Dear NOAH Family,
First and foremost, I would like to thank all of those who have supported NOAH in its mission of Social Justice. The work that you have supported has given us the opportunity to change lives.
Historically it has been a part of NOAH’s mission to promote equity in communities throughout the Greater Cleveland Metropolitan Region. Currently we are addressing equity issues in the city of East Cleveland, one of the poorest, disinvested communities of our region. Within our portfolio of work in East Cleveland, we have been able to leverage regional support to address the issue of vacant and abandoned building structures as well as other issues.
Our experiences has shown us that many of the solutions that bring equity involves; the acknowledgment of the abundant amounts of resources in our region and the necessity to proactively build relationships with public and private institutions in our region to change the systems that created inequities in the first places and leverage community benefit. There is a need to inform our communities of equity issues, demonstrate how equity or inequity is connected to success of our region, identify the systems and barriers of equity in our communities and finally mobilize to eradicate inequities. Beginning with East Cleveland, we intend on raising the question of Regional and Racial Equity throughout the Greater Cleveland Region.
Equity is a term used to describe the quality of fairness or impartiality. In the context of communities, the term Regional Equity generally refers to how resources that are accumulated in a region are distributed throughout communities of that region. Racial Equity highlights that same question, but in the context of opportunity and race. In the City of East Cleveland, inequity is evident in both a regional and racial context. Whether we talk about education, health equity, infrastructure investment, incarceration rates, the retention of home values, vacant and abandoned building structures, access to regional economies, poverty and a host of other issues, our community and other communities that possess similar demographic characteristics are disproportionately more affected by these indicators in a negative way than other communities in the region.
To put this simply, if you drove through East Cleveland to University Circle (one of Cleveland’s high concentrations of wealth), without being prompted by a sign or a guide, you would be able to determine, with a very small margin of error, where East Cleveland ends and University Circle begins.
There are many reasons why communities like East Cleveland across the Greater Cleveland Metropolitan Region suffer such significant inequities. Many of these reasons are deeply rooted in the history of our region and have evolved into policies that have shaped the injustices that we see now. The contrasts between these communities are stark, yet they highlight a very encouraging fact: our region has abundant resources. Unfortunately those resources are not equitably distributed.
The long-term success of our region is connected to how well we prioritize and bring equity to every community, and every neighborhood. The question we must answer, therefore, is “how do we remove the barriers that prevent regional resources from reaching communities like East Cleveland?” To answer this question, we must identify both the external and the internal barriers.
East Cleveland currently benefits from regional institutions like the Cuyahoga County Land Re-utilization Corporation (aka the Cuyahoga County Land Bank), a relationship initiated by NOAH to help address vacant and abandoned properties. It is essential to the revitalization our community that we intentionally build more relationships like this.
As institutions like these begin to reach community, it can be seen as potential threat. There is validity in that assessment, but the tendency to see these relationships only as threats leads to non-strategic and emotional responses that can further devastate community. We must discern the potential opportunities and resources these institutions can bring and position ourselves in a way that leverages community benefit.
The revitalization of our community is more than a brick and mortar investment. It must also include an investment in everyday people. To ensure revitalization that benefits instead of victimizes our community, we must strategically and intentionally build relationships with public and private institutions as well as communities and organizations that share our values.
It is NOAH’s goal to use community organizing principles and tactics on behalf of everyday people to build strength in community, leverage relationships and exert influence in ways that have traditionally been reserved for the elite, to everyday people in community. The intimate inclusion and involvement of community in revitalization will bring accountability to the process, eliminate the effects of political rhetoric, and ensure community benefit.
We invite the building of relationships between communities, partner institutions and allies as we fight not just for equity in communities that currently don’t have it, but the entire region, because we understand that our regional success is connected to how equitable all our communities are.
NOAH Executive Director