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Last Program of "For the Love of Cleveland: The Power of Place" Series on Public Square

On Tuesday, June 26, we attended the City Club's last program of the For the Love of Cleveland: The Power of Place series. This series took place each Tuesday of June on Public Square and was sponsored by the Cleveland Foundation with support from the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District and PNC.

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Today the focus was on Narrative: If These Places Could Talk because, as stated in the program notes, "it can be argued that what is most powerful about place is not the structures themselves, but the stories we tell about them. The stories that matter most are the ones we tell ourselves. What stories are we telling about Cleveland? Are we the Rust Belt or the Medical Capital? Are we a segregated city or one teeming with diversity? What does it mean if we are both? How can these stories either hold us back through isolation or propel us forward through connection and shared humanity?"

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So on this day, Mr. Rick Jackson, Senior Host/Producer at Ideastream moderated a conversation between three media operatives who have spent time interviewing people in Cleveland about the places that surround them and how these places figure in their lives. These three people were:

  • Mr. Justin Glanville, Writer/Producer of Sidewalk LLC
  • Ms. Carol Malone, Communications Fellow with Neighborhood Connections. Prior to the start of the program, we talked to Ms. Malone for a few minutes and learned that her father used to work for what formerly was the Ohio Bureau of Employment Service, housed in the very building on Chester Avenue where Margaret W. Wong & Associates LLC is now located.
  • Mr. Johnathan Streeter, a high school student at John Hay School of Science and Medicine and a Writer/Producer at Making Our Own Stories aka MOOS.

In the course of the conversation, we learned from these skilled operatives (and Mr. Jackson lent us his voice of experience, too) that places that outsiders may regard as bad neighborhoods are not necessarily so to the people who actually live there with good reason. From their work, the panelists learned that nothing beats actually going into these places and interviewing residents about what these places mean to them and the experiences they have there in order to get balanced, realistic views of what that place was all about. 

Basic rules seemed to be that nothing is as black and white as an outsider believes it to be, and it is all a matter of individual perception, which we all have the right to have. Unfortunately, the major media outlets (public and commercial) only have a certain amount of time to tell a story, so it is up to people like Mr. Glanville, Ms. Malone, and Mr. Streeter to provide truly in-depth coverage via vehicles like podcasts.

During the Q and A, we asked about the perspectives of people who have immigrated to the United States from other countries. Accordingly, Mr. Glanville recalled attending a naturalization ceremony and talking to the new citizens. He learned that several of them initiallly settled in a "magnet city" like New York or Chicago but decided to re-locate to Cleveland because they found it to be more accessible and truly vibrant. 

Mr. Glanville expressed his admiration for the foreign-born because he believes it takes a lot of courage to leave one's native land and start all over in a new environment. Likewise, Mr. Jackson reminded us that conditions in Ohio would be a lot worse without immigrants because they replaced a lot of the native-born Ohioans who had left the state in recent years.

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Mr. Streeter shared with us that quite a few young people from such countries as China, India, and Africa are his classmates at John Hay, and it bothered him that they are sometimes treated with rudeness. Many times this is due to a culture clash; for instance, in one culture it is appropriate to wipe one's plate after a meal with a piece of bread and then eat the bread as a compliment to the chef, but others not acquainted with the culture might find this practice distasteful. To his credit, Mr. Streeter advocates dialoguing with all parties to create mutual understanding and doing whatever he can to prevent other students from being harassed or bullied. 

Another word about place that concerns the place where we were was Public Square; Ms. Stephanie Jansky of the City Club reminded us that Public Square means a lot of things to a lot of people, so on this occasion a phone booth was set up nearby so that all of us  could call a phone number and record our own special memories of Public Square. Ms. Jansky wasn't sure at the time how these stories/memories would be used but assured us they would be archived and eventually "something cool" would be done with them.

We, ourselves, recorded our memory of attending a rally in Public Square quite a few years ago in which participants adapted the tune of the song, "We are the World" to "Please Stay LeBron" while waving placards. Needless, to say, LeBron didn't stay, but...as we all know...he did come back.

 

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison

Margaret W. Wong & Associates LLC

Aimee Jannsohn