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.
Defund the Police created by Beloved Community Church
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.
SUA to Create a Detailed Plan of Action to Support and Protect their Black Students started by Asha Daniels
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.
5) Instate a zero tolerance rule against racism.
6) Implement ongoing and visible accountability.
Rename Schott Hall and Schottzie Stadium started by Kathleen Perazzzzo
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.
Change the name of the University of Cincinnati’s Marge Schott Stadium started by Jordan Ramey
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.”