delivering on the Rock Hall’s mission to engage, teach and inspire through the power of rock,” reads a press release promoting the event.

In addition, Joy Ride’s playlists can be found on the Rock Hall’s Spotify channel.

The Rock Hall has also programmed its Rock Boxes located downtown Cleveland to play uplifting songs.

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Falafel Café Set to Reopen on May 4th at Uptown in University Circle

Posted By on Thu, Apr 30, 2020 at 11:38 AM

  • Falafel Cafe Cleveland
After 18 great years as one of the best Middle Eastern restaurants on Cleveland's East Side, Falafel Café closed its doors on October 31, 2018, after losing its lease at its original location at 11365 Euclid Ave. The plan was to relocate to a larger space, but those plans were delayed following the death of founder Hani Elassal.

Thanks to the determination of wife and co-founder Mae Elassal, the restaurant is indeed ready to reopen in a new location, which it will do on May 4th at the former Simply Greek spot at Uptown (11454 Uptown Ave., 216-381-1591).

“We were in University Circle when nobody was there," says Elassal. "We’ve witnessed all this change there. That’s why I want to go back, because I love my customers.”

The Middle Eastern restaurant has signed a three-year lease with options to extend.

Falafel Café will feature many of the same Mediterranean soups, salads, pita sandwiches and vegan dishes, including desserts.

“We are pleased to provide Mae the opportunity to reopen her restaurant in Uptown,” said Kevin Slesh, the university’s director of real estate, who manages lease negotiations. “Falafel Café was a University Circle pioneer, a staple, and we’re thrilled to see its return.”

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Belmont Could Be The Next "Hot Spot" Ohio Prison, Full Unit Likely Infected with COVID-19

Posted By on Thu, Apr 30, 2020 at 11:33 AM

  • ODRC
The most recent numbers provided by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction show the continued spread of COVID-19 in Ohio prisons. Twenty-nine inmates and two officers have now died from the virus, and more than 3,600 have tested positive across the state's 27 facilities.

The vast majority of confirmed cases, and all but two of the deaths, have occurred at Marion and Pickaway Correctional Institutions, where facility-wide testing earlier this month revealed the extent of the outbreak. At Pickaway, 21 inmates and one officer have died. 

The Ohio Capital Journal reported Thursday that Belmont Correctional Institution, near the Ohio-West Virginia border, looks to be the next "hot spot" in the state prison system. An ODRC spokeswoman said that there was a unit within Belmont in which all residents had been exposed to COVID-19 and were "likely positive.” She did not say how many inmates lived in the unit, but claimed that they were being "quarantined."

(Per the ODRC's definition, quarantining means "separating and restricting the movement" of those who have been exposed to the virus. All but four of the state's prisons, and indeed all the inmates at Belmont, are supposedly in quarantine.)

Like other Ohio prisons, Belmont is far over capacity, which exacerbates the challenges of social distancing in congregant settings. When Scene spoke with HIV-positive inmate Derek Lichtenwalter, whose request for early release was denied in March, he said that he could reach out and touch five or six people at any time when in his bunk. 

"There's no adherence at all to social distancing," he told Scene. "It's impossible. It's not even impractical. It's just impossible."

The description was echoed by an inmate in the Capital Journal story, who said that inmates "can lay on our racks and hold each other’s hands. That's how close we are." 

Gov. Mike DeWine said in a press conference this month that any prison which becomes a "hot spot" would undergo mass testing. Belmont has not yet tested inmates in a comprehensive way. They are currently testing only those with symptoms, and it's unclear at what infection level the facility becomes a "hot spot," according to the state. Right now, 37 inmates have tested positive and an additional seven are in isolation. 

If infections at Belmont explode, resulting in deaths and costly intensive care for dozens if not hundreds of inmates, DeWine will be to blame. His refusal to release or relocate a significant number of prisoners during the pandemic has made the ODRC a national disgrace and is the strongest counterargument to the consensus about DeWine's COVID-19 response.

The governor has been lauded locally and nationally, even though he is now coming under fire for flip-flopping on state directives related to mask usage (as he yields to pressure from the worst and dumbest humans alive: members of the Ohio Business Community). But he has shown an utter lack of leadership and humanity on the prison issue.

Incarcerated Ohioans are still Ohioans. They're humans, too. 

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