A Neighborhood Moving Forward: Together
I was recently elected to the Northeast Shores Board of Directors in an election that boasted a record turn out. I’ve seen numerous stories printed and heard from folks in the neighborhood about what a disappointment or what a victory this was. Even as an individual who was voted in during that meeting, I found the election and the conversations following it quite troubling for many reasons, a few of which I hope to outline here.
First, there have been insinuations made that the seven of us who were recently elected ran together with the intention of serving together. I agreed to run at the urging from several board members. Some of those that motivated me to run for a position on the board were voted off the same night I was voted on, making my experience bittersweet. While some individuals may have taken part in a strategy that I was not privy to, I did not. I never would participate in such endeavors and I never will. It is my belief that the community should have the opportunity to vote for those that they feel best represent their interests in a transparent process. If I was not one of those people, I was more than willing to accept that outcome and find different ways to continue to serve the neighborhood I call home. In talking with a couple of the other new board members, they have echoed similar sentiments.
Second, I am concerned at the rhetoric I’ve heard that seems to suggest that the seven of us being voted on will somehow “fix” a problematic board or organization. I find this to be incredibly condescending and disrespectful to individuals who have served on the board and staff for many years with limited resources and done an amazing job. I looked forward to serving alongside those individuals who have served our community with pride, dignity and respect for decades before some of the newly elected board members even considered being residents of this community. I am disappointed that I will not have the opportunity to serve beside some of them in a formal capacity although I know that they will continue to serve our neighborhood in various ways. I am and will continue to be incredibly grateful to each of them for their dedicated service to Northeast Shores and the Collinwood community.
Third, I noticed the representation in the space during the election and it troubled me. Though there may have been a record turn out I did not see our community reflected very well in the faces around the room. The space was overwhelmingly white and upper middle class, and I don’t need to tell you that our neighborhood is not. If we truly want the work of this, or any, organization to reflect our community needs we need participation from individuals that represent the totality of our community, not just the interests of a few. I am very interested in addressing this inequity of representation during my time serving on the board. I welcome conversation and engagement with my neighbors around how we can increase representation most effectively.
In short, Northeast Shores and the Board of Directors didn’t need “saving” just as Collinwood doesn’t. Cleveland is a scrappy city that survives and thrives. Collinwood is a strong, blue collar and hard-working community with rich assets- our residents being the richest of those. If we don’t listen to the concerns and feedback from our entire community, then we risk making detrimental mistakes or making decisions that have lasting negative outcomes for our neighbors. If we ignore the hard work and dedication of those who have gone before us or the energy around future possibilities we are doing ourselves and our community a incredible disservice.
I would encourage each of us to embrace both the past and future. I would ask each of us to have curious conversations with our neighbors. I would request that each of us keep our minds and hearts open to the experiences of those we live beside. This is the only way we can move forward TOGETHER as one Collinwood rather than fall prey to divisiveness. In the words of Audre Lorde, “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” I believe that we can and hope we will do better.