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African American Genealogy in the Time of Black Lives Matter


Thomas Jordan began with the death of his aunt Mildred, the last member of his father’s generation. With her went a houseful of family mementos, clues to his family past. Jordan felt “a void,” he says, that eventually sent him to Ancestry.com, to libraries, to cemeteries, and to courthouses across several states seeking his relatives, living and dead.

Jordan became hooked on genealogy. Over the years he’s discovered more and more cousins, including Jo Ann Gibson Robinson, who helped organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott. “I’d seen her before, unbeknownst to me, in the documentary Eyes on the Prize,” says the Mt. Washington resident, who grew up in Bond Hill. “She played this gigantic part in one of the most pivotal moments in Civil Rights history.”

On the maternal side, Jordan even managed to sleuth out the slave owner whose son, he thinks, he is descended from. He’s walked the land his great-grandparents owned in Crawford County, Georgia, and saw where they worked and where they worshipped.

Joyce Coleman began piecing together her genealogy from a young age, from overheard names in a family where the past was seldom discussed. She developed a passion for history and learning the stories of those who went before. She’s volunteered at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center’s John Parker Library before the building’s first brick was laid, and helped others construct their family trees.

Coleman has traced her own roots back before the 1830s, but it was when she researched her husband’s family that she made a discovery close to home: an aunt he never knew. They drove to Maysville, Kentucky, to meet her. “The woman asked, How’s my brother?” she says. That’s when they realized she didn’t know that Coleman’s father-in-law was dead. “I’ve been trying to find my brother, and I can’t find him,” she said. Then she lifted up this candy dish and pulled out a piece of paper. On it she had written the names of Coleman’s husband and his father, sister, and brother. “She said, I’ve been trying to find them, and you brought my nephew.”

That sense of missing pieces in a vast, personal puzzle sends millions of us to genealogical websites FamilySearch and Ancestry.com, part of a multimillion-dollar industry popularized by shows like Henry Louis Gates’s Finding Your Roots. Armchair genealogists also flock to DNA “heritage” tests promising insights into one’s ethnic and geographic origins.

There’s something innately human in seeking our roots. While it’s seldom as easy as seen on TV, for African American genealogists like Jordan and Coleman, reconstructing that family tree is far more difficult given U.S. society’s blind spots and glaring omissions. But there are new records waiting to see light. And the gaps themselves have something to say about how inequity and racism thread through history into the present day.

As we look hard at our culture and ourselves, a new generation of Black genealogists weighs in on how Black lives—past, present, future, and forever—matter.

Genealogy has helped Jordan put his ancestors into historical context, he says, and that context can change how you see the present. Consider the controversy over athletes taking a knee during the national anthem, he says. Jordan, an ordained minister and 33-year veteran of WCPO-TV, says that those who see the act as disrespecting the flag overlook a historical reality. African American servicemen—both he and his wife are related to many—returned from fighting tyranny overseas to fight the same old racism and violence at home. This was an America where Black servicemen were lynched for wearing their uniforms.

But Jordan isn’t angry. He believes that genealogy has the power to heal people and communities, to restore their pride of place in history. That’s why he visits schools to teach young people that every family member is important and every relative famous in some way.

So genealogy isn’t just about the past. It links us in the living, breathing present. And as we look hard at our culture and ourselves, a new generation of Black genealogists weighs in on how Black lives—past, present, future, and forever—matter.

Thom Reed is African American and, like all FamilySearch employees, Mormon. The company is an arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS). You can’t do genealogy research without using records made available by the church because, driven by doctrine that calls them to baptize the dead and “seal” families in eternity, Mormons have amassed and digitized the world’s largest collection of genealogical records. Stored in their fabled Granite Mountain Records Vault in Utah, which is drilled into a mountain behind nuclear-blast-proof doors, they have information containing some 2 billion names.

Thomas Jordan finds meaning connecting his grandchildren Anaya (age 13) and Imani (age 8), wife Jacquelyne, and daughter Bethany with family members who came before.

Photograph by Jeremy Kramer

Reed, who is deputy chief genealogical officer at FamilySearch, Zooms with me from Salt Lake City’s renowned Family History Library, whose imposing monolith looms in his background (although he still rocks a 513 area code from an earlier career phase with Procter & Gamble). At FamilySearch, Reed was project manager for the epic Freedmen’s Bureau Project, which transcribed records of 4 million freed Blacks from 1865, following Emancipation.

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center was one node in this vast, crowd-sourced project, a partnership among the National Archives, LDS, the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, and others. More than 25,000 volunteers transcribed and indexed the names of 1.8 million men, women, and children, making them easily searchable online. “That means we didn’t find them all,” says Reed. “So there are more records still out there. About 40 million of us are descended from those 4 million emancipated people at the end of the Civil War. What people don’t always immediately grasp is that there tends to be a lack of records in certain areas. But also that there are records out there that people don’t traditionally think about,” including those held by slave-owning family descendants who are reluctant to share them.

Genealogy newcomers often think when they research African American relatives that they need to go straight to the period of slavery, he says, when in fact there usually are vital records—birth, marriage, death, military, and more—available in the years since. There are also records created by Black families, churches, and other institutions that set down the generations for posterity.

Coleman, of Paddock Hills, also cautions against trying go too far back too quickly. It’s important to do the work, she says. Resources like Ancestry.com and DNA tests have their place, “but it’s important to dig deeper. When you come to the Freedom Center, you get a different version of ancestry than what you can get at home. You might get a DNA test that tells you you’re 50 percent Italian, 10 percent German, and 2 percent African. But you don’t know the names of these people. You don’t know anything about them.”

DNA heritage testing remains unregulated, often offering wildly different results depending on the company used. It can be useful when you’ve hit a dead end in family research, but it’s particularly questionable for African Americans given that the vast majority of DNA held in databases comes from white Europeans and overlooks the historically transient nature of human populations. It won’t bring your ancestors into clear focus the way old-school research will. “The first thing you need to do is find the oldest persons in your family and sit down, talk to them, and ask them questions,” says Coleman. “Ask them for names. Ask them if they have a bible or any kind of a written record of your family.”

Thomas Jordan’s distant cousin, Rev. James Brookins

Photograph courtesy of Thomas J. Jordan

Thomas Jordan’s mother Lela B. Thomas Jordan (left)

Photograph courtesy of Thomas J. Jordan

Another great source is old newspaper archives, particularly a city’s African American newspaper, like The Cincinnati Herald. “If Sally Jones died, the newspaper said she died on June 1, period,” says Coleman. “But who is Sally Jones? You don’t know because of the one-line blurb that we would find in the white newspapers. But we had the Cleveland Call & Post and The Chicago Defender [Black-owned newspapers that would write full obituaries], and the Pullman porters on the passenger trains were the newspaper boys of that time. They would take the papers to the South, and that’s how many people learned about their relatives in the North who had died.”

White-owned newspapers, interested in selling subscriptions to Black readers, eventually began to include so-called African American Society Columns. Genealogy and local history reference librarian Stephen Headley has been indexing these and making them available on the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County website. “Society Columns” doesn’t do justice to the richness of information they contain. “They talk about weddings and deaths and will include obituaries,” he says. “They even mention births, sometimes giving the weight of the baby. You can really get a good sense of at least a segment of Cincinnati’s African American population during that time.” The Cincinnati Commercial Gazette/Tribune ran one such column by Charles W. Bell, a prominent Black citizen and teacher of penmanship who also edited a Black newspaper locally. Another appeared in The Cincinnati Times-Star authored by Susie Johnson Higgins, a teacher at Gaines High School, the city’s segregated public school for Black students in the late 1800s.

Headley is all too familiar with the challenges facing the African American genealogist. “It doesn’t get easier even well after Emancipation,” he says. “During the 1920s and ’30s, over the Great Migra­tion of African Americans to Cincinnati, they’re mostly coming from the South, and those states have very poor records, or at least they’re not accessible yet.” Cincinnati newspaper society columns are also valuable because they cover a 20-year gap in government recordkeeping left when the 1890 census schedules were destroyed in a fire in 1921, he says.

Thomas Jordan’s Aunt Mildred Louise Jordan Barnes

Photograph courtesy of Thomas J. Jordan

In his genealogical journeys, Jordan has often struck gold in another source. “I guess my forte, my niche, is dissecting obituaries and funeral programs,” he jokes. When a cousin gave him the funeral program of his Aunt Eddie, a teacher in Georgia, unfamiliar names jumped out among those he already knew. The mysterious names prompted him to write to Southern churches his family had been active in, asking for any leads. A cousin wrote back. Her mother was still alive and remembered the names of his great-great-grandparents.

“The African American funeral program is kind of unique in how it evolved,” Jordan says. They’re rich in detail where official records and mainstream newspapers fell short. They hail from the tradition of Black-owned funeral homes, which amassed uncommon wealth and influence that they often parlayed into support for Civil Rights advancement.

In 2019, Coleman and Jordan gave a presentation at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County about the city’s Black funeral homes. Their PowerPoint presentation is a veritable who’s who of the influential Black businessmen and -women who prospered in the West End prior to that neighborhood’s evisceration by I-75 construction, which pushed many to the suburbs.

Tending for and burying the dead was one of the most lucrative professions available to Black entrepreneurs in the post–Civil War era, when embalming really took off. Black funerary professionals quickly specialized in providing elaborate home affairs that afforded dignity in death to those who had been denied it in life.

Among the Cincinnati families who went into the business, there was James E. Simpson Jr. of Jones & Simpson Funeral Home, who stuck a campaign bumper sticker on his hearse and became the first African American to win a city commission election in Covington and was integral in desegregating Northern Kentucky theaters. Inez Renfro of the Renfro Funeral Services family became one of the most powerful Black women in Cincinnati, bolstered by the Republican Party. Doris Rankin-Sells, of Rankin Brothers, was the first African American woman to be awarded a Wendy’s franchise. She served on boards from the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce to the Greater Cincinnati Foundation. And Mary Norris Andrews, who owned M.M. Andrews Funeral Chapel in Avondale, published The Cincinnati Independent, the city’s only Black-owned paper during the 1940s and a springboard for young African American writers, typesetters, and printers.

But these businesses are disappearing. With the popularity of cremation and younger generations leaving the business, they’re being gobbled up by chains. And when that happens, generations of funeral programs can easily be lost in the shuffle.

FamilySearch recently completed a pilot project in Virginia to collect, digitize, and share generations of funeral programs. Reed says he hopes to replicate that project across the U.S., but the clock is ticking.

Information on Black ancestors can also be found in places where their bodies are enshrined in the earth itself and their names written in stone. Musician, music teacher, newspaperman, writer, and publisher Wendell Phillips Dabney gives the history of Cincinnati’s African American cemeteries in his seminal book, Cincinnati’s Colored Citizens (1926), the pages of which shine with his characteristic wit. Theirs is a history that underscores again how dignity, even in death, remains elusive.

Two key locations remain today: Price Hill’s Union Baptist Cemetery and Madisonville’s United American Cemetery. The latter was created in 1884 when Colored American Cemetery in Avondale was closed. According to Dabney, white citizens’ “delicate nostrils seemingly scented an aroma arising from their defunct colored brethren which gave to the atmosphere a tang not redolent with fragrance. In short, the whites objected to the black burying ground.” After a protracted battle, most of Colored American Cemetery’s burials were moved to the new United American Cemetery.

Retired architect and former Freedom Center genealogy volunteer Chris Hanlin has researched and mapped the extant cemeteries. He lives in Madisonville near United American. Fascinated by its beauty and the lives of those buried there, he learned that it shares a designer with Spring Grove Cemetery, as well as Eden Park, Lincoln Park, and Burnet Woods: the great Prussian landscape architect Adolph Strauch.

Dabney lies in United American. Former slave and Civil War Medal of Honor recipient Powhatan Beaty is buried in Union Baptist, as is Harriet Clay, a former slave and friend of Booker T. Washington. They are resting places for the formerly enslaved, for anti-slavery advocates, and for conductors on the Underground Railroad. But as recently as last year United Baptist Cemetery was vandalized; gravestones were overturned and sprayed with graffiti.

Union Baptist Cemetery is overseen by Union Baptist Church, Cincinnati’s oldest Black church. According to Board of Trustees Chair Angelita Jones, the church recently received a $10,000 grant from the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners and $400,000 through the African American Civil Rights Grant Program, which is administered by the National Park Service, to stabilize and repair the cemetery buildings, monuments, headstones, and fencing. “I know that sounds like a lot of money, but we’re talking about 16 acres and thousands of headstones,” she says. “The grass-cutting and all of the upkeep comes out of the congregation’s and pastor’s pockets.”

With the COVID-19 crisis keeping members from church, funds are tight. Union Baptist Church can’t do it alone, she says, “So we’re going to continue to apply for grants and continue to fund-raise [including through GoFundMe], because these cemeteries have to be sustained.”

Nationally, historically Black cemeteries remain an important genealogical resource. “There are young children, for instance, who were born after one census and died before the next census was taken in a period before there were birth certificates,” Hanlin says. “So the person’s tombstone inscription may be the only record that this person ever existed.”

The real reason to visit them, though, is out of respect. Both Jordan and Reed have sought their ancestors in cemeteries. In his book, Double Jordan, the story of uncovering his paternal ancestry, Jordan writes how, on a dead-end road in Culloden, Georgia, near the headstones of cousins in a segregated cemetery, he came across a section with a single marker that read, SLAVE CEMETERY, We know not who they are but they are loved ones of God and man, and will never be forgotten.

Reed has also walked among the dead, searching for his great-great-great-grandfather. He visited a timber country cemetery in Marengo County, Alabama, hoping to pick up the trail where the records had left him cold. He’s still searching. “I’m right up against that brick wall of enslavement and haven’t made that bridge yet. I say yet because I’m in it for the long haul,” he says, smiling over the video connection from Utah.

The internet may well prove to be the ultimate genealogical tool. Artificial Intelligence will soon support optical character recognition even for difficult-to-decipher handwritten records, says Reed. But the future of the past lies in crowd-sourcing, in a wide network of inquisitive minds. It’s happening right now, a million aha moments on message boards and social media pages, where users share notes, photos, and scans from the front pages of family bibles.

It’s a project that anyone can contribute to. “With this whole racial tension in the U.S. right now,” Reed says, “a lot of my white friends have approached me and asked, What can I do to make things better? Part of it is participating in these projects to make more records accessible for people of African descent.”

FamilySearch has acquired and digitized records from the Caribbean, civil registrations that haven’t been indexed, he says. “So we need volunteers just like the Freedmen’s Bureau Project to jump on board and help us index and make these records searchable for our brothers and sisters in the Caribbean.” And there are efforts around the country to reclaim African American cemeteries. “Get involved in your local community,” says Reed. “Help reclaim a cemetery, and put that information on websites to make it accessible to more people worldwide. That’s what allies who want to help the cause can do.”

Jordan is hoping to pass the genealogy torch to younger generations. From the age of 3, his granddaughter showed an interest, he says, and her face lit up seeing photos he’d discovered of his great-grandparents. More recently, for Black History Month, she did a school project on her family tree.

His granddaughter, now 8, has caught the spark. She recites the names of those who went before. She feels their weight and carries them on.

Covington’s Braxton Brewing Opens New Brewery and Taproom Location in Pendleton


Bringing Covington’s Braxton Brewing Company to Cincinnati was always part of the plan for cofounders Evan and Jake Rouse. Perhaps not during a pandemic, but when the 3 Points Urban Brewery space became available in Pendleton, the brothers knew they had to go for it.

“We’ve always been looking and listening for opportunities to jump into Cincinnati and this one just came up—kind of at a weird time—but, we were like, Let’s do it,” Jake says.

Braxton announced that it would take over the vacant space for its first-ever Ohio facility in July. After a two-and-a-half-year search for a Cincinnati location, the Rouse brothers were able to open their new Pendleton brewery and taproom last weekend.

“This one was the right space; the place is gorgeous, the location is great,” says Jake. “I love the Pendleton neighborhood; it reminds me a lot of Covington. So, it’s really great to be able to play a role in it now.”

One part of that role, Jake said, was meeting with local residents and business owners about how they could best utilize the space. A Few 3 Points customs, such as the morning coworking function, which Braxton pioneered at their Covington location, will carry on in the new brewery.

“One thing I love about the Pendleton community is everyone’s so welcoming,” Jake says. “I’ve met with everybody down the street. They’ve all been incredibly welcoming and excited about what we’re doing.”

Braxton is also working to offer food at the Pendleton taproom, which will be a first for the brand. Customers will be able to order dishes at the CHX restaurant space next door and then enjoy their meals in the brewery.

“When we took over the location, obviously it had the CHX restaurant next door,” Jake says. “We partnered with the Parlor Group, so they’re putting together some concepts and some brands, and we hope to have it open in the next three to four weeks.”

As for new beverages, Braxton introduced its festive seasonal Vive pumpkin spice hard seltzer earlier this month. The Pendleton brewery will begin producing products within the next few weeks, Jake says, as more fall flavors and hearty brews begin to reemerge. “Much like our facility Braxton Labs in Newport, you’re going to see a lot of variety,” he says.

Though opening an establishment under COVID-19 restrictions wasn’t easy, Jake is thrilled to see a long-time dream fulfilled—even if it happened to be during a pandemic. “I’m looking forward to the future when we can really get rocking,” he says. “But for now, it’s been so fun just seeing new faces.”

Braxton Brewing Company, 331 E. 13th St., Pendleton, (513) 918-4804

The Reds Rewrite Their Season Script


Fans of any stripe tend to be a cynical bunch, not only in sports but everywhere. Take, for example, the film industry. I love movies. Adore them. In terms of my passions, film is right up there with the Reds and, I don’t know, bacon, I guess. And if you watch enough movies, occasionally you’ll get a feeling in the middle of one that you’ve seen it before. Not that you’ve seen that exact movie, but something very similar.


I remember years ago sitting in a dark theater watching what seemed like another crime thriller. It was good, I was enjoying it, but I kept getting the nagging feeling that it was just like every other heist film I’d ever seen. And then, right at the very end, there was a surprising twist: the identity of Keyser Söze was revealed, and I sank back into my chair in amazement. I went back to see it again the next night.

Through 44 games of this abbreviated 60-game season, your Cincinnati Reds looked like The Usual Suspects, didn’t they? Yet another season that began with promise had sunk inevitably into chaos, with players underperforming and the Reds failing to live up to preseason expectations. I mean, we’ve seen that movie before, right? We know how it ends.

But then there was a plot twist! Last week, the Reds lost two of three to the Cubs, dropping their record to 19-25, good for fourth place in the National League Central, six and a half games back. They hadn’t won a series since August 7-9, and time was rapidly running out.

Enter Luis Castillo. In the first game of a weekend series last Friday, he pitched a dazzling two-hit complete game to lead the Reds past the Cardinals. A small sign of life at the time, but it was followed by Cincinnati winning six of seven games, including a five-game winning streak that lifted them to within one game of .500.

More importantly, as we head into the next-to-last weekend of the regular season, the Reds are in second place, which would make them the No. 6 seed in the expanded 2020 playoffs. How did we get here?

One thing that hasn’t changed is the outstanding starting pitching, highlighted by Castillo’s return to form. In the next start after his complete game gem, La Piedra tossed seven shutout innings to cement a sweep of the Pirates. The Reds have also seen great starts from Trevor Bauer and Michael Lorenzen (of all people) during this late-season resurgence.

Finally, however, the bullpen and the offense began to resemble the units that we expected prior to Opening Day. Raisel Iglesias has been lights-out lately; he hasn’t surrendered a single hit (and just one walk) in his last four appearances. He picked up three saves and a win in those four outings and, for the first time in a long while, has resembled the Iglesias who, not so long ago, was one of the best closers in baseball.

The pen has also been boosted by the presence of newly-acquired Archie Bradley. Acquired at the trade deadline, he’s pitched in five games for the Reds and has yet to allow a run. Combined with Amir Garrett, who picked up his first career save this week, the Reds all of a sudden have three relief studs for late-game situations.

The real story is the offense. After struggling all season long (and suffering through a historically unlucky stretch, as we discussed last week), the bats finally woke up. The Reds are averaging more than five runs a game over the past seven contests. Nowhere is the turnaround more evident than with Shogo Akiyama, who has started to look comfortable in his first taste of baseball in the states.

In his last 18 games, Akiyama is hitting .327 with a brilliant .478 on-base percentage. He’s given the Reds the reliable threat at the top of the order they’ve been missing all season. With Eugenio Suarez returning to form (.294/.400/.598 in the past week) and Joey Votto discovering his power stroke again (three homers during that span), the lineup has clicked for the first time all year.

We’ve always known that this silly 2020 season, with the short schedule and expanded playoffs, was going to be bizarre. Even as we’ve been documenting the often-embarrassing play of this year’s Reds, we’ve always tried to note that things could change at any time. After all, eight teams in each league will make the playoffs.

The Reds have had precisely one good week all season long, but it couldn’t have come at a better time. They are legitimately in a playoff race for the first time in years. Sure, it’s a watered-down playoffs, but who cares? We’ve been waiting a long time for a September with meaningful baseball in Cincinnati.

Nine games to go, and things are about to get tougher for the good guys. The Chicago White Sox roll into the Queen City this weekend toting a robust offense that has them sitting with the best record in the American League. After a three-game set with Milwaukee, the Redlegs finish the campaign in Minnesota against a Twins team that’s been among the best AL squads the past couple of seasons.

There is work left to do, but if you can believe it, the Cincinnati Reds are in the thick of a playoff race. Maybe the script will end with our hearts being broken once again. We’ll know soon. Right now, however, my eyes are glued to the screen. This movie just got far more interesting.

Chad Dotson authors Reds coverage at Cincinnati Magazine and hosts a long-running Reds podcast, Redleg Nation Radio. His first book, The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Cincinnati Reds, is available in bookstores and online.

The Art Is Outdoors at Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park


In 1987, Harry T. Wilks bought 40 acres of land in Hamilton, Ohio, and built an exquisite 7,000-square-foot underground home featuring an above-ground pyramid-shaped skylight. Completed in 1992, the home is dubbed The Pyramid House. Wilks gradually expanded his property, and in 1997 he turned it into a nonprofit sculpture park to protect the land from development. Today, for a small admission fee ($8 for adults; $3 for kids ages 6–12), visitors to Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park can get an up-close look at Wilks’s house and enjoy more than 80 contemporary sculptures across 300-plus acres of rolling hills, hiking trails, fields, lakes, and gardens.

Expect to see new pieces by regional and international artists every season. A 10,000-square-foot museum is dedicated to Wilks’s ancient sculpture collection, with art dating back to 1550 B.C. Drive along the paved “Art Loop” to see the sculptures from the comfort of your car or experience the park on foot. We suggest renting a golf cart from the visitor’s center, packing a picnic, and enjoying a socially distant lunch date for two near our favorite sculpture, the enormous orange Abracadabra (above) by Alexander Liberman.

Hydration Station 513 Helps You Strengthen Your Immune System


As the coronavirus pandemic rages on, Cincinnatians continue to look for ways to stay healthy. A newly opened health and wellness facility on Ninth Street downtown may just be the golden ticket. Earlier this month, Chris Jaeger and his wife, Jess, who’s an anesthesiologist, opened Hydration Station 513, an IV therapy spa that specializes in intravascular administration of vitamins, minerals, and medications.

“If you’re feeling better, whether it’s mentally, physically, whatever, data shows that you stand a better chance of fighting any type of illness,” Jaeger says.

For the past year, Hydration Station 513’s team of healthcare professionals has brought services directly to clients’ homes. Now customers can receive IV treatments in a sterile, safe environment with socially distanced seating areas for individuals or small groups.

Of course, an IV treatment is a great way to rehydrate on Saturday and Sunday mornings after a night of drinking, but Hydration Station 513’s service menu tackles a wide range of health and wellness issues, from anti-nausea medicine and energy-boosting B12 vitamin shots to amino acid blends that aid muscle recovery and antihistamines to treat allergies. Other IV treatments include those designed for anti-aging, pre- and post-workout, and migraines.

“We actually thought that the hangover side of the business was going to be the biggest—the people going out and having too much fun who need to rehydrate, but that’s actually not been the case. People are really looking for alternative ways to increase their wellbeing and overall wellness,” Jaeger says. “We’re increasing people’s quality of life.”

Unlike a normal multivitamin, of which you might absorb 20 percent, IV therapy shows instant effects. When you receive a treatment via IV, you can expect to see nearly 100 percent absorption, with the treatment going directly into your blood stream for quick results, Jaeger says.

With proper planning, the spa can accommodate groups up to 20-30 people. So whether you and your running buddies need a little boost after a long week of training or you’re planning a bachelorette party that will likely lead to alcohol-induced hangovers, Hydration Station 513 can help you feel better as quickly as possible.

Artists of All Abilities Can Learn—and Earn—at InsideOut Studio


Morgan Gattermeyer holds up a small, rectangular sheet of cherry red glass. She’s about to cut half-inch strips to use in a patriotic glass piece, and she demonstrates how to use a glass cutting board and a scoring tool. “It’s gonna sound like you’re scraping nails on a chalkboard. That’s the sound you want,” she says on her July 2 Facebook Live video. Once the glass is scored, she shows how to place running pliers on the glass and squeeze, cracking the glass precisely over the score mark.

Gattermeyer is a 27-year-old working artist at InsideOut Studio in Hamilton. Funded by a combination of Medicaid funds, grants, individual donors, and sponsorships, InsideOut is a bit of an amalgam. It’s a learning environment where adult artists with disabilities can learn techniques ranging from glasswork to painting. It’s a studio where those artists can practice their skills. It’s a retail space where the community can purchase one-of-a-kind pieces made by the artists. And it’s an employer that pays its artists 50 percent of the profits from each piece that sells. The other half goes back to InsideOut for materials and operational costs.

Before the coronavirus, Gattermeyer taught community art classes at InsideOut. Those classes have been swapped for Facebook Live videos, which double as artistic technique demos and a way to promote the studio, its artists, and their work. InsideOut’s primary goal is to provide employment opportunities through art, and to market, represent, and sell the work of its artists, says Kim Neal Davis, retail and marketing manager. “For some, this is their main means of income,” she says.

In the retail space, customers can find anything from paintings to garden art, vases to signage, and night-lights to glass tic-tac-toe games. Plus, local organizations regularly commission pieces from InsideOut, such as glass award stands and mosaics.

Gattermeyer has been an artist at InsideOut for more than three years and says fused glass pieces are her favorite to create. She not only likes to see the puzzled-together project before it’s fired in the kiln and after, but she appreciates what glasswork has taught her. “It’s helped me become more patient,” Gattermeyer says. “When you’re working on a big glass piece or a big painting, it’s more than likely not gonna get finished in one day.”

InsideOut Studio, 140 High St., Hamilton, (513) 857-5658

Dr. Know: The Human Fly, Leaf Laws, and Another Local Answer Guy

My dad wants some help with the details of an incident from his childhood: the “human fly” on Fountain Square. A man climbed several floors outside an office building, drew a crowd, and got arrested. My dad thinks it was in the mid-1950s, and wonders what happened to the guy. —CLIMB EVERY FOUNTAIN

Dear Climb:
Sorry, Dad, but time blurs the memory. It was Government Square, and it was 1947 when John Ciampa climbed out a fourth-floor window of the Traction Building at Fifth and Walnut. Ciampa slithered upwards and downwards, chatting with startled building occupants and waving to the obligatory crowd of gawkers as he avoided several rescue teams. Then, like Rocky the Flying Squirrel, he launched himself across an alley and down to the roof of the Kroger Building next door. (Oh, yes there was.) At the bottom of a fire escape he was met by a Cincinnati welcoming committee, who generously presented him with a pair of handcuffs.

The talented Ciampa, a Brooklyn native, had been hired to promote a traveling rodeo. He was paid $50, half of which covered his fines. Over the years he performed many attention-getting stunts in many cities; sometimes on stage, but more often on the way to jail. News clips about Ciampa’s adventures stop abruptly at age 30, and he died at 48. Watch your step.

I recently moved from Bellevue to Cincinnati, and I don’t know your rules for pickup of leaves. Weekly or bi-weekly? In a bag? Can? Rake them to the curb? The city’s website has some info, but I worry if it’s updated for these “uncertain times.” What’s the latest? —CAN’T HELP FALLING IN LEAF

Dear Falling:
First, welcome to Cincinnati. Unlike Bellevue, we don’t make you submit a form re­questing leaf pickup. Unlike Covington, we don’t ticket you for parking at the curb on leaf collection day. Unlike both, however, Cincinnati requires leaves and yard waste to be in cans labeled “yard waste” or in approved bags, because curbs are reserved exclusively for rude parking. Pickup happens on trash day every other week, when you put out your recycling. Until further notice, each leaf should be carefully wiped with a sanitized cloth. Kidding!

For people of a certain age, your topic triggers nostalgic childhood aromas of burning leaves. Interestingly, Cincinnati’s first leaf-burning bans resulted in protests that mirror today’s face-mask resistance: Totalitarian power grab! Fake science! Protect our precious freedom to spread airborne microscopic particulates! Tattletales and enforcers back then were given Soviet nicknames like Ivan; today they’re called Karen.

WARNING: DO NOT rake leaves into a pile so you can jump in them! Small children only! The leaves provide no cushion whatsoever for adults! Do not ask why the Doctor is so certain of this.

This is a personal question. There’s a new feature on WVXU-FM called “OKI Wanna Know,” where they answer questions about quirky little Cincinnati things. Isn’t this a direct steal of the magazine column you invented? Shouldn’t they have asked you, a radio person, to do it? Is your attorney on this? —OH KNOW

Dear Oh:
First, a correction: This column was invented in 2008 by Albert Pyle. Before his retirement, he was a staggeringly productive and erudite contributor to this magazine. The unbearably exhausting and pressure-filled work of producing this monthly column was only occasionally relieved by his part-time hobby as executive director of the Mercantile Library, a world-renowned Cincinnati treasure since 1835 (perhaps we have confused the time commitments). Your current Doctor inherited the column in 2015, and in the years since has made peace with the fact that the Mercantile Library clearly misplaced his phone number.

Cincinnati has more than enough oddities in its past—rivaled only by the oddities in its present—to occupy the inboxes of several sleuths. Bill Rinehart at WXVU is eminently qualified, having worked in radio news for many years. It takes experience and perspective to know where to look when seeking obscure facts about Cincinnati, plus an ability to punt when a source never gets back to you. We wish Rinehart all the best in his endeavors, and look forward to e-mailing him copies of past columns every time he answers a question we already covered.

Joe Burrow Got Bengaled

It’s good to know that in these crazy, unpredictable times, some things never change. Yes, the spanking new Joe Burrow Era, which filled the greater southern Ohio region with so much optimism lo these many pandemic-laden months, at long last began in Cincinnati on Sunday. And somehow it ended in much the same way games always seemed to end when Andy Dalton or Carson Palmer or Neil O’Frigging Donnell was quarterback—with defeat snatched from the jaws of victory in a previously unimagined and impossibly cruel manner.


You know the details by now. After getting rag-dolled by the L.A. Chargers’ impressive pass rush for the first half, Burrow, true to his scouting report, remained poised enough to lead the Bengals (trailing 16-13) down the field with impressive dispatch and efficiency in the final moments. He threw an apparent game-winning touchdown to A.J. Green in the dying seconds, but it was called back on a ticky-tack offensive pass interference flag. Then kicker Randy Bullock, usually automatic inside the 50, did his imitation of Elaine Benes dancing while spasming his short field goal attempt wide right. Bullock said he cramped up while kicking. Next time, have a banana before trotting out on the field there, Randeroo.

So much for the Hallelujah Chorus singing as Burrow trots off the field a winner in his first appearance at Paul Brown Stadium, en route to the Bengals turning magically overnight into the Steelers.

Now for the guarded optimism, beginning with the fact that it literally was Joe’s first time playing at PBS, with no preseason games to so much as rehearse walking in from the team bus to the locker room. Given the inherent lack of cohesion and timing with his teammates and that Green was back after a year and a half on the shelf and it was left tackle Jonah Williams’ first game as well, some sputtering was certainly expected. I know the dream was that Burrow would light up the NFL the way he did the college football playoffs back in January, but that wasn’t realistic given the circumstances.

Despite that, though, he played well. The traits that made him the top overall pick—especially his competitiveness, toughness, and leadership—shone through, especially in that final drive to nowhere. Almost as impressive was the audible he called that resulted in Cincinnati’s only touchdown, a quarterback draw that exploited a wide open middle of the field, with Burrow deftly using his blocker at the second level to get into the end zone.

Of course, he also had some rookie moments, notably an awful pick on a shovel pass in Chargers territory as well as an overthrow of Green that would have been a walk-in score, one that Burrow later said, correctly, a “high-schooler could have made.” Indeed, his sucking up of all blame post-game, in the manner of one Norman Julius Esiason, made you feel better about the mistakes, as Burrow displayed the characteristics that led his teammates to vote him as captain. Let’s just hope he has fewer occasions to do so in the future.

Despite Burrow’s promising afternoon overall, little was different from the frustrating team that went 2-14 last season. At the end of the day, the Bengals scored just 13 points. It was yet another touchdown-free second half, the 10th time that has happened in Taylor’s 17 games as coach (remember when we all railed against the lack of mid-game adjustments during the Marvin Lewis era?). For all the tremendous skill players Cincinnati supposedly is trotting out to support Burrow, their opening day numbers were extremely pedestrian (Joe Mixon’s 69 yards rushing was the high fantasy number for any back or receiver). The defense hung tough and showed signs of improvement, but then they did just that repeatedly in the early stages of last season as well, before the offensive ineptitude on a weekly basis wore them down and out.

One good thing is the team gets to wash away the bitter taste quickly, with the boys lining up Thursday night in Cleveland, a chance to not only put Sunday behind them but also to take some whacks at the hated big mouths to the northeast. The Brownies were poleaxed in Baltimore in the opener, which will likely happen to plenty of teams. But there is pressure on Cleveland, on Baker Mayfield, and on Odell Beckham, who is already the subject of trade rumors one week into the season.

Cincinnati will probably need to stomp the Browns, since they continue to find ways to drop the close ones. One of the precepts in the season preview I wrote last week was that the Bengals, mathematically speaking, were unlikely to lose every one of their one-score games again, as they did in 2019. Well, not so far. Zac Taylor is now 0-9 as a head coach in games decided by fewer than eight points. At some point, this isn’t statistical noise but a thing that matters. Perhaps we aren’t there yet, and the only way to describe this particular one-score loss is “fluky,” but it’s long past time the Bengals and Taylor win one of these tight games already.

We all know the definition of insanity, so that begs the question of who is more nuts—us fans for continuing to watch and cheer for this franchise or the staff for trotting out this sieve of an offensive line year after year? I mean, I knew Bobby Hart would get his lunch, brunch, and multiple midday snacks handed to him by Joey Bosa, thus significantly hampering any offensive scheme the Bengals wanted to deploy. Why didn’t Taylor, Brian Callahan, and Jim Turner? What does Hart have on Turner, anyway? For how long will we have to watch Burrow get walloped by Hart’s man to cry, at long last, “Enough!”

Meanwhile, there were so many other familiar pains for the Bengalphile. The newly rich running back committing a key turnover (Mixon’s fumble). The expensive free agent signing getting carted off the field in his debut (fortunately, D.J. Reader was only cramping up and came back in). The linebackers getting exposed (though they weren’t as brutal as last year, especially in tackling). And the lack of overall respect for the organization, exemplified not just in the call pass interference against Green (Michael Irvin never would have had a reception if they called him for what Green was flagged for doing) but in the next day reaction of the pigskin chattering classes. While a controversial OPI against the Cowboys was the top story in the NFL, Green’s penalty—which actually cost Cincinnati the game, unlike the one called on Dallas’ Michael Gallup—went mostly unmentioned. It was “Joe Burrow got Bengaled by his kicker.”

And that’s fair. Cincinnati hasn’t earned the national audience’s respect or attention. Burrow is here to put an end to that perception, which was created by decades of insipid play and cemented by screwing up countless winnable games, most notoriously the 2015 playoff nightmare. The fact that he wasn’t overmatched in his debut on the big stage, despite all that was stacked against him, is a great sign. The fact that he got Bengaled anyway, not so much.

Robert Weintraub heads up Bengals coverage for Cincinnati Magazine and has written for The New York Times, Grantland, Slate, Deadspin, and Football Outsiders and authored four books, including his newest, “The Divine Miss Marble” from Penguin Random House. You can follow him on Twitter at @robwein.

Cincinnati-Based Apparel Brand The Girl Republic Breaks Down Gender Barriers


Andrea Minnillo has always supported women’s empowerment. But, it wasn’t until she had children of her own that she realized how early on in a child’s life gender stereotypes are perpetuated. When Minnillo went shopping for her son and two daughters, the contrast between the clothing items offered couldn’t be more obvious. For her son, Minnillo could choose from a variety of action-packed sports designs, but for her daughters, she could only choose from a handful of princess-inspired items.

“I want my girls to kick butt and take names [too],” Minnillo says. “To me, the whole concept of just sitting around and being pretty is ridiculous.”

Rather than simply complain about the inequality, Minnillo decided to set an example for her daughters by creating change herself. Last December Minnillo launched The Girl Republic, an online “apparel brand for girls and women who are passionate about breaking gender barriers.”

Self-described as “subtly feminine,” The Girl Republic offers clothing and accessories designed by Minnillo that are intended to inspire girls to live active and bold lifestyles. With sizes ranging from infant to adult, this mission is instilled into girls from a very young age. From T-shirts prompting the importance of voting and stickers boasting the phrase Prove Them Wrong, The Girl Republic encourages women of all ages to live their lives freely and with confidence.

“[I want to] show girls that they don’t have to [only] be princesses,” Minnillo says. “We’ve come so far, but you still see all of this stuff [in stores] saying what women can or can’t do. So, there’s still much further to go.”

The Cleveland native launched her brand after her family’s move from California to Cincinnati and says she has already found immense support within the Cincinnati community. As an online boutique, Minnillo makes an effort to create in-person connections at local fairs and markets, like The City Flea, which The Girl Republic participated in this August. Minnillo hopes to eventually expand to markets in Cleveland, offer her products through Amazon, and even open a brick and mortar storefront to provide the community with a tangible shopping experience.

As a female entrepreneur herself, Minnillo knows how difficult it can be to build something from the ground up, but she encourages girls to not let that stop them from pursuing their dreams. Already, her daughters are learning how rewarding hard work can be by selling their own crocheted items alongside their mom at flea markets.

“You just have to start somewhere and make a plan,” Minnillo says. “Even with my girls, I said [to them], this is going to teach you skills … I was always so scared of rejection and all of that and you realize when you get older, Why not at least try?”

Did FC Cincinnati’s Latest Loss Birth a New Formation?


There’s something to be said for trying shit. And Jaap Stam, with his undermanned roster rudderless, feckless, and trailing New York City 2-0 exactly 20 minutes into the second half this past Saturday night, decided to try some shit. He took off the ineffective Yuya Kubo and Siem de Jong and subbed in Allan Cruz and Nick Hagglund. Kubo, who started alongside striker Jurgen Locadia at the top of FC Cincinnati’s 3-5-2, needs time to build a relationship with Locadia after spending the crux of the season playing in the midfield; de Jong should be strictly a bench player until FCC has the necessary parts to play its desired 4-3-3. Right back Mathieu Deplagne moved to the right wing, pushing right winger Joe Gyau up next to Locadia. Left back Andrew Gutman moved up to left winger, and Hagglund played as a third center back in a 3-4-3 formation we haven’t yet seen from the club.


FC Cincinnati immediately turned up the ball pressure and made NYCFC more uncomfortable than rush hour on a Manhattan subway. That newfound aggression paid dividends right after backup striker Brandon Vazquez came on for defensive midfielder Caleb Stanko in the 73rd minute. As a direct result of the pressing from FCC’s reformatted front line and midfield, Vazquez converted a NYCFC turnover into the Orange and Blue’s first goal in 558 minutes one minute after his insertion into the game. Whether it was a planned alternative or a WTF moment, Stam’s radical formation adjustment completely changed the game. The hosts were shook.

FC Cincinnati’s ball pressure created turnovers and stray passes. Gyau (with his pace, even if his final touch on attacking third passes/crosses needs major improvement) and Cruz (with his calmness on the ball, especially with Frankie Amaya suspended because of yellow card accumulation) were particularly influential, and both Locadia and Vazquez were lively. The TV broadcast repeatedly showed NYCFC head coach Ronny Deila—who had no reason to suspect a 3-4-3 was coming—looking increasingly nervous. Close goal-scoring efforts from Vazquez (who had a second score wiped out for offside minutes after his first goal for the club) and Kendall Waston (a sound header on a corner that required a quick-twitch save by NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson) only added to the anxiety.

In the end, the visitors extended their winless streak to seven matches, but a blowout was averted. FCC finished with just two fewer shots (16-14) and equaled NYCFC in shots on target (five). FC Cincinnati couldn’t muster serious takes on goal over the final stages of the game, which required eight minutes of stoppage time thanks to the time-wasting chicanery of certain NYCFC players.

It was concerning to witness FC Cincinnati, with a full week of rest, playing very 2019-y up until Stam decided to take the parked bus out for a spin. Yes, FCC were playing shorthanded, with Amaya (who had started every game of the season) suspended and forward Adrien Regattin leaving the club the day before the game to return to his family in France. (Regattin had apparently been homesick for weeks.) Ideally, Regattin would have provided pyrotechnics off the bench for Stam, but because of Locadia’s injury and the formation change, he wound up starting seven of the 10 games he played in for the Orange and Blue. His departure opens up an international spot for new signing Álvaro Barreal.

Off the pitch, MLS finally revealed the next phase of the league’s regular season matches. FC Cincinnati is going to be spending a lot of time at Red Bull Arena, which is where NYCFC are playing their home games since Yankee Stadium’s baseball-playing tenant gets first dibs these days. FCC will again get another full week of rest this week before traveling back to Harrison, New Jersey, to face the New York Red Bulls on Saturday, a team they lost to in their 2020 opener but defeated 2-0 at MLS Is Back.

FC Cincinnati’s final two known games are a home match on Sept. 23 vs. the Philadelphia Union (no fans will be in attendance) and another road match opposite NYCFC on Sept. 26. As of this morning, the Union were second in the East, NYCFC were sixth, and NYCFC were seventh. General Manager Gerard Nijkamp was “really disappointed” about the latest slate of matches and is probably wondering when FCC (13th in the East) will get to face off against either of the 2020 expansion sides (Nashville and Inter Miami).

As part of the schedule release, MLS also officially finalized the playoff format for this season. As rumored, 10 of the East’s 14 teams will receive playoff bids, though the No. 7 through No. 10 seeds must engage in play-in matches (7 vs. 10; 8 vs. 9) to determine who will advance to “round one.” The lower-seeded advancing team will face the East’s top seed, while the higher-seeded team will take on the No. 2 seed. Eight squads from the 12-team Western Conference will directly advance to round one, which, like the rest of the postseason, is single elimination.

With Amaya back in the fold for Saturday’s match, it will be fascinating to see if Stam starts off in the 3-4-3, particularly with Deplagne, typically the starting right back in the 3-5-2, suspended for yellow card accumulation. Cruz has battled injuries all season, but he did log 33 minutes on Saturday. Having him able to start and work himself into form in the midfield is something FC Cincinnati desperately needs right now. Well, that and an overdue win.

Grant Freking writes FC Cincinnati coverage for Cincinnati Magazine. Off the pitch, he is the associate editor for Signs of the Times magazine. You can follow him on Twitter at @GrantFreking.