When Adam Mayerson asked his grandmother what her earliest memory of the Sugar n’ Spice diner was, she said it was a double date in the 1940s with Mayerson’s grandfather and in-laws. Almost 80 years later, Mayerson is not only the fourth generation of his family to frequent Sugar n’ Spice, but he also owns the place after purchasing it from the previous owner last year.
Sugar n’ Spice started as a drive-in restaurant in the 1940s and, with the exception of two other locations in the ’50s and ’60s, it has remained in the same Paddock Hills building. The Cincinnati classic now has a second home with the opening July 11 of the diner’s new location in Over-the-Rhine, within the renovated former Joe’s Diner on Sycamore Street.
“It will have the same fun, family-friendly vibe that you get at the Reading Road location,” operating partner CT Todd says. “The old diner car is what makes it bright and fun.”
For Mayerson, preserving what people love about Sugar n’ Spice was of paramount importance at the OTR location. “You’re going to experience what people have loved for 80 years. What you’re experiencing downtown is what you’re experiencing at [the original location],” Mayerson says.
Part of preserving that experience is continuing beloved traditions from the Reading Road restaurant, including each diner picking out their own rubber duck. “It brings a level of joyous peace to kids,” says Todd. “And now, everyone likes to pick a little rubber ducky. We have close to 900 rubber ducks here at Reading Road. We will be bringing that tradition downtown.”
The new Sugar n’ Spice location has a nearly identical classic menu to that of the first location. The only change will be the addition of salads for the downtown lunch menu.
“We listened to what people were saying. A common thread was Don’t change anything,” Todd says. “We kept that as our true north.” The new location provides the opportunity to make memories and bring new families to Sugar n’ Spice, he says.
“Sugar n’ Spice is a happy place,” says Todd. “It’s a melting pot of people. All walks of life come here to dine. I really look at it as a beacon in what we offer in food and the atmosphere. Being able to open up a second location and reach more of Cincinnati is really great.”
While Sugar n’ Spice’s OTR diner opened quietly in the past week, it will officially host its grand opening on July 11. Its operating hours will be 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.
Mayerson says that while it’s not ideal to open a restaurant during a pandemic, Sugar n’ Spice has taken precautions to keep its patrons safe. “The downtown location is a lot larger than Reading Road,” says Mayerson. “It provides us with a good capability of being able to space things out and achieve social distancing. We have Plexiglas between the booths and hand sanitizer at every table. We have two patios with outdoor dining that we’ll be using as well.”
When Stephanie Bamonte, a Walnut Hills High School alumna, closed her boutique Turquoise Hen in Batesville, Indiana, two and a half years ago, she longed to open a new space. “It was in the back of my mind the whole time,” Bamonte says. Although she still lives in Batesville, she now makes the daily 45-minute trek to Oakley to prepare for the grand opening of her new boutique, Essentiel, which carries clean beauty and style products.
After signing a lease at 4405 Brazee Street in January, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed her original mid-March opening date. The extra time allowed Bamonte to perfect her inventory, and now she’s gearing up for her grand opening next week.
Bamonte stocks items that you can’t find locally, like floss and face cream from California and nail polish from New York. Her goal is to bring the best goods to the Queen City. Need the perfect shade lipstick? What about a pair of jeans by Citizens of Humanity denim that will last you 10 years? You can find both at Essentiel. The shop also carries woven hammocks from Ecuador, which hang above the main entrance, as well as plant-based dish soap, counter cleaner, laundry detergent, and floor cleaner made by Murchison-Hume.
While she also offers home decor and clothes for “effortless style,” Bamonte specializes in clean beauty products, only stocking sustainable and organic brands. Love Organics, for example, is handcrafted in small batches in Georgia. Most of the brands she sells in store Bamonte says she’s found during her travels and visiting small boutiques in place like Montreal, Maine, and Savannah, Georgia.
Her target customers are women 30 years and older who are modern, sophisticated, and looking for something for their home or a gift for one of their girlfriends. “I filled this store with everything I like and wear,” Bamonte says. “It’s not trendy, per say, but it’s here for seasons, if not years.”
Eventually, Bamonte wants to expand her Oakley location and open a second location, hopefully in Hilton Head, South Carolina, where her parents live.
In the spring of 1974, a ferocious weather system brutalized communities from Michigan to Mississippi, killing hundreds, injuring thousands, and laying down billions of dollars in damage. The U.S. Weather Service documented 148 tornados in 24 hours, labeling the phenomenon “The Super Outbreak.” Most people simply remember the catastrophe by the name of the southwestern Ohio town that saw the worst of it: the Xenia Tornado.
The storm hit before the disaster warning systems we take for granted today. Xenia didn’t even have sirens to wail. Cathrine Wilson recalls that someone told her mother a bad storm was coming. “Mom said it was a spring shower,” recalls Wilson, then 9. Just minutes later, at 4:40 p.m. on April 3, 1974, she and her mother and sister hunched together in the bathtub against the roar of the wind and the shriek of exploding windows and ripped-away roofs. “It seemed to last forever,” she says.
The F5 category tornado brought winds up to 250 miles an hour, bulldozing a half-mile-wide swath through Xenia. But the cataclysmic storm system wasn’t done. At 5:30 p.m. another F5 touched down near Rising Sun, Indiana, passed into Northern Kentucky and knocked out power at the National Weather Service (NWS) station at CVG. When it crossed the river and blasted into Sayler Park, virtually all communication was shut down. There were no fatalities there, a blessing that may be attributed in part to the fact that the Xenia disaster had put residents on high alert.
The Super Outbreak set in motion a host of changes to weather reporting, including outdoor warning sirens, emergency power backup, and wider use of radar at NWS stations. (CVG had radar back then, but Dayton didn’t.) The experience prompted the NWS to adopt the F0–F5 Fujita scale as a standard for describing the severity of a tornado; it’s since been updated as the Enhanced Fujita Scale. Aerial photos of the Xenia debris fields and Cincinnatians’ snapshots of the Sayler Park funnel cloud helped scientists unravel what happened in the chaos. The storm demonstrated the critical need for research funding— research that ultimately led to the development of Doppler radar.
Thirty-three died in the Xenia storm, with countless injuries. An estimated 180 businesses and 1,200 houses—including the Arrowhead subdivision where Wilson lived—were flattened, along with 10 churches, two elementary schools, and the junior high. In that pre-FEMA era, help came from the Ohio National Guard, Red Cross, and regional aid workers. HUD arrived to organize housing, and President Nixon made an unannounced visit just days after the tragedy. By May, he’d signed amendments to the Disaster Relief Act of 1974 to include tornado recovery.
The adrenaline of crisis galvanized Xenia residents quickly. There were “Xenia Lives” bumper stickers and a Spirit of ’74 Committee assembled to map the way forward, as city leaders made plans for residential and commercial redevelopment. Some of the challenges they faced sound familiar to today’s pandemic experience: unemployment, closed schools, cancelled events, grief. But rebuilding was a tangible goal, and Xenia rebuilt. “We’re a tough group,” says Xenia Mayor Sarah Mays. She wasn’t even born when the 1974 tornado hit, but she was around for the 2000 storm that killed one person, and now she’s seen her neighbors respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. “I’m genuinely proud of my community,” she says. “We know we can pull together.”
Another lifelong resident, Marsha Bayless, was a first grade teacher in 1974. She served as Xenia mayor from 2010 to 2017 and agrees that her community is resilient, but she cautions that a disaster doesn’t wipe out divisions. “This forced people to come together,” she says, but “it doesn’t really last, and that’s unfortunate.” A 1982 case study of Xenia’s recovery by the Disaster Research Center at Ohio State University documents conflicts over residential planning, urban renewal, rezoning, and racial and socioeconomic inequities— conflicts every municipality must navigate, writ large post-disaster.
Xenia’s nightmare landscape has long been cleaned up, but Mays notes that there are still reminders of the struggle to revive the city. But neither she nor Bayless faults their predecessors. “They did the best they could,” says Bayless. And Mays, coping with the uncertainties of the current health crisis points out that hindsight will always be 20/20. “I’m sure that 30 or 40 years from now people will be saying, Why did they make that decision?”
The Miami and Erie Canal even now, a century after it was replaced by Central Parkway, evokes intense nostalgia among Cincinnatians. The old canal was, of course, our “Rhine.” Civic memory gilds pastel panoramas of vernal bouquets, Venetian gondolas, zaftig frauleins, and schooners of amber lager.
In reality, the canal was pretty much an open sewer surrounded by factories and warehouses and bathed in stench. The saloons bordering the canal represented the lowest dives in the city, and almost all of them rented their upper floors and back rooms for prostitution or gambling or both.
At the southeast corner of Walnut Street and the Canal—the location of today’s Kroger On The Rhine—the infamous Noodle Factory saloon brought in a clientele interested in one of two pastimes: fisticuffs or watching fisticuffs. The reputation, such as it was, was accrued during the proprietorship of the legendary Minnie Wolf, who was often described as weighing more than 300 pounds. Here is The Cincinnati Commercial of July 18, 1875:
“Minnie is a ponderous specimen of humanity and appeared at the station in a stunning green silk, perspiring profusely and in a very bad frame of mind. The ‘boys’ commenced making their bets that she would not be locked up, for the reason that she could not pass through the cell doors. She beat all their calculations however by ‘squeezing’ sideways through the door.”
Despite her heft, Minnie was regularly associated with a collection of male admirers, both paramours and paying customers. She eventually purchased a more stylish brothel on Central Avenue, and management of the Noodle Factory passed through several madams until Rose Turner took over in 1884.
By most accounts, Rose tipped the scales in the same class as Minnie and did her best to maintain the Noodle Factory’s unsavory character. She had five prostitutes housed upstairs, her boyfriend behind the bar, and her husband in the back room, apparently overseeing some gambling.
Rose’s boyfriend was Arthur “Archie” O’Brien, a plumbing contractor who specialized in government jobs he could milk for double and triple payments through fraudulent vouchers. According to The Cincinnati Enquirer [February 4, 1885]:
“O’Brien has been in the habit of hanging around the saloon much of the time, being a particular friend of the proprietress. In fact he has been on intimate terms with Mrs. Turner for years. Once when he went to Kansas she followed him. She also went to Louisville after him. The woman’s husband, an old man, puts up at the house but has nothing to say when O’Brien is about.”
On the evening of February 3, 1885, a feud between O’Brien and a sometime thief named Anton “Tony” Noetker came to a deadly climax. Noetker had a long rap sheet and had, in fact, survived the 1884 Courthouse Riot while imprisoned in the county jail on charges of knifing to kill. He was a regular at the Noodle Factory and at Christian Rapp’s saloon on the opposite corner. At closing time, O’Brien had to physically haul Noetker out of the saloon. Sprawled on the icy sidewalk, Noetker threatened revenge. Next evening, he bounced between the Noodle Factory and Rapp’s, guided back and forth by another ne’er-do-well named Jake Schultze.
“On the Walnut Street side he stood still and cried, ‘Now I’m going to get even.’ Mrs. Turner screamed. She saw something in his hand she thought to be a revolver. O’Brien quickly turned around, opened the drawer, and seizing a pistol fired at Noetker. The distance between the two men was about ten feet. Noetker, without a murmur, stepped back and disappeared. O’Brien placed the weapon back in the drawer and started out to see if Noetker had been hit.”
He had, the .32-caliber slug piercing his heart. Noetker was carried into Rapp’s saloon but was dead before he could be hoisted onto a table. O’Brien pled self-defense and the jury agreed, but the authorities decided that this disturbance provided a good excuse to take care of the Noodle Factory once and for all. Rose Turner was charged with keeping a house of ill-fame. Her five tenants were charged with vagrancy. Each of the girls was arrested in the company of a male client, and the men all faced charges of loitering. Old Man Turner got three months in the Work House for vagrancy. Rose adopted a strategy often used by madams to avoid fines and jail time. According to The Cincinnati Post [February 13, 1885]:
“This morning in Police court, Rose Turner, the corpulent landlady of the low dive at Canal and Walnut, where Archie O’Brien killed Tony Noetker on the night of Feb. 3, pleaded guilty of keeping a house of ill fame, and appealed to the clemency of the court with the statement that she had grown tired of the business, and if given 15 days’ time would sell every article of furniture she had, and never open another lupanar.”
It’s possible that Rose kept her word because she was not present when the police raided the house a month later, arresting Rachel Darby, a madam who actually owned the building, and several prostitutes who had worked for Rose Turner. Just a week later, the Noodle Factory burned to the ground. The cause, fire inspectors said, was probably arson. The building had been vacant since the last raid, all the furnishings and fixtures hauled out, and it was apparent that the fire had started in several widely separated areas.
Although many citizens were delighted to see this blot on the city’s moral landscape erased, someone recalled the old dive with fondness more than 40 years later. The Cincinnati Post ran a promotion throughout 1927, asking readers to share reminiscences of the “good old days.” On June 20, a contributor identified only as “W.H.N.” submitted:
“Do you remember when the Noodle Factory was in full blast at Walnut and Canal streets?”
One wonders if the editor thought that memory had something to do with spaghetti.
Forget the massive manor. This adorable four-bedroom, three-bath mini castle is a sweet dream. Longtime owner Charles Kalomeres, proprietor of the Kennedy Heights Sweet Shop, lived here with his wife and family, including his daughter Matula. Her name might ring a bell—she created the sauce to go with the ribs at the restaurant she and her husband Ted Gregory opened, Montgomery Inn.
Listing agent Don Johnson says the Kennedy Heights home has been completely overhauled. From the street, you’re struck by its historic charm, mostly in the form of the turreted entry and the faux half-timbered exterior.
Up close, you’ll see that entry gives the 1929-built home a focal point with showstopping patterned tile and a welcoming lantern pendant. The foyer leads almost directly into the clean, modern kitchen. The subway tile backsplash, marble-like granite countertops, all-white cabinets with matte black fixtures and hardware, and stainless appliances contribute to the sleek look. There’s also a pantry and door that leads outside.
The kitchen is open to the dining room, with a picture-frame hardwood floor and double doors that open to a small patio above the garage. Those hardwood floors continue throughout the first floor, including in the living room. There, the picture window is lined by a built-in bench, and the non-working tiled fireplace (love those lily pad accent tiles) is framed by narrow French doors.
Also on the first floor are three of the four bedrooms including the master. The light-filled bedroom also has picture-frame hardwood floors. Nearby, the master bath features more marble-like details including the vanity and flooring along with a subway tile shower and a little alcove with shelving for storage. Down the hall, the laundry room, conveniently located near the bedrooms, is hidden by a space-saving barn door.
Upstairs, the mixed-use space gives you lots of options. The hideaway second level can be a playroom-slash-rec area, den, second living room, bedroom, or the entire floor can act as an in-law suite. A large full bath on that upper level features many of the same elements found in the kitchen and bathrooms like subway tile.
Outside, the front has a one-car garage and the backyard is mostly private with a large tree and greenery. Since it’s a flat yard, there’s loads of potential—think swing set for the kiddos, a patio furniture setup, a garden, and area to build a deck or pour a patio, whatever sweet dream you can imagine.
Click through our gallery to view more photos of this home:
The Ohio River has been sloshing around these parts since mastodons trumpeted in the shadows of Pleistocene glaciers. Floods—like deer, catfish, and passenger pigeons—came with the territory.
By 1937, however, the territory was chock-full of residents dependent on mechanized systems for water, light, heat, transportation, and employment. The floods of 1884 and 1913 damaged enough of this infrastructure that authors of the 1925 city plan recommended several flood-control strategies. Lots of discussion yielded little action over the next decade.
Then came January 24, 1937, now known as “Black Sunday.” On that single day everything that could go wrong went very, very wrong. The river had exceeded flood stage for a week, yet still the waters rose and swamped every precautionary barrier. Floodwaters poured into the waterworks, into electrical generating stations, into telephone switches and gas lines. Railroad tracks submerged. The Mill Creek valley was a lake of fire, as a million gallons of gasoline dumped from upended storage tanks ignited when a trolley line snapped and sparked. More than 30 buildings burned to the waterline.
As the Ohio River overflowed, six inches of snow piled onto a paralyzed city. Temperatures dipped to 20 degrees. Much of the city shivered as gas pipes uprooted and coal piles soaked. Factories as far inland as Hartwell were inaccessible and out of commission. Trains, unable to reach the city center, dropped passengers at suburban stations. The city’s airport was useless. Dayton and Cleveland delivered potable water by truck. Authorities limited electrical consumption to a radio, a refrigerator, and a single light bulb—if households had any electricity at all. So many telephone lines failed that only the city’s ham radio operators provided reliable communication.
To combat looting, the National Guard blocked access to most of downtown. The mayor closed all schools, theaters, and stores. The Great Flood of 1937 lasted 19 days and covered 15 percent of Cincinnati. Remarkably, only eight people died.
The city was still drying out when elected officials, corporate leaders, and citizen volunteers rallied to prevent a recurrence. The 1925 plan was dusted off, the Army Corps of Engineers enlisted, and everyone rolled up their sleeves. Within two years, the broad outlines of a flood mitigation plan came into focus.
The Corps offered two proposals to prevent future floods: an array of projects to tame Mill Creek and a levee spanning the downtown riverfront. Over the objections of warehouse owners and produce dealers south of Third Street, the city rejected the levee in favor of a string of flood-mitigating parks that continued to leave the riverfront businesses vulnerable. Today, Smale, Sawyer Point, Yeatman’s Cove, and the Serpentine Wall provide some cushion against the whims of the capricious river, and the warehouses have been replaced by stadiums and The Banks, which use multilevel parking garages as stilts to hoist themselves above the 1937 flood line. All that empty space is designed to absorb flooding with minimal damage. Kentucky happily accepted Corps-built levees and welcomed the Cincinnati/ Northern Kentucky International Airport as a replacement for “Sunken Lunken.”
The Mill Creek barrier dam runs unobtrusively for a mile and a half, adjacent to the Sixth Street Viaduct, centered on a massive watergate that slams shut whenever the Ohio River threatens. Although World War II slowed construction, the dam was dedicated on January 24, 1947, the 10th anniversary of Black Sunday. At the other end of the Valley, Winton Lake got its start as the West Fork of Mill Creek Lake, designed to retain excessive runoff before it overflowed downstream. Other Corps-created reservoirs are Harsha Lake in Clermont County and Caesar Creek Lake in Clinton County, which control flooding along the Little Miami River.
No subsequent floods have wreaked havoc on Cincinnati like Black Sunday did in 1937, but that doesn’t mean the mighty Ohio has stopped trying. Or that humans keep trying to outsmart Mother Nature.
This month it’s all about our Bouncing Back issue. We discuss how Cincinnati made it through the 1884 Courthouse riot, the 1918 Spanish Flu, the 1937 flood, and other tragic events, and then we explore how today’s leaders are helping the city weather the COVID-19 pandemic.
I moved west from Cincinnati many years ago. Whenever I return for a visit, everyone badmouths this town! I’m shocked at the low regard Cincinnatians have for their own city; I think it has the best traits of big and small towns. Why such negativity about such a wonderful place? What’s up with this attitude? —NASTY NATIS
DEAR NASTY: We normally bypass submissions of philosophical Jerry Seinfeld-ish questions, but such passion deserves a response. Your story is a little surprising, because the Queen City usually gets its insults from afar. A native New Yorker once sincerely asked us if Cincinnati had sidewalks and traffic lights. You’d think that Americans would at least remember we’re urban enough to have launched dozens of turkeys from a helicopter.
It’s as easy to list a city’s shortcomings as it is to list its benefits; staring at only one column is a false choice. Even as we struggle with painful circumstances in 2020, Cincinnatians revere our many beautiful venues and generous residents. We can only posit that a discontent with one’s surroundings may say less about the surroundings and more about the discontentee.
You are invited to decide whether or not this overheard sentiment is productive: Cincinnati may have a lot of big-city problems like crime and traffic congestion and failing infrastructure, but let’s not forget that at the same time there’s nothing here to do.
I swear I remember a TV news story from the late 1980s about Pete Rose getting a speeding ticket on Pete Rose Way. He was even interviewed, joking about it. But I can’t find anyone else who remembers this, and my Google searches come up empty. Can you get me some kind of authoritative answer? —MY BET ON BASEBALL
DEAR BET: We shall attempt to assuage your anguish by launching the Doctor’s mighty Contacts app. Our first stop is with Jerry Springer, who anchored Cincinnati’s local TV news during the period in question. Today’s Judge Springer says he cannot recall such an incident, and, as we all know, he has a sensitive memory when it comes to misdemeanors.
Our next source might know more about Peter Edward Rose than does Pete himself: Dennis “Wildman” Walker, former WEBN-FM sports savant. Through all of Pete’s travails, Wildman’s support has never wavered; his son, you should know, is named Peter Edward Walker. Wildman’s Contacts app includes Pete himself, so he bettered the Doctor and went straight to the source. Pete texted back that no, he was never pulled over, but in 1988 he did receive a parking ticket on the street bearing his name for parking his Porsche by an expired meter at Flanagan’s Landing. That’s probably the light-hearted news story you saw. If Pete confesses 20 years from now that he actually did something far more serious, we’ll let you know.
I saw Madonna at the Cincinnati Gardens in 1985, and the opening act couldn’t have been more incompatible: the Beastie Boys! Nobody had a fully fun night. I wonder now which Cincinnati concert had the worst-ever mismatch of headliner with opener. There must have been some awful ones. —WOULD YOU STAND UP AND WALK OUT ON ME
DEAR WALK OUT: Others may be slowly emerging from quarantine, but you have just sentenced the Doctor to endless solitary confinement. A full accounting is impossible, but randomly checking through hundreds of shows has revealed these top candidates for concert incongruity:
The Who and Herman’s Hermits. That is, emerging British rockers The Who opening for the declining British teenyboppers Herman’s Hermits in 1967, both bands out of place at Music Hall anyway. There’s sex-rocker Rod Stewart at Riverfront Coliseum in 1977 paired with the mushy love-song oatmeal of Air Supply. But first prize for musical incompatibility must go to the Grateful Dead at the U.C. Fieldhouse in 1970, warmed up by the Lemon Pipers. In fairness to the Oxford-based Pipers, their one-hit-wonder “Green Tambourine” was a song forced upon them by their record company, forever tarring them as a bubblegum band. Still, an audience mostly on hand to see the Grateful Dead might have preferred the Beastie Boys.
Regardless of musical style, however, every performer’s nightmare was to be partnered with the Cincinnati Gardens. That place was built for hockey games, and concerts there always sounded like one.
Though Fourth of July will look a bit different this year, that doesn’t mean all the celebrations have to stop. These five Greater Cincinnati events have been planned and adapted for everyone’s safety, so you can enjoy the fun, festivities, and fireworks from your couch or car.
Live from Music Hall: A Virtual July 4th Concert
Though the traditional Red, White & Boom concert won’t go on as usual, the Cincinnati Pops will still celebrate the holiday by streaming a free live concert led by John Morris Russell with special guests Melinda Doolittle and Over the Rhine. Tune in on Facebook or YouTube at 7 p.m. to catch this special celebration of America and its music. cincinnatisymphony.org
Red, Rhythm & Boom
The city of Mason’s annual Red, Rhythm & Boom event will be a remote and virtual experience this year. A patriotic sidewalk chalk contest and patriotic pet contest are part of the online festivities, along with celebratory videos for the event. For a socially distant and festive workout, take part in the 5k patriotic bike ride. imaginemason.org
Fourth at the Fort
Fort Thomas’s holiday hoopla will feature a virtual Americana Showcase—check out the patriotic talent show on the city’s website or drive around town to see the decorating contest entries. Don’t forget to watch the annual fireworks, which are being set off from three locations this year so you can see them from your own neighborhood. fortthomasmatters.com
The parade must go on! The Independence July 4th Parade will begin at 11 a.m. at Summitview Academy and will end at Simon Kenton High School—an extended route that allows everyone to spread out safely. Then, catch the fireworks at 10 p.m. The special high-burst shells allow you to get in on the action even from far away! cityofindependence.org
July 4th at March First
Sycamore Township’s March First Brewery will be hosting a socially distant tailgate party in their parking lot from noon to midnight, complete with food trucks, guest breweries, and live music performances from Chris Lee Acoustic, Stoney Deluxe Trio, Hayden Kaye, and the Bronson Arroyo Band. Cap off the evening by viewing the Sycamore Township fireworks from your tailgating spot! marchfirstbrewing.com
In 2002, the Cincinnati Police Department (CPD) entered into a collaborative agreement with local groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio Foundation and the Cincinnati Black United Front, to implement reforms and initiatives to address police brutality. But, as Rev. Nelson Pierce Jr., a pastor at Beloved Community Church in North Avondale, says, “An agreement only works when all of the parties involved work together.”
Unfortunately, police brutality continues to be an issue. Although Black people make up only 42 percent of the city of Cincinnati’s population, they have comprised approximately 70 percent of adult arrests, 85 percent of juvenile arrests, and 74 percent of use of force incidents since 2000, according to Beloved Community Church’s website.
The Black Lives Matter movement has gained momentum in the past month, following the death of George Floyd on May 25, and Cincinnatians are actively taking steps to create local change. Here are five examples of local petitions that have received positive responses.
Pierce and his colleagues have collected more than 7,200 signatures for their online petition calling for the of CPD to be defunded. Pierce wants to be absolutely clear about one thing: The petition does not call for the complete disbanding of the police department. Instead, the church urges Cincinnati to divest resources away from policing and reallocate them into the healthcare, housing, and education that Black communities deserve. “It is easy for people who have some sort of privilege or power to overlook and ignore the voices of the people who are the most vulnerable,” he says. “We believe God calls us together to fight for the liberation of all the people who are oppressed.”
Pierce adds that the police department’s “Tough on Crime” rhetoric pushes the wrong image of these communities and has been a “very thinly veiled attack on Black communities since the 1980s.” This phrase promotes the idea that Black communities need to be policed with tougher and more aggressive measures, despite studies that show the best way to address crime is through providing stronger economic security for communities. “When people live in neighborhoods that are real communities, crime goes down,” Pierce says. “When we disinvest in communities and put that money in policing, we are inflaming a problem and providing a false solution to that problem.”
Mercy McAuley High School Coalition started by Noelle Rotte
McAuley High School (MMHS) alumna Noelle Rotte argues that predominately white institutions should be taking it upon themselves to implement anti-racist teachings and not “whitewash” history. She organized the Mercy McAuley High School Coalition and wrote a letter to her alma mater calling for specific changes to be made to the school’s curriculum. A total of 370 alumnae joined Rotte in signing the letter.
“It’s important to recognize that white folks are very privileged in this society and that all of the systems that are in place in the United States are built for white or white-passing folks,” Rotte says. “It’s really not the job of Black and brown folks, indigenous folks, or people of color to teach white people about these issues.”
In her letter, Rotte asks MMHS to consider five things:
1) Provide a more diverse summer reading list.
2) Administer mandatory cultural competency training to all employees, if not already doing so.
3) Employ more administration, teachers, and staff of color.
4) Offer and expand on courses to include racism in science and medicine, systemic racism and white privilege, how to be anti-racist, and a mixed-media course on race.
5) Allow time within retreats to discuss the Sister of Mercy critical concerns, which are Earth, Immigration, Non-Violence, Racism, and Women.
Asha Daniels, an alumna of Saint Ursula Academy, created a similar petition for her alma mater. Within the petition, she writes, “You have a responsibility to Black students to openly affirm that they are safe from racism and discrimination in their academic environment.” The petition has already garnered more than 2,400 signatures.
Daniels asks SUA administration to address the following:
1) Mental health resources for students and faculty, including on-site racial bias training for faculty and staff to properly support Black students.
2) Invest in Black representation within the community
3) Mandate Black history within the curriculum.
4) Renounce Marge Schott, whose name is on an academic building at the school.
Another alumna of SUA, Kathleen Perazzo, made a petition specifically calling for SUA to rename campus buildings carrying Marge Schott’s name. Former Reds owner Marge Schott was banned from Major League Baseball for multiple transgressions, including her support of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in 1996.
In her petition Perazzo writes, “Marge Schott Hall and Schottzie Stadium are represented by students and players of all races, religious backgrounds, and ethnicities. To name an academic hall and athletic field after an openly racist woman, no matter the amount of money she donated, is not only irresponsible, but it is also directly contradictory St. Ursula’s mission of integrity and inclusivity.”
The petition received more than 2,800 signatures, and the SUA administration agreed to rename the buildings.
University of Cincinnati alumnus and former baseball star Jordan Ramey felt called to address the same issue at UC’s campus. As a Black baseball player, Ramey says he always felt conflicted playing in a stadium named for Marge Schott.
“Everything is a wavelength. Somebody can say, It’s just a name, but the name presents a wavelength that gives off [negative] energy and that energy carries out into society, the city, and the school,” he says. “It shows an athlete that we are permitting that culture. … It’s like we’re permitting this kind of mentality that [racist] behavior is still acceptable.”
After launching his petition, Ramey received immense support from the community and other baseball stars like Nate Moore, a current UC baseball player, and Josh Harrison, a former UC player who went to be a two-time MLB All-Star. After just one month, the petition included more than 10,000 signatures, and UC agreed to rename the stadium.
Beyond his petition, Ramey hopes his efforts, and others like his, will set an example for young people wanting to enact change. He is also aware of the petitions started by SUA alumnae and says campaigns like these, even when started by a younger generation, will make all the difference in seeing change. “It’s important to understand that wherever you see injustice, to speak out about it,” he says. “It may seem like at first you’re the only one who sees it, but you’re not. We have a lot of things to fix, and we have to show that we’re not going to allow racist culture any more.”