Wednesday, April 13, 2011

OTR Activism Realism

You won't see Claudia Fatimah Peery-Smith's name in a history book. Yet that doesn't take away what she did for her community and what responsibility she has given the future youth. She was a resident of Over The Rhine (OTR) neighborhood in Cincinnati from 1986 to 2001 and even did previous activism work for OTR in the 1970's. On a Sunday in March where the sun is very generous, guest interviewer Kelly Clark and I had the opportunity to have a sit down lunch with Ms. Peery-Smith. She went into the history of OTR, a place where the German immigrants worked and lived. Prior to WWI you had to be able to speak German to work in the community. As time moved on an influx of Appalachians came. Then African Americans moved in while the immigrants moved out towards the suburbs. Ms. Peery-Smith gives the federal government credit for giving funding towards section 8. The OTR had so many apartment buildings due to the previous German factory owners building them for their workers to live in. Section 8 seemed to benefit more so the landlords then the residents. The name of the game is capitalism. Since the people moving into the Section 8 property weren't given chances for ownership then it was easy to get rid of them.

We engaged in discussion about the uprising in OTR in April 2001. Media has portrayed it as being something similar to when wild animals escape from the zoo. Yet Peery-Smith brought out the glory moments. Her eyes seemed to glaze as she spoke of the triumphant moment when the community took a City Council meeting into their own hands and made City Council realize they meant business. She seemed to relive the moment where during the uproar she escorted the reporters into a safe space in the wall so that they could observe safely all that had arose.

Her tone softened as she spoke of what the future may hold for OTR and other neighborhoods like it. She believed the telling her story and instilling positive change in the youths will guarantee that the future can be taken care of.

Are you doing what you can to make a positive change in the world? Or are you leaving it to chance?

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