African American Philanthropy Summit and Station Hope

On Saturday, April 26th, we attended the third biennial African-American Philanthropy Summit presented by the African American Philanthropy Committee of the Cleveland Foundation at Corporate College East in Warrensville Heights. This year’s summit was titled “100 Acts of African-American Philanthropy” which was attended by about 100 people who were treated to an opening speech by Dr. R.A. Vernon of the Word Church; two workshops dealing with what philanthropy is and pragmatic ways to engage in the process of giving; and a luncheon keynote which consisted of noted scholar Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. being interviewed on stage by Russ Mitchell of Channel 3.
One of the workshops that we chose to attend was conducted by Robert F. McDowell, Jr. of Keybank who discussed the various vehicles available for philanthropy like charitable trusts, charitable gift annuities, and planned gifts.

We also attended a very good one about understanding the motivation which inspires people to give, conducted by Dr. Jason Carthen of Jason Carthen Enterprises, Jimmy Malone of WMJI, and Alonzo Mitchell of Ohio Homecoming, Inc.

Each of these participants had meaningful things to say. Mr. Vernon talked about the mentoring that he does and said that we must empower people to take charge of their own lives so that they can ultimately give back by giving to others. Mr. Mitchell reminded us that the concept for the popular hero Superman originated in Cleveland and said that we keep waiting for Superman to come back and save Cleveland but we need to do it ourselves instead. And Jimmy Malone said that no one can do it alone and if we don’t talk to each other today and don’t build the necessary alliances then this conference has no meaning.

From what we observed at the opening program, workshops and lunch, people were indeed talking with each other and the summit had a very positive aura about it.

Saturday evening we decided to visit St. John’s Episcopal Church in the Ohio City area because we heard that there was some sort of a block party going on there. We were very pleasantly surprised to find out that it was a dazzling, multi-arts affair titled “Station Hope” which celebrated the triumphs of the underground railroad in Cleveland and the significant role in its success played by St. John’s Church, known as Station Hope.

This wonderful event was presented by the Cleveland Public Theater; Ohio City, Inc., and Ward 3 Councilman Joe Cimperman. Among the people that we recognized and said hello to were Ohio State Representatives Nickie Antonio and Bill Patmon as well as James Levin who founded the Cleveland Public Theatre.

We got to take part in an interactive discussion about slavery and the underground railroad and we observed several brief but telling performances of dance, theater, storytelling, and music that took place within the parish hall, the sanctuary and the basement beneath the church which,on this evening, reminded us of catacombs.

But, above all, there was Councilman Cimperman, who had worked so hard on this event and seemed to be delighted by the number of people who turned out on a Saturday night to take part in it. Councilman Cimperman really made an effort to greet and shake hands with everybody there which made them feel very welcome.

Everyone there also got a souvenir program which read at the bottom, “a block party with a purpose, an arts event for the people, a celebration of hope”. This was most appropriate.