A courageous journey

Cincinnati is not afraid to face up to its challenges, but we have a long way to go together to achieve real change for many African Americans here.

In order to achieve change, a city needs to confront its hard truths.

This is a key takeaway from Cincinnati in Black & White, 2007: A Report to the Community, released by Better Together Cincinnati this summer to provide a baseline "report card" on racial disparities in Greater Cincinnati. While we are making progress, we still have much
to do.

With major African-American conventions visiting this summer, it's clear that we have made progress in our city's troubled history with race relations. Although we are far from finished, we can recognize what attracted these visitors back to Cincinnati was the courage with which our community faced the reality of racial inequity.

Publishing this report is a show of faith by leaders who committed to measure racial disparity, report it publicly, and support systemic efforts to effect change. Along with reports published by Strive and Bridges for a Just Community, it is anchored on the framework set by United Way of Greater Cincinnati's State of the Community, helping us understand the region's overall status.

So, why this report now? Cincinnati Community Action Now (CAN) was highly visible in the months following 2001's racial unrest and protests. But its successor Better Together Cincinnati has been less in the public eye, working since 2003 to improve race relations and address both the symptoms and the causes of racial inequity.

As a "funders' collaborative," BTC brings together dollars and corporate commitment to invest in programs that show promise for reducing racial disparity. The funders pooled nearly $7 million to
support some of the most challenging initiatives inspired by the work of Cincinnati CAN.

Regardless of the size of the investment, funders get a seat at the table and get a voice in decision making.

It's a pretty big table. BTC includes some of our community's leading corporations: Cincinnati Bell, Convergys Corporation, GE Aircraft Engines, Macy's, Ohio National Financial Services, The Procter & Gamble Company, Toyota Manufacturing North America, US Bank, and Western & Southern Financial Group.

A host of philanthropic partners joins them: GCF, Love Family Foundation, SC Ministry Foundation, Scripps Howard Foundation, the Thomas J. Emery Memorial, and United Way of Greater Cincinnati. GCF convened these funders and plays a key role in managing the collaborative.

The following are examples in each of the three key areas that BTC has helped start:

Criminal Justice: Community Police Partnering Center
CPPC helps forge positive police-community relations and change Cincinnati Police Department practices by implementing Community Problem Oriented Policing, as well as by partnership with Ceasefire Cincinnati and Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV). CPPC has seen a more than 40% increase in the number of citizens participating in community policing, Ceasefire Cincinnati and CIRV. It has also increased by 50% the number of people trained in problem-oriented policing, and trained over 200 police officers in problem-oriented policing. CIRV reports a 55.3% reduction in "group member involved" homicides between October 2007 and May 2008.

Economics: Minority Business Accelerator Program
Operated by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, the Minority Bus ness Accelerator (MBA), was a key strategy identified by Cincinnati CAN. The MBA works to speed development of sizable minority businesses and expand the regional entrepreneurial community with an initial emphasis
on African American owned businesses. In 2007, minority-owned businesses assisted by the MBA grew annual revenue by 17%, while MBA helped facilitate 24 contract awards
exceeding $80 million.

Education: Cincinnati Arts & Technology Center
Cincinnati Arts & Technology Center (CATC) uses arts and technology as a "hook" for education and employment opportunities for urban teenagers and under/unemployed adults. CATC grew out of a collaboration between Art Links. Cincinnati CAN, and Manchester Bidwell Corporation, a national model started in Pittsburgh.

Since 2003, CATC has created a state-of-the-art learning facility at Longworth Hall. Enrollment in 2006/2007 was more than double the year before, with 92% of students graduating and 72% bound for college.

The report looks at key indicators in education, economics and criminal justice. To break it down simply, a few indicators show no disparity and some show progress, but there are many more that show different outcomes for black and white residents of Cincinnati. For example:

In education, the report shows significant differences beginning in kindergarten, continuing in 4th and 8th grade reading and math achievement, and resulting in fewer African Americans attaining a
college degree.

On the positive side, promising programs are leading to systemic efforts to improve education outcomes for all children. This began with Every Child Succeeds, continued with Success by 6, and has grown into a community-wide commitment with the Strive initiative.

On the economic front, efforts like the Minority Business Accelerator and the new Greater Cincinnati Workforce Network spearheaded by The Greater Cincinnati Foundation (GCF) are working to close the unemployment gap which, among African Americans has risen since 2002 while white unemployment dropped sharply.

The city's creation of  the Community Police Partnering Center demonstrates what  can be accomplished when citizens and police work together to reduce crime and violence in the face of statistics that show the African-American incarceration rate is nearly 10 times the white incarceration rate.

The report reminds us that reducing disparity is not easy. It doesn't happen overnight. It will take more time, more resources and a more sustained and widespread leadership commitment. Finally, as BTC's name purposely suggests, no one group or sector can or should do this alone.

Together, we must nurture and support efforts to achieve greater economic inclusion, better educational outcomes for all children, and reductions in crime and disorder for all neighborhoods and citizens.

These changes will have a positive and meaningful impact on the health and perception of our entire region, truly making Greater Cincinnati better for everyone.

Wherever you live or work in the region, you are part of the journey too. We are truly "better together" and only together can we keep equity and justice at the forefront of the community's heart and mind.

To download a copy of the BTC report, please visit the GCF Website.

Ellen M. Gilligan is Vice President for Community Investment at The Greater Cincinnati Foundation and staff to Better Together Cincinnati. She has more than 20 years experience in resource development, program design, implementation and management, and a true passion for this work.

Photography by Scott Beseler

Mural at Burnett and William Howard Taft

Provided byBetter Together Cincinnati

Hamilton County Courthouse

Apple = Education

Rainbow over Over the Rhine

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