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Stop History from Repeating Again

Let’s Stop History from Repeating Again:  Rethinking Racism talks about Disappearing Communities of Color

Panelists (L to R): Mark Curnutte, Yvette Simpson, and Dr. Carl Westmoreland

On Monday, April 16th, Cincinnati’s city council signed an ordinance which took the next step towards building an FC Cincinnati stadium in the West End.  This news was first on the minds of over 100 people who gathered that same evening for the Rethinking Racism event, “Disappearing Communities of Color: A Panel Discussion”.  The featured panelists included Dr. Carl Westmoreland, Mark Curnutte, and Yvette Simpson.  The discussion began and ended with local residents telling their personal stories where they or their families were kicked out of their homes, sometimes with very little notice.  The evening proved that much of the fear and frustration surrounding the Stadium decision was not just about a stadium, but something more: losing a community.

In each presentation, the panelists spoke of Cincinnati’s long history of community displacement.  Dr. Carl Westmoreland called to mind the fact that displacement has started long before the Civil War Mark Curnutte presented on the history of Kenyon Barr, a federally funded urban renewal project which displaced 5,000 families of color, more than any other project in the United States.  This is just one example.  People have been forced out of their homes in Lincoln Heights, Avondale, the West End, Over the Rhine, and Walnut Hills. Yvette Simpson mentioned that the very first thing that needs to happen moving forward is to acknowledge and share the history of displacement of communities of color in Cincinnati.  Why keep going if we are just going to repeat the same thing?  If we recognize that history, then perhaps we are not doomed to keep repeating it.

The likeliness of the FC stadium in the West End brings up questions that have surrounded the decision.  Will any residents be displaced because of development which results from the stadium?  Will the development that happens in the community be accessible to the current residents?  What role does the West End community council play in this?  What will happen to the Community Benefits Agreement?  All of these questions must be addressed as large decisions are made.

Panoramic of the large group gathered on April 16

Yvette Simpson provided many points for going forward, and how to stop the cycle of displacement in Cincinnati.  She called for true community engagement, and dialogue between people in power and community residents.  People of each community should decide their future.  There was a further call for accountability of public resources that should be used for the benefit of the community.  Ultimately the community’s voices must be put first.

At the end, everyone was asked to write one thing that they would commit to do on a note and leave it posted to their table.  People left with the challenge to transform Cincinnati.  As Dr. Carl Westmoreland said to the audience, “Find a way to use your skills, resources, church or temple to make what was one of America’s most beautiful cities one of heart that provides housing to all of its members”.  While the task will be difficult, all people are called to work together for a city where all can call home.