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Partner content podcast: What does Neighbor Up do?


The latest episode of "Neighbor Up Spotlight" is now available.

"Neighbor Up Spotlight: What does Neighbor Up do?" is a 15-minute kitchen table conversation between host Carol Malone and Neighbor Up member Tom O'Brien focusing on how Neighbor Up came together and what members are doing to make change in Cleveland.

Hosted by Malone, a Cleveland resident and activist, each episode of "Neighbor Up Spotlight" focuses on members of Neighbor Up, a network of approximately 2,000 Greater Cleveland residents making positive change in their neighborhoods. This resident-driven social change movement is about bringing equity to all Cleveland neighborhoods.

Listen to “Neighbor Up Spotlight" on Soundcloud or download episodes from iTunes. Or just click below to hear the latest edition right now.




Support for this series, "Grassroots Success: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods," is provided by Neighborhood Connections.

Call for contest submissions: art on race

Fresh Water Cleveland is partnering with YWCA Greater Cleveland as they host the third annual It's Time to Talk: Forum on Race on Feb. 3. As part of this partnership, the organization is hosting an art contest.
 
Submissions depicting art about race, discrimination or race relations in our community are being accepted through Wednesday, Jan. 25 at midnight. The art might reflect the present state of racism, challenges, aspirations, symbols of hope or a problem our community has faced. Any type of visual art form is welcome, but may not exceed 48 by 96 inches. Submit digital photos or files to news@ywcaofcleveland.org with "It’s Time to Talk Art Contest" in the subject line.
 
Up to three winners will be chosen. Their art will be published in Fresh Water and displayed as part of the 2017 It’s Time to Talk: Forum on Race - Foundations for Change in order to evoke conversation. YWCA Greater Cleveland encourages high school and college students as well as community members to enter.
 
Each winner will receive a ticket to the Feb. 3 event, which will include a gallery walk of conversation-starting imagery, a discussion with Jane Campbell and Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell and a performance about Tamir Rice from Playwrights Local.

Attendees will also participate in circle conversations about race and commit to individual and community action. Tickets are $60, or $25 for students, non-profits, teachers, and seniors. The event will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Cuyahoga Community College Eastern Campus in the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Humanities Center. Register online here.

Disclaimer: Winners must live and/or work in Northeast Ohio. Winners must be able to attend It’s Time to Talk on February 3, 2017 or have a friend or family member who can attend instead. The prize(s) that may be awarded to the eligible winner(s) are not redeemable for cash or exchangeable for any other prize. No art will be given preference over any other art on the basis of an applicant’s name, school, age, employment status, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, nationality, or any legally-protected status. One entry per person allowed. Winners will be chosen by YWCA Greater Cleveland and Fresh Water Cleveland (contest hosts). Contest hosts reserve the right to expand, limit, or reduce the number of winners at any time.

By participating in the contest, each participant and winner waives any and all claims of liability against the contest hosts, their employees and agents, the sponsors of It’s Time to Talk and their respective employees and agents, for any personal injury or loss which may occur from the conduct of, or participation in, the contest, or from the use of the prize. Entries cannot be acknowledged. Contest hosts gain unrestricted access to the artwork and photos of the work until March 31, 2017. Participants agree to allow contest hosts to use their names, photographs, and art for promotional and publicity purposes. Winning work cannot be published or sold without written permission from YWCA Greater Cleveland until after March 31, 2017. By entering, participants agree to be bound by these rules and the decisions of contest hosts. Contest hosts may cancel the contest without notice at any time. The contest is void where prohibited, taxed, or restricted by law.

Affordable Internet coming to low-income Clevelanders

AT&T wants to connect low-income Clevelanders to the possibilities of the internet. And a new affordable online option provided by the communications giant is a big step towards closing the city's digital gap, company officials say.
 
AT&T, in concert with the U.S. HUD's ConnectHome initiative, is offering inexpensive internet service to qualifying area households at just $5 to $10 monthly. Rates depend on connection speed, notes Nicolette Jaworski, external affairs director for Cleveland and Toledo.
 
Families using the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are able to choose from three speed tiers - 10Mbps, 5Mbps or 3Mbps. Installation and equipment are free of charge for participating households.
 
"This is not a one-time deal," says Jaworski of the program available in 21 states where AT&T offers home internet service. "We're invested in the community and have just started to phase in the program." 
 
On November 15, AT&T and the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) held a program information session at CMHA's Lorain Square Apartments. While AT&T doesn't have a target number as to how many Clevelanders will use the service, officials expect a healthy turnout considering the benefits the internet brings to an increasingly connected planet.
 
"The world has changed in that we know how critical a home computer can be to academic success," says Jaworksi. "The internet is a resource for kids to learn at home."
 
Young people are not the only potential beneficiaries of the program. Digital literacy is a boon for senior citizens in terms of bill paying, scheduling doctor's appointments or staying in touch with loved ones. Much of workforce and development training is online-based, adding another layer of capability to the program.
 
Cleveland school districts and community organizations may become future partners in the high-tech endeavor, Jaworksi notes. AT&T would like to see robust internet as part of city policy, considering fast online speed is a key facet of competitive business. Providing such technology to the area's low-income population can serve as the foundation for a strong, well-connected region.
 
"We want to give families here the tools they need to succeed," Jaworski says. 

By empowering the people, Neighborhood Connections enables lasting grassroots change

This series of stories, "Grassroots Success: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods," explores how meaningful impact on our communities grows from the ground up. Support for "Grassroots Success" is provided by Neighborhood Connections and NewBridge Cleveland Center for Arts & Technology.
 
Increasingly, people are feeling that elected officials, leaders, and large institutions do not reflect or respect their interests, concerns, or needs. People feel polarized, left out, unseen, and not represented. At times, it can even feel like it's us verses them. One local organization, however, Neighborhood Connections and its program director Tom O’Brien, wants residents to know that we are all in this together.
 
“We don’t need to go into our corners; we need to find common ground,” says O'Brien. "This [organization] is about love and power. The love is breaking down barriers, and the power is creating change.”
 
Established in 2003, Neighborhood Connections attempts to empower Cleveland and East Cleveland citizens through grassroots programs while working with local institutions to create lasting positive change.
 
“We want to invest in human capitol,” O’Brien says. "This is neighborhood folks getting together to do good in their own neighborhoods.” He adds that the group tries to help with financial, technological, and community assets to build leadership capacity in local community members.
 
Neighborhood Connections boasts the largest small grants program in the nation, investing in resident-led projects ranging from $500 to $5,000 per grant, The organization has funded approximately 2,300 projects since 2003 totaling more than $7.5 million. Sometimes a grant is si.ply about brightening up a little corner of the world; others inspire folks to let off steam with old fashioned fun.
 
Approximately four years ago and with guidance from Trusted Space Partners’ Bill Traynor and Frankie Backburn, the group also launched Neighbor Up, which currently has more than 2,000 members. That effort encourages community members to exchange resources, support each other, and collaborate on transformative projects.
 
O’Brien says the group formed to change the environment of how people come together. It focuses on supporting individuals, providing timely information and working together to make change in the community. Residents get together to decide what they want to work on, including issues such as health and jobs. There is even an artists’ collaborative.
 
“Being involved in the public discourse can be very difficult and deflating,” notes O'Brien. “So what we’ve tried to do is change that and provide a space that is more hope-filled – and people actually get value out of it. Creating the space for people to come together to say, 'what’s the reality of what we want to create for ourselves?' instead of institutions saying 'this is what you need' – this is the plan. This is getting the people most affected together to say, 'this is what we want; this is what we need.'”
 
Organizers strive to help create an equal environment where no one dominates the meeting. There is no agenda as people sit in a circle, raise questions, and share information. Then they break off into smaller groups to discuss grassroots organizing and specifics.
 
During the initial meetings people were asking how to get jobs with large, local institutions. These discussions inspired the innovative Step Up to UH jobs pipeline project.
 
“It started as a conversation among people in this network,” O’Brien says of the effort, which identifies good candidates for jobs at University Hospital and then trains them for those positions.
 
Members also developed the Greater University Circle Community Health Initiative in hopes of lowering the infant mortality rate and abating the hazards of lead paint in Greater University Circle (Fresh Water will take a closer look at this initiative in early January).
 
During monthly Network Nights in the Greater University Circle and Buckeye neighborhoods (and in Glenville beginning in January), people make exchanges with one another, requesting and offering help and services from a ride to the doctor's office and tips on who’s hiring to assistance on painting projects, etc.
 
“We make sure there’s a level playing field in the room,” O’Brien says, “and people get value as soon as they walk [in]. It’s a place where people want to be.”
 
They also invite representatives from local institutions so community members can get to know them face to face, thus narrowing the social distance between people.

“In many ways these practices are an antidote to the rural/urban divide,” O’Brien explains. "They break down the walls between community and institutions to create something new together or get good information. There are people who are part of those institutions who can create real change. We bring people into rooms where these meetings normally wouldn’t happen.”
 
Members can also build leadership skills at Neighbor Up University, attending workshops on creating meaningful places in neighborhoods, training on community network building, and learning a variety of member-led skills on everything from marketing to running for political office.
 
O’Brien says they hope to build their network out, expanding west and even into suburbs.
 
“This approach can really make significant change,” he says. “We want to continue to crate an environment for people to come together while making bigger change. We want to make more spaces like this. We are bridging age, gender, race, orientation, social, economic differences – thousands of people from all walks of life – to make the world we want right here right now.”
 

PRISM looks to unite second cohort of racial equity leaders

This series of stories, "Grassroots Success: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods," explores how meaningful impact on our communities grows from the ground up. Support for "Grassroots Success" is provided by Neighborhood Connections.

Like light through a prism, each of us is a unique individual amid our respective neighborhoods, organizations, and jobs. But it's actually the multifaceted spectrum that makes up any group. Partners Neighborhood Connections and the Community Innovation Network at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) examine this phenomenon in PRISM, a racial equity leadership program led by Erica Merritt, Equius Group, and Adele DiMarco Kious, Yinovate, LLC.

Launched in June 2016, PRISM was created to assist area non-profit, social service, corporate, neighborhood, and other formal and informal leaders address racial equity in a safe environment. By bringing together different experiences and racial perspectives, PRISM strives to create productive dialogue in a safe environment.
 
“Twenty participants completed the PRISM experience and have continued to stay connected to each other and [further] racial equity work in our community,” Merritt says. “In fact, in November we will be launching monthly sessions for this group as a way of continuing to support their growth. This work is challenging and difficult to sustain over time without a strong support system.”
 
Erica MerrittThe first five-session program examined racism on four levels: internalized, interpersonal, institutional and structural. Participants were provided tools to assess the state of their organizations and communities. They also had the opportunity to participate in caucus groups.
 
The program consists of interactive sessions using film, mini-lectures, experiential exercises, short videos, and articles. Designed around a cohort model, a maximum of 20 participants attend five workshops, each building on the last. Interpersonal relations are also established through the sessions.
 
“We strive for a racially diverse group of participants representing a variety of institutions, community organizations and neighborhoods,” Merritt says. “The intention is for us to collectively equip and empower each other so that we may unite to truly make a change.”
 
She says participants of the first block of sessions ranged from people representing the Cleveland Public Library, CWRU, and charter schools, as well as others who came to learn how to address issues in their own neighborhoods.
 
PRISM strives to leave participants with greater self-awareness and an individualized plan with an improved capacity to dismantle racism in their neighborhoods and organizations. Many participants have kept in touch socially or have begun to work together to implement things they have learned through the sessions.
 
“Our goal is to continue striving toward racial equity in Cleveland by building a network of leaders, formal and informal, who are working towards it in large and small ways every single day,” Merritt explains, adding she'll know they have achieved this goal when Clevelanders' racial identity no longer predict how one fares statistically.
 
In addition to the next five-session PRISM program that will run from February through April, PRISM will be launching a monthly version beginning in November called R.E.A.L. (Racial Equity and Leadership) Workshops, which will serve as an entry point for individuals who want to build personal awareness around racial equity. The REAL sessions will examine the difference between equality and equity and explore practices and policies at the structural level. Merritt says the workshops will teach people about racism that extends past individual acts of meanness. Scheduled dates include Nov. 30, Jan. 10, Feb. 15, March 15 and April 12. All programs are from 6 to 8 p.m. and will be held at Neighborhood Connections, 5000 Euclid Ave., suite 310, inside the Agora.
 
“I do this work out of a great deal of optimism that we can have a better future,” Merritt says. “It’s about not wanting to repeat the past, and knowing we can create a better country. It [systemic inequity] is something that we created, so it’s something we can dismantle.”

Sixty NewBridge students graduate, look forward to professional career paths

Last Friday at Cleveland Metropolitan School District's East Professional Center, NewBridge – Cleveland's unique center for art and technology, held a graduation ceremony for five of its workforce training classes including its phlebotomy, pharmacy technician and hospital nursing assistant programs.
 
The grads included more than 60 students, each with their own story of struggle. The organization serves a mostly minority, mostly female population, with many of the students living at or below the poverty line. Many are single mothers, some of whom have been homeless. This is a story of their success against economic obstacles minorities face in Cleveland - among other challenges. NewBridge believes its program is a model for success that can be used to help revitalize the community, one person at a time.
 
The stories behind each NewBridge student will give anyone among us pause.

Whitney emigrated from Honduras and was abandoned by her family at age 14. She later became a single mother, living in homeless shelters with her seven-year-old daughter.
 
After a failed stint at Cuyahoga Community College and with few options, she heard about NewBridge and enrolled in the phlebotomy program on account of its fast track scheduling. Now with her classes complete and her hospital externships ahead, Whitney is on a solid path toward her dream of becoming a nurse. Her intention is to work during the day and take classes at Tri-C to finish her nursing degree.
 
Tasha, another of phlebotomy students, also found that Tri-C was not right for her.

A single mother with two teenage boys at home, Tasha felt she could no longer take night classes after a child was killed in her neighborhood. Since NewBridge classes are during the day, the schedule gave her more time with her sons. Tasha is also about to embark on her hospital externship, with the intention to use her phlebotomy experience as a stepping-stone to becoming a nurse.
 
"All of these are folks who were deserving of second chance – or maybe even a first chance," says NewBridge's chief development officer Stephen Langel of the latest set of graduates. "This is a culmination of all their effort and their time and sweat equity," he says, adding that some students have gotten jobs directly out of externships, while others are applying for jobs and awaiting offers. "Now they're graduating and moving on to the next stage of their life and a career path."

NewBridge’s vocational training is distinctively market-based. The center's administrators meet with local hospitals and other institutions to gauge employment needs. Then they work with those employers to develop coursework that prepares students for in-demand careers. Classes are free, but students are required to maintain a good record of attendance and behavior.
 
"It's very exciting for all of us," adds Langel of graduation day, noting that these students have overcome much and worked hard to get to this night. "They're seeing the pay-off now."

NewBridge is part of Fresh Water's underwriting support network.
 

EDWINS, Food Bank amid five nonprofits vying for funding at annual 'Nurture an Idea' event

Cleveland has rebounded in numerous ways, but there are still communities being left behind amid the city's renaissance, notes Mark McDermott, vice president and Ohio market leader for Enterprise Community Partners, Inc.
 
The locally based national nonprofit is attempting to fill that gap via its third annual Nurture an Idea Award, which supports change-making community development initiatives in Cuyahoga County. Five finalists will have their projects voted on by a live audience and a panel of judges during a public event at the Hilton Cleveland Downtown on October 24. Event partners are Ohio Savings Banka division of New York Community Bank, and the JP Morgan Chase Foundation.
 
Each idea from area nonprofit organizations addresses inequalities and creates opportunities for Cleveland's underserved population, says Kathy Matthews, program director at Enterprise. Finalists will present their plans at the free event from 4 to 7 p.m. Two winners will receive $10,000 each.
 
"We're looking to promote ideas that make a positive impact in the areas of available housing and community resources," says Matthews. "These ideas haven't been implemented, but require visibility and financial resources."
 
This year's finalists include:
 
- Cosmic Bobbins Foundation's "Cleveland Sews," a workforce development and wealth-building sewing collaborative that stitches together Cuyahoga County's social fabric
 
- EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute, which seeks to add to its culinary institute with a butcher shop located in the Buckeye/Shaker neighborhood
 
- ESOP Realty, Inc.'s home ownership program
 
- Greater Cleveland Food Bank's "Food as Medicine Initiative," which aims to provide healthy meals to low-income residents diagnosed with diabetes and other food-related illnesses
 
- Tremont West Development Corporation and Famicos Foundation for a joint real estate investment cooperative that would acquire and redevelop affordable workforce housing in Cleveland neighborhoods
 
CrowdRise campaign is raising money for implementation of the finalists' ideas and will conclude on October 24 to coincide with the public event.
 
"There's five different approaches to creating opportunity here," says McDermott. "That's what makes this program special."
 
Involving the public is key to both raising awareness and making proposals a reality, adds Matthews.
 
"Having people attend will expose them to ideas and get some creative thinking to take place," she says. "Hopefully this will give these projects an even stronger chance to get implemented."

Fresh and fun: recessCLE

This series of stories, "Grassroots Success: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods," explores how meaningful impact on our communities grows from the ground up. Support for "Grassroots Success" is provided by Neighborhood Connections.
 
Alex Robertson is smart, ambitious, and successful. And after leaving Glenville to attend Ivy League Columbia University in New York City, he returned home to share what he has gleaned and improve his neighborhood by making it more fun.
 
Robertson threw a birthday party for his entire community when he first formed the pop-up game and event organization Recess Cleveland (recessCLE). Its first event was held on his 31st birthday, August 9, 2015.
 
“Birthdays are always a good time to get people out to an event,” says Robertson. “I told my friend, for my birthday I want to throw dodge balls at you.”
 
Approximately 50 people showed up. They divided the group into age 21 and under and age 22 and older.

”The highlight of the day was a 65-year-old grandma pitching to five-year-old kids,” Robertson says. “When she was kicking, she kicked a line-drive to the outfield. So all the kids were like, ‘Granny’s got legs!’ We did get her a designated runner, though.”
 
The organization throws pop-up recess events at community functions, block parties, etc. It also hosts a monthly Glenville Community Freecess and potluck where everyone donates food or a toy or game.
 
“We bring the meat, volunteers bring sides, and residents bring chips and sodas,” Robertson says. “We go all out; it’s a lot of fun. I tell people, ‘Send us your kids. They’ll leave tired and full.’”
 
RecessCLE began by throwing last minute events with no more than a 48-hour notice, although Robertson is trying to give people more time now. The events are a free-for-all for the first hour as people show up, then they decide which sports or games to play. It may include dodge ball, kickball, and soccer with tug-o-war, hula-hooping, and jumping rope contests between. The whole event lasts more than four hours.

”It ends when the lights go out, or when the mosquitoes get to us,” he says, adding that people typically bring their entire families, with ages ranging from five to 60.
 
“I pull the double-dutch jump ropes out, and the parents’ faces light up. The kids may get two jumps in before the ropes hit the ground, and the parents have to show them how it’s done. I try to get everyone involved by taking old school games and bringing them to new school teenagers.”
 
The inspiration to form the community organization, which includes Robertson and three volunteers, was rooted deep in his childhood. He attended Glenville's St. Aloysius School through fifth grade, then University School in Shaker Heights before moving to New York and earning his degree from Columbia University. The full-time web designer and digital marketing consultant moved back to Glenville and began working with non-profits.
 
He remembered the contrast between finding things to do in the parking lot during recess at the inner-city St. Aloysius and the structured recess games organized for large groups at the suburban University School.
 
“I met kids who had never played dodge ball,” he says. “I wanted to give them something that I felt was important to me when I was a kid.”
 
Neighborhood Connections awarded Robertson a $3,000 grant in February, which he used to replace old equipment and items that were stolen. He also purchased 12 body zorb balls, which he says are the most popular item with children.
 
”The kids just have a blast with those.”
 
In addition, he's launched a crowd-funding campaign to cover the costs of food and moving and replacing equipment. Currently, the organization supplies food for 40 to 50 people at their Freecess events, but 50 to 70 people typically show up.

Robertson branched out further by offering his recessCLE to schools. For $350, he brings his equipment and hosts who ensure all kids are included. They typically offer a free-style environment on one side of the gym and an organized activity on the other. The move was sparked after he volunteered at Patrick Henry School, where he discovered kids sitting on the bleachers doing nothing during what should have been recess due to a lack of adults to monitor them outside.

Robertson is also in the planning stages of launching Recess for a Cause. He hopes to partner with local non-profits to help them raise money and attention for their causes through his recess events.

In the meantime, the group has grown their contact base and is also attempting to branch out into more areas. They held their first Detroit Shoreway area event recently.
 
“We’re trying to bridge communities together,” Robertson says. “When we throw an event, we don’t want just members of their community to attend. Our goal is changing strangers into friends.”

 

BOUND zine and art fair to rock MOCA this weekend

This weekend, area zinesters, art aficionados and anyone fond of old school print is invited to browse more than 50 exhibitors from near and far at BOUND, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Cleveland's second annual art book and zine fair.
 
Free and open to the public, BOUND will take place in Gund Commons on the museum's first floor on Friday, Aug. 26, from 5 to 10 p.m. and on Saturday, Aug. 27, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Attendees will have a chance to meet and interact with booksellers, artists, photographers, poets and independent publishers from Northeast Ohio as well as from points across the country. All of them will be offering limited edition art books and zines at affordable prices. In addition, a reduced $5 admission includes access to the MOCA galleries as well as all the programming and talks associated with BOUND. There will also be live music on Friday and DJs spinning tunes on Saturday.
 
"It's going to be a very high energy event with a lot to offer people who are either artists and creators or fans of comics, zines, photography, and art books," says Deidre McPherson, MOCA's curator of public programs. "There will be publishers, comic book creators, zinesters, printers, poets, and photographers here." They'll be exhibiting work that tackles pop culture, activism, feminism, gender identity, madness and sexuality – just to tag a few topics.

BOUND, MOCA Cleveland's second annual art book and zine fair
 
Contemporary artist TR Ericsson, whose pieces are part of several permanent museum collections, curated the event as he did last year's inaugural effort. His work, notes McPherson, imparts "voice to the voiceless," which is also at the heart of BOUND – but don't ask either to tap picks from the upcoming line up.
 
"The most compelling aspect of the book fair is the diverse selection of artists and book makers," says Ericsson, adding that "this makes it impossible to list favorites simply because each offering is so exceptionally unique."
 
"You'll find artists who went to art school and have a very extensive background in creating work at a high level," adds McPherson, "but also self trained artists who are incredibly talented and have done some outstanding work in their careers."
 
Fair enough, but in lieu of favorites, here's a sampling of BOUND exhibitors. Locals include John G of Shiner Comics, co-creator of the local horror comic Lake Erie Monster; the venerable Mac's Backs-Books on Coventry; Caitie Moore, who will be exhibiting her indie photobooks from her Nomadic Bookshelf project; artist Jerry Birchfield and the Gordon Arts Square institution Guide to Kulchur along with proprietor RA Washington, who is a tireless advocate for marginalized voices in print medium.
 
Out-of-towners include Brooklyn artist Paul Weston of Instigator and his interactive ANY1 mural project; Philadelphia's Nathan Pierce, Claire Cushing of Same Coin Press; and from New Orleans, former Clevelander JS Makkos of NOLA Digital Newspaper Archive, who will conduct printing demos on mimeographs, the predecessors of the copy machine.
 
BOUND at MOCA ClevelandA host of emerging local voices such as photographer and internet sensation Alison Scarpulla and Cleveland Institute of Art grads Matthew Rowe (BL^NT), Ash Fiasco and Evan Fusco will round out the roster.
 
A soundtrack will accompany the entire event, with Friday night's live music performances staged on MOCA's loading dock and doubling as part of the museum's creative sound music series, LOADED. Bands include Form A Log, Hiram-Maxim and Fake Species. DJs from WCSB Radio will aptly score the action in Gund Commons throughout the day Saturday.
 
Saturday's programming will feature presentations, discussions and a workshop on zines and how to make them from Cleveland-based artists Jacob Koestler of My Idea of Fun and Anna Tararova, proprietor of Meowville. A panel discussion on the use of zines as a platform for emerging and marginalized narratives will include RA Washington; Akron-based writer Angel Cezanne, founder of Eleanor: A Zine, which aims to empower women and non-binary people by promoting their art; and Jimmy Lewis of Columbus, Ohio, founder of Fag Enabler, a zine for queer, feminist, and nonconformist creativity. The panel discussion will be moderated by poet, author, and change catalyst M. Carmen Lane. An after-party at the Grog Shop will cap off the two-day event.
 
McPherson hopes to build on the momentum of last year's Mimeo Revolution: Art Book + Zine Fair, which was inspired by MOCA's 2015 exhibit How To Remain Human and Ericcson, who coincidentally approached MOCA staff with the idea of modeling an event after the MoMa PS1 Art Book Fair, a popular underground fair in New York and Los Angeles. The resulting three-day event attracted some 1,000 attendees.
 
"Attendance was amazing. It was great to see," says McPherson, adding that she expects similar numbers this weekend – or even more attendees mingling with exhibitors, which numbered about 30 last year. "It was gratifying to see how many artists were given a space at MOCA to share and talk about their work."
 
Lastly, BOUND is a fitting dovetail with MOCA's current exhibit, Mark Mothersbaugh: Myopia. From the 30,000 original post cards he's created over the years to the 1977 self-published 300-page My Struggle, Booji Boy, which are currently on display at the Akron Museum of Art and MOCA, respectively, Mothersbaugh's work embodies an alternative legacy of underground and DIY culture.

Mark Mothersbaugh: Myopia
 
"Mark Mothersbaugh – when he was a student at Kent State University – created zines and was self publishing and using art books and zines and his own drawings as a way of expressing himself," says McPherson. "Mark was definitely inspired by the mimeo revolution that was occurring in the 1960s and continued through the 70s," she adds.
 
Furthermore, Friday night's live concert, which was curated by Dandelion Moon's Andrew Auten, Lisa Miralia of Mysterious Black Box and artist-musician David Russell Stempowski of Polar Envy, will be an energetic fusion of experimental sound, avant rock and punk.
 
"These three bands were hand picked and selected with Mark Mothersbaugh in mind," says McPherson.
 
Myopia will be in its final weekend during the fair. Hence the reduced $5 admission is an affordable last-chance to see the dazzling collection along with the extended BOUND presentations.
 
"It's a great capstone," says McPherson of the interactive farewell to Myopia.
 

CSA grad keeps the 216 in his heart, offers kids hope through dance

It's a fair June evening and Nehemiah Spencer sways stageside at Wade Oval Wednesday, clad in black-on-black Converse and a crew neck festooned with the familiar red curves of the Coca-Cola logo. Today’s theme is “Reggae Night,” and the assembled families are chatty and sporting Bob Marley T-shirts. Spencer has picked up a loose branch in each hand and moves his arms in easy rhythms, improvising a deft twirl of one wrist in time with the band. A few huddled couples smile at him from their blankets, unsure if he’s part of the show.
 
Spencer, a graduate of the Cleveland School of the Arts (CSA) and Juilliard, is now a company dancer with the Complexions Contemporary Ballet in New York City. The Glenville native is preparing for a new show with the company in Israel. So what’s he doing in Cleveland on a Wednesday night?
 
Spencer comes home every summer. In 2012, he founded the Nehemiah Project, a dance-intensive effort that provides affordable instruction to inner-city youth. Beyond typical lessons in technique, however, the program holds classes geared toward social justice, covering topics on everything from bullying prevention to race relations workshops.
 
“For example, I know that bullying is not just physical, but most of the time, there’s an aggression that needs to be let out, in some cases physically,” says Spencer. “I wanted people to realize that there are different ways you can use your body to allow yourself to feel liberated. That’s what dance basically does.”
 
Every year, the program tackles a new community initiative. One summer, the students created a showcase for nursing home patients, choosing the venue and choreographing the piece themselves. Last year, the group held an anti-bullying flash mob in Tower City, dancing to “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The Cleveland-based MadWerkz Studios filmed it, and created a documentary short that was shown at three film festivals, winning the “Audience Choice Award” at the ICE Film Festival in Dayton. For several summers, students have participated in diversity and community relations seminars hosted by the Shaker Heights High School Group on Race Relations and the Cleveland Police Department.
 
“We had our first student alumni of the The Nehemiah Project graduate from college just recently and that's huge,” says Obadiah Baker, founder of Tender Hearts Crusades, the nonprofit that acts as the Project’s primary fiscal sponsor. “That's the whole point – to give them the emotional tools they need to cope with the reality of life. We're trying to build resiliency in at-risk youth, especially those that are in disadvantaged, underserved areas in America. We want to equip them with the tools they need to endure in any type of environment, especially because of their social position within American society.”
 
This year, the program has attracted more sponsors than ever before, including the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Ohio Arts Council, Neighborhood Connections, and yes, Coca-Cola.
 
But on this summer night, the kids are at Wade Oval as part of a collaboration with Fresh Camp, an urban gardening and hip-hop recording program for Cleveland youth. They’ve created a modern dance piece to a song the Fresh Campers wrote and produced. The performance starts quietly, with four dancers stretching their arms into acute angles to a folk-inflected melody. Soon, the bass rises, and the Fresh Camp MCs enter, rapping “Everything is better when we work together!” while the dancers spin. By the end of the set, they’ve invited half of Wade Oval to join them onstage.
 
It’s more than Spencer ever hoped for. He started the program as a one-off after a conversation with his mother, Callie, lamenting the lack of affordable dance courses in Cleveland. Through CSA, he traveled to dance conferences across the country, but knew many of his peers didn’t have that opportunity. In the Nehemiah Project’s first year, he taught the classes himself and created a Kickstarter to pay for costumes. Soon, he’d raised $1,500. Five years, a number of Juilliard Summer Arts Grants and a fateful meeting with Baker later, and the Nehemiah Project is a rising force in Cleveland arts education.
 
For Spencer, the program is a tribute to his mother, who serves as a mentor and for many young dancers. When he founded the Nehemiah Project, he also established a scholarship fund for graduating CSA seniors and named it after her – the Callie E. Taylor Award.
 
“Programs like this are important, because they give students an alternative viewpoint on the reality that we live in, because we can live in a really scary place. But it doesn’t have to be, if people find something that they’re passionate about or something that scares them, and do it anyway.”

For more information about the Nehemiah Project, visit www.facebook.com/holisticdance or email Obadiah Baker at Obadiah.baker@tenderheartscrusades.com.
 

Cleveland Codes graduates its first class from intensive tech program

Nonprofit coding camp Cleveland Codes celebrated its first graduating class on June 30, a milestone that founder and social entrepreneur Matt Fieldman says is only the first of many for the tech-based certificate program.
 
Eleven of the coding school's initial 14-member cohort will move onto paid internships at companies including Medical Mutual, Third Federal Savings & Loan and Hose Master. As the venture seeks to place its last three graduates -  which, like their compatriots, are low-income adults from Cleveland -  Fieldman is confident area businesses will want coders with the skills his former students possess.
 
Over the 16-week class that began in March, participants learned coding languages in an intense, demanding environment, says Fieldman. Students were also taught critical soft skills such as resume writing and interviewing.

A high-pressure atmosphere creating a potential labor source has already been proven by Edwins Restaurant and Leadership Institute, an upscale restaurant co-founded by Fieldman that trains and employs the formerly incarcerated.
 
"If you give people the right training and support, they're going to rise to the challenge," he says.
 
About 120 applicants were pared down to 15 for the coding camp's first year. Though one student dropped the course, the remainder stayed on to harness free schooling, transportation and meals, paid for through grants from the Tri-C Foundation and the state's OhioMeansJobs program. Forty percent of participants were women, while 40 percent of the entire cohort represented minorities.
 
Newly-minted grads showcased the fruits of their hard work June 29 during an event at the Advanced Training & Technology Center (ATTC) on Cuyahoga Community College's metro campus.
 
As part of a class capstone project, students built an app based on NEO+natal, a proposal that took second place at the Cleveland Medical Hackathon last year and is designed to combat the region's high infant mortality rates. The project features a unique risk profile for mothers based on publicly available demographic and geographic data. With this information in hand, the Cleveland Codes app creators drew up a short questionnaire that could be used by a community health worker to assess a mother's risk level.

Efforts such as NEO+natal, says Fieldman, are emblematic of a talent pool ready for full-time technical work that can earn them upwards of $50,000 at the entry level.
 
"When you learn a skill that will propel your career for the next 50 years, that's really exciting," he adds. "It's great to see people who work with their hands have a bright future."
 
Cleveland Codes' second cohort starts in August, with two more planned for the fall. Fieldman envisions bigger classes that, upon graduation, move on as a whole to companies such as Hyland Software.
 
"We want to see this model grow and serve more communities," he says. "Companies complain about the lack of coding talent. This is an alternative where we want them to say, 'Yes, we want to work with you.'"

Forward Cities gathering will focus on area entrepreneurs, social innovation

More than 200 community, business, policy, and foundation leaders from four of the nation’s comeback cities are joining forces in Cleveland this month to foster entrepreneurship and social innovation in minority communities. This effort is part of Forward Cities, a national learning collaborative project in which leaders and donors from cities undergoing profound transformation can identify and share best practices. Participating cities include Cleveland, Detroit, New Orleans and Durham.
 
“As the global economy becomes increasingly competitive and the war for talent spans worldwide boundaries, we can no longer leave behind huge swaths of our potential innovation talent pool – namely traditionally disenfranchised women and minority populations,” said Christopher Gergen, CEO of Forward Impact and co-founder of Forward Cities. “Cities that fail to heed this call and don’t take intentional action to create a new economy that is purposefully equitable will do so at their own peril. Inclusive innovation isn’t just the right thing to do – it is the smart thing to do.”
 
Forward Cities leaders will meet in Cleveland June 14-17 to explore how to drive inclusive innovation. Out of town participants will meet with Cleveland entrepreneurs, business incubators, social innovators, and neighborhood and government leaders. They will also tour target communities including the Opportunity Corridor, the West 25th Street Corridor, the East 55th Street Food Corridor, and the East 105th Street Corridor. The Cleveland Forward Cities Council, which acts as the project's local advisory board, selected those locations. The council includes entities such as Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, Towards Employment, the City of Cleveland, RPM International the Burton D. Morgan Foundation, The Cleveland Foundation, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., The Business of Good Foundation, the George Gund Foundation and several other civic-minded organizations. National and local donors are funding the effort.
 
In addition, panels of experts from across the participating cities will explore topics ranging from the use of globalization and immigration as a strategy for urban renewal, to the role of anchor institutions in economic development, and how individual entrepreneurs affect a city’s comeback. The Cleveland convening is the final gathering for Forward Cities, which met in New Orleans in December 2014, Detroit in June 2015 and Durham in December 2015.
 
While the Cleveland event is still days away, the area has already felt the impact of being included in the Forward Cities endeavor. The collaboration has led to stronger coordination of local programs to support entrepreneurs, enabled council members to adopt and apply successful programs from the partner cities and has generated new, honest discussions regarding issues that affect inclusive innovation, such as race. Three examples of Forward Cities achievements in Cleveland include:
 
- Compiling a comprehensive list of more than 1,200 minority businesses in the city that connects business owners to public and private projects, conventions and events that are seeking minority business partners
 
- Securing a $16,000 planning grant from the Business of Good Foundation for the Hispanic Marketplace, La Placita, in the West 25th Street neighborhood.
 
- Developing a small business seminar and tour for businesses in the Opportunity Corridor tour that helped the 25 business owners build familiarity and overcome hurdles they may have felt in approaching local technical assistance providers.
 
“Horizons are expanded, problems are viewed from unusual angles, ideas are blended, friendships are forged and challenges unstuck,” said Deborah Hoover, Cleveland Forward Cities Co-Chair and president and CEO of Burton D. Morgan Foundation of the previous gatherings and collective Forward Cities efforts.
 
“This magic occurs because so many people from different cities, backgrounds and types of organizations come together to listen, share, and most of all, understand and work together," said Hoover.
 
Follow the Forward Cities project on Facebook, or stay up to date on Twitter at @forwardcities. Use the hashtags #forwardcities and #roadtogrowth.

Fresh Water's parent company, Issue Media Group, is a national partner in the Forward Cities initiative.


Source: Forward Cities

Text compiled by Erin O'Brien

Bloom Bakery raising 'dough' to help others

"Creating jobs is our secret ingredient."
 
Such is the slogan of Bloom Bakery, a downtown entity that offers premium pastries and breads as well as opportunities for Clevelanders facing employment barriers. Now the social venture is asking for a little extra "dough" to continue its mission.
 
Last week, Bloom Bakery launched a $25,000 Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to provide capital for its Campus District location at 1938 Euclid Ave. (The bakery has another shop at 200 Public Square.) Funding will go to hiring additional staff, says Logan Fahey, Bloom Bakery co-founder and general manager.
 
"Our reason for doing (crowdfunding) was to get the community involved," says Fahey. "We rely on the consumer to find us and appreciate the mission."
 
Supporters can pre-purchase coffee, lunch, corporate catering, and exclusive baking lessons before the campaign ends June 10. Bloom Bakery is a benefit corporation - essentially a hybrid of a standard corporation and a nonprofit - owned by Towards Employment, a Cleveland nonprofit that offers job training and placement as well as removal of employment barriers for people previously involved in the criminal justice system.
 
All revenue from Bloom Bakery goes to Towards Employment's job readiness programs. Meanwhile, the bakery educates, trains and employs low-income and disadvantaged adults for work as bakers, baristas and other positions. Entry-level jobs pay $8 to $10 hourly, with opportunities available for upward mobility within the company.
 
"Our sole purpose is to give a second chance to individuals who otherwise wouldn't get one," Fahey says. "These jobs can be resume builders or allow people to move onto supervisory positions here."
 
Bloom Bakery currently has 15 staff members, ranging in age from their 20s to early 60s. New employees are vetted through Towards Employment programming, then undergo another month of training at the bakery.
 
As of this writing, the social venture's crowdfunding effort has reached 10 percent of its goal. Fahey and his fellow staff members will spend the next couple of weeks pushing the campaign via social media and word-of-mouth. The ultimate goal is to become the state's best bakery while continuing to operate as a "business with a heart."
 
"There's a large segment of the population in need of an opportunity," says Fahey. "If we become the best bakery, then we can create as many jobs as we want." 

The ECDI Cleveland is part of Fresh Water's underwriting support community.

MomsFirst lends a much needed hand to pregnant area teens

It is a sobering statistic: African-American infants in Ohio die at more than twice the rate of white babies, according to 2014 data from the Ohio Department of Health. To battle that troubling number, the Cleveland nonprofit MomsFirst program offers critical support services and education to the area's pregnant and parenting population in an effort to reduce these potentially lethal outcomes.
 
In Cleveland, younger parents often need the most aid, says Lisa Matthews, program director for an organization recognizing its 25th anniversary. Last year, one-third of 1,823 mothers reached by MomsFirst were teenagers, some as young as 13.
 
Narrowing the disparity in infant mortality rates is the group's overall goal. Program participants, many of whom are students at the Cleveland Municipal School District (CMSD), receive individual service plans that screen them for postnatal depression and educate them on prenatal care, breastfeeding and safe sleep practices.
 
Community health workers visit new or expecting moms at home at least once a month, providing them with a much needed support system.
 
Lisa Matthews"It's like having the big sister or mother they never had," says Matthews.
 
Families stay enrolled in the program until their child is two years old. Finding underserved mothers quickly is vital considering the three leading causes of infant mortality - prematurity/pre-term births, sleep-related deaths and birth defects - usually take place before a child reaches its first year, Matthews says.
 
Infant death rates in African-American communities may derive from poverty and other environmental or social stressors. MomsFirst, on site at the nonprofit May Dugan Center in Ohio City, considers these factors in its implementation of fatherhood support services and educational programming.
 
In addition to its support of teenage mothers, MomsFirst sponsors teen-led summits and peer advisory sessions at eight CMSD schools. Boys and non-pregnant or parenting students are welcome at the sessions, which cover topics like family planning, child development and STD prevention.
 
For girls still in high school, pregnancy can curtail, if not outright eliminate, continuing education. To that end, MomsFirst helps its charges navigate day care, transportation, literacy issues and other barriers.
 
"Pregnancy doesn't have to mean the end of an educational career," says Matthews.
 
Juvenile detention centers are the nonprofit's newest venture. Pregnant offenders are given case plans, while those with and without children are provided with  educational support. In combination, the services provided by MomsFirst can lift up a population in dire need of help, organization officials say.
 
"We still have a disparity that's unacceptable," Matthews says. "There is a long way to go."
 
This story is one of a Fresh Water series supported in part by the May Dugan Center.

Socially minded landscaping firm gives struggling Clevelanders a second chance

Rich Alvarez is a firm believer in second chances, an outlook shaped by 15 years in the police force and a firearms accident that nearly killed him.
 
Alvarez's experiences led him to create New Life Landscaping, a Northeast Ohio social enterprise that hires Greater Cleveland residents facing barriers to employment. New Life services include weekly landscaping maintenance, weed removal and installation of patios and decks. The ultimate goal is to train employees for franchise ownership, with newly minted entrepreneurs eventually hiring others in similarly challenged situations.
 
"When people are given a second chance, they really appreciate the opportunity," says Alvarez, a North Olmstead resident.
 
New Life currently has two employees and is seeking seasonal help for the summer. While some new hires may come from Craig's List, Alvarez is hoping to find workers through local ministries as well as nonprofits like Oriana House, a Cleveland area chemical dependency treatment center and community corrections agency.
 
Every New Life employee has a background that would likely make them unemployable elsewhere, Alvarez says. Ex-offenders, military veterans and destitute individuals are all job candidates at the landscaping company.
 
Alvarez, 46, met his share of underserved offenders during a long police career in Lakewood and with the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA).   
 
"I noticed the same people coming back over and over," he says. "They'd say they couldn't find a job. It was easier to for them to spend time in jail where they'd get fed and have a roof over their heads."
 
A near-death experience involving an accidentally discharged firearm further pushed the ex-policeman into social entrepreneurship. Alvarez, who ran his own landscaping business while with the force, and his partner came up with the idea in 2014 when both were volunteering for a prison ministry. 
 
Now that New Life is off the ground, the next step is finding a qualified franchisee. New Life will front $30,000 to launch a prospective business, with the franchisee paying back the initial investment over time. New Life's model is based on ventures like Columbus-based Clean Turn, which trains the formerly incarcerated in an array of supportive services.
 
Alvarez aims to create employment opportunities for those who will eventually populate a growing and skilled workforce. It's a goal he think fits well in Cleveland.
 
"There's lots of parallels between the city of Cleveland and people here who are facing barriers," says Alvarez. "This is a Rust Belt town on the rebound that's reinventing itself. We're giving people left behind by society a chance to rebuild themselves as well." 
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