Archives for September 2015

GCUL welcomes new Executive Director, Chara Fisher Jackson

Chara Fisher Jackson, executive director, Greater Cincinnati Urban League

Chara Fisher Jackson, executive director, Greater Cincinnati Urban League


The restructuring of the area’s Urban League affiliate moved another step toward completion with the hiring of Chara Fisher Jackson as Executive Director of Greater Cincinnati Urban League.

Jackson started work Sept. 10 as the head of Greater Cincinnati Urban League, which, along with Miami Valley Urban League, is an affiliate of the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio.

The regional structure, developed in 2012, accommodates the creation of the Miami Valley Urban League, which replaced the Dayton Urban League, which disbanded in 2010 after 63 years of service.

Jackson is responsible for daily operations of Greater Cincinnati Urban League, those formerly managed by Donna Jones Baker, who retains her titles as President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio. Branford Brown, hired in November 2014, is Executive Director of Miami Valley Urban League.

Jackson worked most recently as Deputy Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia. She has a Master of Science degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Cincinnati. She earned her Juris Doctor (JD) degree from the William & Mary School of Law, Williamsburg, Va. A native of Marietta, Ga., she holds Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations and a minor in French from Atlanta’s Oglethorpe University, which she attended as a Coca-Cola Minority Student Scholar.

Jackson also has worked for the ACLU in North Carolina. Her hiring completes an eight-month national search.

“Chara brings a multitude of talents to the Urban League, including grant writing, fundraising, and advocacy,” Baker said. “Chara is an experienced leader who is the perfect person to move the Cincinnati Urban League into a period of greater reach and even more positive impact in our community. She is dedicated to the League’s mission of creating economic equality that helps generations of people.”

The Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio touches several thousands of lives annually in workforce development, youth, business development, and justice programs.

Chara Fisher Jackson on the primary role of Greater Cincinnati Urban League: “To work strategically to fulfill our mission to transform generations by promoting personal empowerment and economic self-sufficiency. Our vision is to have vibrant communities with thriving individuals, families and businesses. GCUL uses it resources to make Cincinnati and the surrounding region a desirable place to live and work.”

Jackson on why the work of GCUL so important in this place and time:
“This August, GCUL released The State of Black Cincinnati. The report highlights the many challenges faced by African-Americans in Cincinnati that come from inequalities in economics, health, education, housing and many other areas. Rather than be discouraged by the current state of affairs, GCUL is inspired and ready to work harder to make a difference. GCUL is so important because it has a successful history of strengthening the workforce, empowering individuals and supporting youth in a way that changes communities.”

On what she would like to see GCUL doing one year from now: “GCUL will be celebrating the success of even more job-readiness graduates who have worked hard to become a part of the workforce. They will use what they have learned to secure jobs and careers that allow them to support their families. Our youth programs will continue to expand and provide children with the support they need to be successful in school – as well as prepare to become a part of the workforce or move on to college. Most of all, GCUL will continue to be recognized as an organization that is a vital resource and an essential community member.”

On the hidden gems about this affiliate that the community may not know about:
“One of the many strengths of GCUL is a tireless, dedicated staff. My colleagues here are not only committed to GCUL’s vision of vibrant communities but also have the knowledge, skills, talent and tenacity to make that vision a reality. I would like the community to know we have a building filled with individuals that are ready to support them, prepare them and do everything possible to help them lead fulfilling and prosperous lives.”

On the city the Urban League serves: “Cincinnati has welcomed me, and it already feels like home. I look forward to using my talents and skills as an Urban Leaguer to contribute to the growth of Cincinnati’s communities.”

`Happy … checks and balances in place’

WCPO. Channel 9, interviews Donna Jones Baker, President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio, about Fifth Third Bank’s payment to settle allegations that is discriminated against African-American and Hispanic customers.

Young adults focus of new Miami Valley League job program

Miami Valley Urban League, 907 W. Fifth St. Dayton.

Miami Valley Urban League, 907 W. Fifth St. Dayton.

Miami Valley Urban League, Dayton, a subsidiary of the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio, announces receipt of funding to begin offer job-readiness program for young people 18-24 years old.



October job fair




Voter forum 2015 set for Oct. 5

The Young Professionals group of the Greater Urban League is co-sponsoring a voter forum for the 2015 election. It will be held Oct. 5. For more information:


Cincinnati Business Courier features Donna Jones Baker

In its special look at Greater Cincinnati nonprofits, the Cincinnati Business Courier offers this five questions with Donna Jones Baker, President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio:

WCPO covers Walnut Hills SOAR

Thank you to WCPO, Channel 9, for the sensitive story on some of our graduates of the Walnut Hills SOAR (Solid Opportunities for Advancement and Retention) class. Congratulations to our graduates, all of whom proudly declared in their speeches, “I am an Urban Leaguer.”

Once an Urban Leaguer, always an Urban Leaguer. We are proud of you and will stand by you as you move forward in your lives.

Cincinnati Vice Mayor David Mann, a long-time support of the Urban League, attended the ceremony. Thank you, Mr. Mann.

Job fair upcoming, Oct. 3

Greater Cincinnati Urban League and Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency are co-sponsoring a job fair Oct. 3, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Cintas Center at Xavier University.


October 2015 Job Fair Flyer“>October 2015 Job Fair Flyer

`Two Cities’ report authoritative

From The Cincinnati Enquirer and

State of Black Cincinnati 2015: Two Cities report cited by author as evidence of the dramatic racial divide that threatens Cincinnati’s well-being a future.

Opinion: Facts, not fear, must guide UC policing

Valerie Hardcastle
2:48 p.m. EDT September 16, 2015

Valerie Gray Hardcastle is professor of philosophy, psychology, psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience, as well as scholar-in-residence in the Weaver Institute for Law and Psychiatry, at the University of Cincinnati.

The tragic killing of Samuel DuBose by a University of Cincinnati police officer ignited many conversations on our campus.
As we sort through our anger, fear, and frustrations, we still need to address a larger issue the shooting illuminated with clear-eyed honesty: Why was UC Police Department patrolling the neighborhoods around UC in the first place?
The too-often-unspoken truth is that UCPD was there because people who do not live here, in the neighborhoods around the Clifton campus, are afraid of those who do. They believe we are surrounded by violence and danger. And UC responded to these fears.
It is time to confront the myths born of prejudice and ignorance directly. The truth is that UC and its surrounding neighborhoods are much safer than rumors suggest, and there is evidence to prove it.
The Cleary Act requires that all universities report their crime statistics to the federal government. According to these reports, for 2013 – the year before UC beefed up its perimeter presence and doubled the number of UC police officers – the total number of assaults, robberies, burglaries and thefts in the UC area were less than half of those at Ohio State, University of Kentucky, University of Pittsburgh, or Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
So, please, let us put this myth of neighborhood violence to bed, for it has done great harm.
At the same time, we are a city divided by race, as was made all too evident in the Greater Cincinnati Urban League’s State of Black Cincinnati 2015 report. I am both saddened and dismayed by how many think that these massive disparities are typical or normal. That too is a myth.
Cincinnati is one of the most segregated cities in America, according to a 2011 study by the University of Michigan’s Social Science Data Analysis Network.
Greater Cincinnati ranks an embarrassing 73rd out of the U.S.’s 77 metropolitan areas in terms of median income differences between African Americans and whites, reported the National Urban League in 2014. The median household income for African Americans in Cincinnati is well under half what it is for its white citizens, and at $15,475 per individual, it is less than what is considered a basic livable wage.
The difference in life expectancy between Avondale (90 percent African American) and Mount Lookout (96 percent white) is almost 20 years. Nationally, the difference in life expectancy between blacks and whites is less than four years.
It is no wonder that the Greater Cincinnati Urban League laments, “It’s as if black citizens live in a separate Cincinnati.” They truly do, and they do in ways that African Americans don’t in other cities.
These truths about Cincinnati are uncomfortable, but we must face them head-on and no longer pander to fear or ignorance.
The Uptown neighborhoods of Clifton are part of my Cincinnati. We of the UC community can and should do better by them.
If any tiny bit of good comes from Samuel DuBose’s death, let it be that it pushes us to work together with our neighbors, in real partnerships, to communicate honestly about who and what we are, and to fix, once and for all, what is broken.

Keeping it real in Walnut Hills

Amy Harlow, 24, soaring without anger holding her down.

Amy Harlow, 24, soaring without anger holding her down.


By Mark Curnutte
Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio

WALNUT HILLS — A few weeks ago, in the middle afternoon, Amy Harlow walked along McMillan Avenue toward her small apartment.

“I was high again … smoking crack,” she said. “I remember asking God to just give me something to refocus my energy. I’d been four days without sleep. It was bad.”

About that time a car pulled up to the curb beside her. Harlow stopped. The front passenger window rolled down. From the driver’s seat, Lionell Roberts, the Greater Cincinnati Urban League’s workforce development recruiter, said, “Do you want a job?”

“I just have a sixth sense about it,” Roberts says. “I know who needs help. I just feel it.”

Fast forward a few weeks. Harlow, 24, is enjoying her sobriety, however fragile and new-found. On Thursday, she will join 12 other graduates of the local Urban League’s third Hand Up Initiative SOAR class at Bush Center, 2640 Kemper Lane, Walnut Hills. Mayor John Cranley’s $250,000 anti-poverty grant is allowing the Urban League to take its industry-leading job-readiness class, Solid Opportunities for Advancement and Retention, into Cincinnati neighborhoods. Walnut Hills is the third. Corryville and Madisonville classes already graduated.

Vice Mayor David Mann will attend the Walnut Hills SOAR graduation and has been invited to speak. Graduation will begin at 11:30 a.m.

In neighborhoods too accustomed to gun violence, Harlow inflicted a different type of violence on herself. For one year, she turned to prostitution to feed her drug addiction. She said she advertised on Craigslist, under the category “young females.”

Flowers are the euphemism for dollars.

“I would go on a date for 100 roses,” she said.

Violence — and the anger that afflicts its survivors — is a thread in Harlow’s life, running back to age 8, when sexual abuse started in her home in Indian Lake, Ohio. Social workers removed her from the home when she was 14. Though petite, at 15, as a high school freshman, she beat up a male student, was expelled and sent into the juvenile system. Upon her release, officials moved her to Cincinnati in the care of an agency that specializes in homeless youths 18 to 24 years of age.

In an out of a group home — “I was homeless three times,” she said — Harlow ended up living with an older man, who introduced her to crack and is intense but short-lived high that users say combines the best immediate effects of marijuana and cocaine. The drugs, she said, of course, helped her numb life’s pain.

The man ended up in prison. Harlow ended up with a social service agency in Northern Kentucky, where she got clean for three years and earned a medical assistant’s certificate.

At 23, her time with that agency was up, and, jobless, she filled the empty hours by smoking crack, which at least temporarily numbed the pain and muted the anger.

She attended a SOAR information session in Walnut Hills, where she again met the Urban League’s Roberts.

Roberts, in the League’s shirt-and-tie uniform for men, told his story to prospective students who at least were interested in signing up for the three-week SOAR course.

Football star in high school. Did stupid adolescent stuff. Started robbing drug dealers. Arrested and charged at 18 for aggravated robbery with gun specifications. Sentenced to 9-25 years. Served 10. Stabbed five times in prison. Served long stretch in solitary. Should have been dead three times.

Need more? Got out in 2003. Got my GED right away. Turned my life over to God because there was no other way to explain still being alive. God had a plan for me. Earned an associate’s degree and then a bachelor’s. Went through a program at Urban League and worked in its call center. Have a felony record but was hired by the Urban League. I’m 40 now. I want to be a better man. I want to give back to my community and those around me. I have been so blessed.

“He was so real,” Harlow said later of Roberts’ testimony. “I knew I was in the right place.”

Roberts’ talk about how SOAR graduates more than 80 percent of its students and how more than three of four graduates land full-time work that pays an average first-year salary of $21,625.

Roberts and SOAR trainer Greg Walker — known to his students as “Mr. G.” — gave Harlow the same message: You have to be real. It’s not going to be easy.

“I had been to so many counselors and agencies and this was the first time I felt like the people really cared about me,” Harlow said. “Mr. G. told me I was holding back. He was right. I decided I would put my guard down 100 percent and trust him.”

Walker said he admires her for having the strength, on that walk to and from class, to resist the same people who used to sell her crack.

Harlow speaks now of working to learn how to turn negatives into positives. She knows she needs to keep her mind occupied on positive work. She can’t be afraid of success. She has to deal constructively with the anger that has built up inside of her through the years.

“You start with small stuff,” she said. “Sometimes you have to fall back to get ahead. You have to back away from confrontation. You have to let it go. Arguing or fighting get you nowhere.”

She is wearing dresses and suits now, courtesy of Dress for Success and the Freestore Foodbank. She has tattoos on her right arm and wrist. Across her upper chest, another tattoo reads, “Ride or Die Chick.”

She said she was interested in an Urban League staff member’s referral to Cincinnati Union Bethel’s Off The Streets program for women involved in prostitution.

For now, she relies on her classmates for support. Two of them, Sherwin Waugh, 27, of Evanston, and Antoine Turner, 34, of Over-the-Rhine, both served time in prison. They have felony records but no jobs. Cheryl Burden, 38, of Madisonville, hasn’t worked since 2010 and wants to get into home healthcare in order to support her children, who are 5 and 15.

They are works in progress.

“We’re in this together, like a family,” Harlow said. “We want to do well. We want to see our classmates succeed, too.”

WVXU Part 2: About League’s Financial Opportunity Center

Ayanna photo

Ayanna Wallace, manager of the local Urban League’s Financial Opportunity Center, appeared Monday on WXVU radio’s Cincinnati Edition. She spoke on air, along with SOAR participant Sherwin Waugh, 27, of Evanston, to discuss the challenges that the working poor face.

An Evening of Faith

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Latest newsletter from League’s Young Professionals

Urban League Young Professionals of Greater Southwestern Ohio is for people ages 20 to 40 who are interested in the Urban League movement.

Here’s more:

Sept. 14 audio from WVXU `Cincinnati Edition’

(from left) WVXU Cincinnati Edition host Mark Heyne, SOAR participant Sherwin Waugh, Donna Jones Baker, and Rob Rodgers.

(from left) WVXU Cincinnati Edition host Mark Heyne, SOAR participant Sherwin Waugh, Donna Jones Baker, and Rob Rodgers.

Urban League of Southwestern Ohio executives, program participant visit WVXU-FM studios for Cincinnati Edition to discuss the State of Black Cincinnati 2015: Two Cities report and what it’s like to be black and living in poverty in Cincinnati

Gala to honor 5 for `Journey’



The Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio will honor five people with its inaugural Journey Awards on Saturday evening during its annual gala, “An Evening to Soar!”

SOAR is the acronym for League’s flagship job-readiness program, Solid Opportunities for Advancement and Retention. One of the five honorees, Richard Cunningham, is a SOAR graduate who then completed the League’s Construction Connections program – in which he earned certification in crafting, rigging, equipment operating and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA 10). Working now in construction and earning a living to support his 6-year-old son, Cunningham plans within the next year to start his own residential demolition company.

“I care deeply about the community and helping at-risk young adults to make better life choices,” said Cunningham, who puts his words into practice by frequently returning to the Urban League’s Avondale campus to speak to participants in the SOAR class.
The League’s gala and silent auction is the local affiliate’s largest fund-raiser of the year.

With presenting sponsor Macy’s, the gala – which supports work of the Greater Cincinnati Urban League and the Miami Valley Urban League – will begin at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, at the Duke Energy Convention Center. The first order of business is the opening of the silent auction. Doors to the grand ballroom will open at 7 p.m. The program will begin at 7:15 p.m.

The theme Evening to Soar “is quite appropriate,” said Donna Jones Baker, President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio, of which the Greater Cincinnati and Miami Valley urban leagues are subsidiaries. “It reflects of the great work that the Urban League does through its life-changing program offerings.”

Dinner music will be provided by the Deron Bell Band. The evening ends with a concert from noted jazz vocalist Rachelle Ferrell. Featuring her six-octave range, Ferrell offers her unique versions of standards ranging from Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me” to Cole Porter’s “What Is This Thing Called Love.”

Masters of ceremonies are Mark Hayes, WLWT-TV Channel 5 morning news anchor, and Faith Daniels of WROU-FM in the Dayton market.

Other Journey Award winners are: Catherine Crosby, executive director of Dayton’s Human Relations Council, who started the Dayton Urban League’s Young Professionals group 25 years ago; Urban Leaders program graduate Gloria Samuel, senior projects manager with Messer Construction; Osford Ogis, founder and CEO of OCG Telecom and graduate of the League’s business development program; and Jordan Quinn, a Woodward Career Technical High School graduate who attended the League’s after-school program there, which he credits for launching him to enrollment at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio.

Tickets are $150 a person and are still available through the end of business Thursday, Sept. 10, at or on Friday, Sept. 11, by calling (513) 281-9955.

The Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio touches thousands of lives a year through its many employment and youth and business development programs. Its three primary workforce development programs – SOAR, ACE (Accelerated Customer Service Education) and Construction Connections – have trained approximately 5,000 people in the past 10 years; 4,000 of them graduated, and roughly 3,000 found and maintained full-time employment in a career track.

Media contact: Mark Curnutte, Urban League, (513) 487-6523, (513) 348-5237, or

The Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio is a United Way agency partner. Since 1949, one of its subsidiaries, the Greater Cincinnati Urban League, has provided industry-leading job-training, business and leadership development, and youth programs.

Seeking job seekers, Sept. 8

job seekers

These Companies are Transformational Supporters of the Urban League’s Corporate Heritage Annual Giving Program.