I believe in Cleveland, Ohio. Those who haven’t lived here may be unaware of how down on themselves Clevelanders can be. Our self-deprecation is fairly unique and surprising to many visitors. I, however, have been unapologetically in love with my hometown for as long as I can remember.
I love the crowds and the sweet smells that fill the West Side Market on a summer Saturday. I love Tremont’s monthly art walk, where you can sip wine and peruse local galleries. I love the view of Terminal Tower from the west shoreway. Did you know that Cleveland Browns Stadium is not yet named after a bank or dot com? You’ve got to love that! I love hearing Frank Sinatra singing from the radios into the streets of Little Italy. I love walking the long corridors of the Cleveland Clinic, knowing that miracles are performed there every day. I love the crash of waves and wind on the shores of Lake Erie, and the accompanying quiet that fills me.
So my heart breaks when I am reminded of our city’s substantial poverty. In 2008 we were the nation’s second poorest big city. On a recent cross-town drive, I recalled why we were awarded such notoriety. We drove several miles down a main road and saw not one legitimate grocery store – here groceries are sold in small corner shops with bars on their windows. I saw boarded up houses, crumbling front porches. I saw empty concrete lots flaunting tall weeds. Not many people walked the streets, but I knew they were in there. People without jobs, without cars. People who move too frequently, whose children lack stability. Families torn apart by violence. People barely getting by, falling through the cracks of a society eager to forget them.
I don’t know when Cleveland fell ill, who is to blame or what it would take to fix it. There are signs of hope – regular people doing amazing things. I applaud City Fresh, whose program brings fresh produce from local farms to the urban “food deserts” so people don’t have to rely on fast food or convenient stores. There is Great Lakes Brewing Company, whose thriving business is a model for sustainable entrepreneurship. And there is St. Martin dePorres High School, a college preparatory school serving the inner city – 100% of this year’s graduates were accepted to college.
Perhaps this love of my hometown inspired me to join the political scene of 2008, to volunteer for Obama’s campaign. Yes, his message of hope won me over. I want to believe that he can change the course of this nation…and my city. I believe in Cleveland and its people. I believe that we are capable of great transformation. We are strong. Dynamic. We have important skills and knowledge. Last year the Cleveland Cavs adopted the motto “Rise Up” as the playoffs approached. I believe that we as a city can rise again. So rise up, Cleveland. Rise up.
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