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Out & About in Cleveland

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For the Love of Cleveland: The Power of Place

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On Friday, May 18th, the City Club of Cleveland kicked off its "For the Love of Cleveland: The Power of Place " series so all of the attendees were treated to a free lunch via the "Cleveland Foundation" which is the presenting sponsor of the series along with the "Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District" and "PNC". 

As our program notes read in part:

"Urbanist and activist Jane Jacobs famously said: 'Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.' 

While not an urban planner by training, Jacobs is considered a trailblazer in the field and was a firm believer in the importance of local residents having input on how their neighborhoods develop. Decades later, Jacobs' insights are still relevant. Places are not just created by architects, engineers, and urban planners. We've come to understand that cities and their residents engage in an active, symbiotic relationship-we create places and, in turn, those places create and sustain us, both in visible and invisible ways. Today this process is often referred to as placemaking. Effective placemaking can bring people together, create a more equitable society, and foster economic development..."  

Accordingly, the speaker for the day was Ms. Erin Barnes, Co-Founder and Executive Director of "ioby" (see https://www.ioby.org/about and https://www.ioby.org/about/people/erin-barnes) that "mobilizes neighbors who have good ideas to become powerful citizen leaders  who plan, fund, and make positive change in their own neighborhoods" through the creation of "a future in which our neighborhoods are shaped by the powerful good ideas of our own neighbors." All told, it has helped to launch more than 1,400 projects throughout the United States. 

Ms. Barnes is quite an accomplished individual who was recently named as one of the 20 Obama Fellows for 2018 chosen from 20,000 initial applicants. As we read on its we, read on its website (see https://www.obama.org/fellowship) the "Obama Foundation Fellows are a diverse set of community-minded rising stars-organizers, inventors, artists, entrepreneurs, educators, and more-who model the powerful truth that we each have an important role to play in civic life. By engaging their communities to work together in new and meaningful ways, Obama Foundation Fellows are leading transformational change on many of the world's more pressing problems."

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In the course of her presentation, Ms. Barnes gave a poignant account of an incident in which an African-American couple came to her family's door in Brooklyn, New York requesting that a petition be signed to enable them to move into the neighborhood  which they couldn't do due to the restrictive race covenants that were in place at the time. Even though Ms. Barnes was only 12-13, she was so obviously moved by the couple's plight that they said she could sign the petition if she really wanted to and she did. 

This incident motivated her to become socially responsible and eventually "ioby" was established. As we read on its website, (see https:///www.ioby.org/campaign/cleveland)since March of 2016 "ioby has trained over 1,300 Clevelanders to plan, fund, and build positive change in neighborhoods across the city, gathered over 350 brilliant ideas for local community projects, and supported over 125 project leaders in launching their crowdfunding campaigns. Together these leaders have raised nearly $200,000 in small donations to make Cleveland neighborhoods safer, greener, more livable and more fun."  

Along these lines, Ms. Barnes really praised the work of Ms. Gwen Garth, Ms. Kaela Geschke, and Mr. Tom O' Brien all from "Neighborhood Connections" all of whom she has known for years. Happliy, they were all present at the City Club to hear her speak. Ms. Barnes went on to tell us that she believed that Ms. Garth's "A Bridge that Bridges" project was particularly inspiring (see https://www.ioby.org/project/bridge-bridges) because  it "engages diverse community members in a conversation on race while creating a community mural." 

During the Q and A, Ms. Barnes shared with us cases wherein foreign-born people living in the United States have taken part in "ioby" projects. One of these concerned an international student living in Atlanta, GA who organized a movement that resulted in bus schedules being posted at the bus stops and another involved a powerful art project about the familial impact of deportations created by a person living in Memphis, TN who immigrated to the United States from Mexico and just recently became a U.S. citizen. 

Ms. Barnes closed the program by telling us about a recent conversation that she had with former U.S. President Barack Obama in which the latter compared the work of leaders to dropping pebbles in a lake because pebbles cause ripples in the water which have the potential to ultimately become waves. 

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC