Archives for November 2015

Sustainer’s Monthly Giving Society

We are excited to introduce the Sustainer’s Monthly Giving Program. The Sustainer’s Monthly Giving Program makes it easier and more affordable to support the Urban League’s mission.

How monthly giving works

The central feature of the Sustainer’s Monthly Giving Program is automatic billing by way of credit card or electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a checking account. The donor authorizes the Urban League to receive a pre-determined donation on the same day each month.

Donors may use Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express or a checking account to make automatic monthly donations.   The use of automatic deductions allows us to reduce administrative costs on things like printing and postage. The cost savings that you help create means the programs you support benefit that much more.

Participants in the Sustainers Monthly Giving Program receive an acknowledgement of their first contribution and an annual summary of gifts made to the Urban League. Your monthly support will make a significant impact on the League’s programming and services. It is easy to sign up for the monthly giving program.

How do I sign up for monthly giving?

Go to our website at and click the red “Donate Now” button.

  • Choose your contribution amount
  • Choose your donation category and the percentage that you would like allocated to that category (this feature allows you to split your donation and support more than one initiative)
  • To make your gift recur on a monthly basis, select the box next to “I would like my donation to recur.”
  • Enter the amount that you would like to recur and select for “Frequency of donation” enter “monthly.”
  • Complete the remainder of the form

The Sustainer’s Monthly Giving Program will help decrease costs associated with printing and postage, two of the biggest operational costs to the fundraising division of the Urban League.  The program is also environmentally friendly because less paper will be consumed.  Dollars saved effectively increase the
budgets that support our various programs and services.

If you have any questions please contact Hakim Evans, Director of Annual Giving at 513-487-6517 or email him at  Thank you for your support.







Holiday Drive for School Supplies

ASL flyer

Lifting the black community

The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus draws a large crowd Monday night.

The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus draws a large crowd Monday night.

LaShonda Wright, principal, Wright Finance Group, makes her winning 60-second pitch Monday night at the African American Business Development Program kickoff event.

LaShonda Wright, principal, Wright Finance Group, makes her winning 60-second pitch Monday night at the African American Business Development Program kickoff event.


By Mark Curnutte
Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio

AVONDALE — Two apparently unrelated events scheduled at the same time — 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday at the League’s office on Reading Road — did indeed have a common goal: lifting Cincinnati’s black community.

The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus held its second of five state-wide events on its 2015 Action Tour. Caucus President State Rep. Alicia Reece, 33rd District, listed the group’s accomplishments against a backdrop of second-class citizenship for blacks in Ohio.

Meanwhile, upstairs in the League’s Board Room, Class 12 of the League’s African American Business Development Program held its Pitch Contest, in which small business owners gave a 60-second pitch for their product or services. Two winners, April Clark of Apro Accounting & Tax Services and LaShonda Wright of Wright Finance Group, received full tuition scholarships of $1,250. The program is billed as a “boot camp targeted toward businesses in the first stage.”

Started in 2008, the program has graduated and helped to grow 65 African-American owned companies. The 10 member businesses of Class 12 will run from December through June 2016.

Downstairs, in the League’s Community Room, an audience estimated at 150 people heard Reece open the two-hour Black Caucus meeting by detailing the statistical odds stacked against African-Americans in Ohio:

— The unemployment rate for blacks in Ohio is more than 15 percent, compared to the overall state rate of 4.3 percent (4 percent in Hamilton County).

— Across the state, 33.6 percent of African-Americans are living below poverty levels, $28,410 for a 5-person household.

— Ohio’s infant morality rate for African-Americans (13.57 for every 1,000 live births) was third highest of the 39 states where a rate could be calculated, with only Wisconsin (at 14 per 1,000) and Kansas (14.8) faring worse.

Reece also referenced the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio’s recent study, The State of Black Cincinnati 2015: Two Cities, as evidence of the race-based disparities that face African-Americans in Cincinnati and Hamilton County. The data-driven report reveals that 75 percent of African-American children under 6 in Cincinnati are living in poverty, that life expectancy for black men in Cincinnati (63.8 years) is 10 years less than the average for white men, and that the home ownership rate for African-Americans in 15-county Greater Cincinnati is 33.1 percent compared to 74.5 percent for whites.

“This book highlighted how nothing has changed in 20 years,” she said. “There has been no progress in 20 years. Let’s take this report and put it into action. What are we going to do about it?”

Joined by six other members of the Black Legislative Caucus — only 15 of the General Assembly’s 132 members are African-American — Reece then listed the accomplishments of the caucus in recent years.

— $2.7 million for summer youth job programs across the state;

— $800,000 in Ohio Department of Transportation workforce development grants, including $300,000 for the Greater Cincinnati Urban League’s highly successful Construction Connections program;

— $228.5 million in minority business contracts;

— $330,000 for assistance to black-owned businesses in Hamilton County through funding of the Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky African American Chamber of Commerce;

— $3.5 million in state funding for Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio, a state-sponsored school, that allows it to leverage an additional $10 million in federal funding;

— $2 million toward reducing infant mortality across the state;

— $25,000 for the Center for Closing the Health Gap, Avondale, recognized nationally as a leader in publicizing the disparities in black health and black health outcomes;

— The appointment of an African-American to the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy (OPATA);

— A reentry job fair attended by 500 returning citizens coming back to the community from Ohio prisons; and

— Election day investigations, including in Hamilton County.

Reece, State Rep. Christie Bryant Kuhns, 32nd District, and State Sen. Cecil Thomas, District 9, presented reports on current legislative action undertaken by the caucus. It includes criminal justice reform to reduce Ohio’s prison population, which consists of 45 percent African-American inmates in a state in which the general population is 12.5 percent black. Thomas said African-American legislators are in communication with University of Cincinnati President Santa Ono about the increasingly tense relationship between the university and black students.

Kuhns detailed efforts to reinstate provisions of federal civil rights laws in the state’s fair housing statutes and to reform state law that protects uninsured drivers.

Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank came up during the question-and-answer period, when an audience member suggested the state pull its money from financial institutions that are known to have discriminatory lending practices. Within the past few months Fifth Third had to pay $18 million to black and Hispanic borrowers who had to pay higher rates for auto loans even though their credit ratings were good.

Other Black Caucus members in attendance were Rep. Herschel Craig, 26th District; Rep. Emilia Sykes, 34th District; Rep. Stephanie Howse, 11th District; and Rep. Kevin Boyce, 25th District.



This year, on Tuesday, December 1, 2015, the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio is participating in #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving.

Last year, more than 30,000 organizations in 68 countries came together to celebrate #GivingTuesday. Since its founding in 2012, #GivingTuesday has inspired giving around the world, resulting in greater donations, volunteer hours, and activities that bring about real change in communities. We invite you to join the movement and to help get out the give.
You can help spread the word about #GivingTuesday.  Use hashtag #GivingTuesday to talk about charity and the causes and organizations you support.  Be the change you want to see in the world and give what you can.
As part of #GivingTuesday we are launching The Sustainer’s Monthly Giving Program.  This program makes it easier and more affordable to support the Urban League’s mission of “transforming generations by promoting personal empowerment and economic self-sufficiency.”  To participate in the monthly giving program, click the “Donate Now” button below the text and make a recurring monthly gift, it’s that easy! Let’s make a significant impact together!

Reece: Urban League vital

State Representative Alicia Reece of the 33rd District sat down recently for an interview with media students at Woodward Career Technical High School, Bond Hill.

The Greater Cincinnati Urban League is a partner with Cincinnati Public Schools at Woodward. The Afterschool League there provides support to students by offering individual and group tutoring, homework assistance, ACT preparation and college access opportunities. The Urban League has a site coordinator, Deborah Brock-Blanks, at Woodward.

Rep. Reece is a long-time supporter of the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio and one of its two subsidiaries, the Greater Cincinnati Urban League. Rep. Reece most recently helped to secure a $300,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Transportation for additional training in the League’s Construction Connections Program.

Thank you, Rep. Reece.

She is president of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus and will be among the local legislators attending an open house at the Greater Cincinnati Urban League, 3458 Reading Road, Avondale, from 6-8 p.m., tonight, Nov. 23.

Here is a link to that Woodward High School interview in which she articulates her support for the Urban League in Cincinnati and its many life-changing, transformative programs.


Adrian Allen receives tearful hugs of congratulations from his daughters after graduating Nov. 19. Allen completed the Urban League Solid Opportunities for Advancement and Retention (SOAR) job-readiness course. Photo by Greg Walker/Greater Cincinnati Urban League

Adrian Allen receives tearful hugs of congratulations from his daughters after graduating Nov. 19. Allen completed the Urban League Solid Opportunities for Advancement and Retention (SOAR) job-readiness course. Photo by Greg Walker/Greater Cincinnati Urban League

Black Caucus at Urban League

State Rep. Alicia Reece brings Ohio Legislative Black Caucus to Urban League.

State Rep. Alicia Reece brings Ohio Legislative Black Caucus to Urban League.

The local delegation of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, led by its president, Alicia Reece, will bring its Legislation Action Tour on Monday to the Greater Cincinnati Urban League.

Reece, who represents Ohio’s 33rd District, will be joined by Rep. Christie Kuhns, caucus parliamentarian, who represents the 32nd Ohio House District; and State Sen. Cecil Thomas.

Members say the event, from 6-8 p.m. at the League, 3458 Reading Road, Avondale, will be the opportunity for residents and business leaders to talk with the Hamilton County delegation. They will brief residents on current legislation, including one piece addressing criminal justice reform, Reece said.

Reece, a Bond Hill resident, was last at the League Oct. 1, when she announced a $300,000 workforce development grant from the Ohio Department of Transportation for the League’s Construction Connections job-readiness and skills program.

At a news conference announcing the grant, Reece credited the local Urban League for calling attention to the broad sweep of racial disparities in its State of Black Cincinnati 2015: Two Cities report. Reece called the report “evidence we have been utilizing” in the Ohio Statehouse.

Construction Connections has placed about 200 of its graduates in high-paying construction jobs since its 2010 inception.

Reece, on Friday, Nov. 20, again praised the Black Cincinnati report.

“It’s no emotion,” she said in a phone call with the Urban League marketing and communications department. “It’s evidence. Now let’s get together and do something about it.”

The event is free and open to the public. Parking is available in the League lot, at the corner of Reading Road and Prospect Place, across Reading from the League office.

Call Rep. Kuhns’ office at (614) 466-1645 for more information.

Survey: 44% black adults claim `very good’ or `excellent’ health

Interact for Health has released its 2013 Greater Cincinnati Community Health Status Survey.

In it, the survey reports that 44 percent of African-American adults answered that they considered themselves to be in “very good” or “excellent” health — compared to 52 percent of white adults.

Both numbers are far below the Bold Goal of 70 percent set by the United Way of Greater Cincinnati.

Survey results here:

Westwood anti-violence meeting: `It was a good first step’

The Community Police Partnering Center, staffed and housed by the Greater Cincinnati Urban League, led a community meeting Saturday morning in Westwood.

The Westwood Civic Association, District 3 Cincinnati Police and the Partnering Center — led by Executive Director Dorothy Smoot — met with about 100 neighborhood residents to discuss the uptick in violent crime and ways to reduce it and the mounting racial and class tension in the community.

Smoot employed the SARA model of problem solving, which stands for Scanning, Analysis, Response, and Assessment.

“It was a good first step,” Smoot said.

Here are photos of the event from the Westwood Civic Association’s Facebook page:

Here is the link to the Urban League’s initial story advancing the event, which posted on this site last week:

League’s Partnering Center will take problem-solving process to struggling Westwood


By Mark Curnutte
Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio

WESTWOOD – Rattled by an uptick in gun violence this year and two decades of simmering racial and class tensions, this West Side neighborhood is beginning what it hopes is a healing process.

In conjunction with The Community Police Partnering Center – housed and staffed by the Greater Cincinnati Urban League — the Westwood Civic Association and Cincinnati District 3 Police will hold a community meeting Saturday morning.

“Westwood Uniting to Stop the Violence: A Call to Action” will be held from 8:30 a.m. to noon, Nov. 14, at Westwood United Methodist Church, 3460 Epworth Ave. More than 100 people are expected to attend, organizers say.

Dorothy Smoot, Executive Director of The Community Police Partnering Center, said meeting participants will follow a proven problem-solving method known as the SARA Model. The acronym refers to the model’s four-step process: Scanning, Analysis, Response, and Assessment.

“This process allows for inclusion and is designed to remove biases and preconceived notions,” said Smoot, also Program Director of Greater Cincinnati Urban League.

The SARA Model has been employed in the past 13 years to help residents of several Cincinnati neighborhoods work in concert with police to solve community crime and mayhem.

From January through October this year, Westwood has experience 35 fatal and non-fatal shootings, compared to 10 overall shootings in the same period in 2014, event organizers say. Neighborhood leaders are calling on residents, youth and community organizations, and the faith community to pull together to curb violence and reduce social tensions.

Westwood is among the group of conjoined West Side neighborhoods that is now home to 20 percent to 30 percent of Hamilton County’s felony probationers, registered sex offenders, and adult parolees, along with increasing numbers of people living in halfway houses and recovery programs, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported in December 2013.

From 2000 to 2010, the white population of Westwood and East Westwood dropped 35 percent, from 22,700 to 14,850, according to Census data. The African-American population increased 45 percent, to 17,500. Some long-standing homeowners have blamed newcomers for the increase in crime and decrease in property value.

In Westwood and East Westwood, owner-occupied housing dropped from 47 percent in 1980 to 36 percent in 2010. The poverty rate for those two neighborhoods jumped from 6 percent to 22 percent.

“No single approach will result in reduced gun violence in our neighborhood,” said Mary Jenkins, president of Westwood Civic Association. “We will only achieve this goal if we understand the data, join together across socio-economic differences and diverse life experiences, take a multi-pronged approach to resolving this issue, and commit to action — together.”

The together piece is where The Partnering Center comes in and what it does best.


Some recent case studies:

— Working through The Partnering Center, North Avondale residents collaborated with police on a 2009 plan to eliminate calls for drug use and sales in a Reading Road apartment building.

— In 2010, The Partnering Center, police and the Su Casa Hispanic Ministry Center came together to halt the trend of unreported personal crimes in Carthage against members of growing Central American immigrant community. Trust increased between Spanish-speaking residents — some of them without legal immigration status — and police. The plan and increased communication resulted in a crime reduction of 15 percent in one year.

— In 2011, The Partnering Center used the SARA model in CUF (Clifton Heights, University Heights, and Fairview) to reduce prostitution and related drug trafficking by helping the women receive drug treatment in a residential setting.

— In 2012, coming off a year of a city neighborhood-tying high of 11 homicides, Avondale called upon The Partnering Center to create the Moral Voice program. Using data that spotlighted high-crime parts of the neighborhood, in this case, Ridgeway Avenue, residents worked with police to identify the small number of people responsible for drug dealing and gun violence. The communication and cooperation that came about through the SARA model played a major part in the reduction of homicides; in 2012, Avondale had just one homicide, and that a police shooting of an armed drug dealer who drove into Avondale from another neighborhood.

Throughout the past decade, many other neighborhoods — Northside, Madisonville, and Evanston among them — worked with The Partnering Center to address neighborhood “hot spots.” Use of the SARA model resulted in reductions of calls for police service, more community awareness and responsiveness, and drops in crimes against persons and property in all cases.

One particularly transformative process using the SARA Model in Northside led to the closing of a business catering to local drug dealers, the acquisition of the property and subsequent development of two LEED-certified single-family homes on the site.


The Community Police Partnering Center, created in 2002, grew out of Cincinnati’s ground-breaking Collaborative Agreement. The agreement, signed in 2002, resulted from Cincinnati’s period of civil unrest uncorked by the police shooting of an unarmed black man, Timothy Thomas, in April 2001 in Over-the-Rhine.

Long housed in Cincinnati’s Urban League, The Partnering Center received a needed boost in 2013, when the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio board resolved to support and maintain the center.

Now it’s Westwood, Cincinnati’s largest neighborhood, home to some 30,000 residents in a 6 square-mile community that — like many adjacent neighborhoods, East Westwood, East Price Hill and North and South Fairmount — has experienced dramatic racial and economic change since 2000.

Solid, plentiful and affordable housing stock has made Westwood and surrounding neighborhoods destinations of necessity and choice for people displaced from redevelopment of the West End in the late 1990s and the government-supported gentrification of Over-the-Rhine since the mid-2000s.

Councilman Christopher Smitherman and new District 3 Police Commander Aaron Jones are expected to participate Saturday morning. The City of Cincinnati recently approved an additional $125,000 in spending to support The Partnering Center.

“This event marks the beginning of a great effort by a community to employ problem-solving called upon in the Collaborative Agreement,” said center leader Smoot. “Working together to solve problems is the foundation of the Collaborative Agreement.”

West End next for Hand Up job-readiness SOAR

Hand Up Initiative class taking SOAR training to West End.

More information:

Hand Up West End Flyer

Dancing to praise and thank God

Tabernacle of David Dance Ministry: From left to right, Amber Brown, Tina Welch, Jasmine Johnston, and Kelli Starks-Harris.

Tabernacle of David Dance Ministry: From left to right, Amber Brown, Tina Welch, Jasmine Johnston, and Kelli Starks-Harris.


By Mark Curnutte
Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio

FOREST PARK — In the daily struggle, all people carry, in the words of Kelli Starks-Harris, “their stuff.”

Those concerns can include children, elderly parents, money and career, personal health, challenges in the larger community.

For Starks-Harris and her three fellow members of the Tabernacle of David Dance Ministry, dance, of course, is a way to release those worries and open the spiritual channel to communicate with God.

“We’ll pound on the floor. It can be dramatic and physical,” she said.

Tabernacle of David Dance Ministry, part of Zion Global Ministries in West Chester, will perform Nov. 13 at Evening of Faith. The regular event sponsored by the Urban League Guild will be held at Inspirational Baptist Church, Forest Park.

In addition to the Dance Ministry, Evening of Faith will feature national gospel music recording artists J Moss and Byron Cage. The Urban League Mass Choir will perform its own hymns and will sing with Cage on “I Will Bless the Lord” and “The Presence of the Lord Is Here.”

Cage, 52 — music minister at churches in Maryland and Virginia — has released seven gospel music albums, including “An Invitation to Worship.” It was nominated for a Grammy for New Gospel Album of the Year in 2006. Moss, 44, a Detroit native, is a singer, songwriter and producer whose 2007 album, “V2,” was nominated for a Grammy and rose into the Top 20 on Billboard’s R&B chart.

The Urban League Mass Choir is in its fifth year under the direction of A. Michael Cunningham, minister of music at New Jerusalem Baptist Church, Carthage.

At Evening of Faith, Tabernacle of David dancers will perform to the recorded spiritual “When Sunday Comes” by Daryl Coley.

The song opens:

When Sunday comes, my trouble gone,
as soon as it gets here, I’ll have a new song.
When Sunday comes,
I won’t have to cry no more,
Jesus will soothe my troubled mind,
all of my heartaches will be left behind;
when Sunday comes.

For some faithful, music heals. For others, answers come in the preacher’s sermon. For Starks-Harris, 49, and dance ministry co-director Tina Welch, 52, dance is where they find most of their peace and the place they express their faith.

“For me, my world is so structured, analytical and bottom-line oriented,” said Welch, who works in operations for a technology company and has a computer sciences degree from the University of Dayton. “Dance is a release in a number of ways.”

The other two dance ministry members are Amber Brown, 32, who owns a daycare center, and Jasmine Johnston, 17, a Wyoming High School senior.

“Except for Jasmine, we are all parents,” Welch said. “As a parent, you carry the burdens and issues of your family. When you dance, you let it go.”

Welch and Starks-Harris, the latter a teacher in a charter school, both have formal dance training. Starks-Harris uses dance with some of her students who are struggling with behavioral or academic issues.

“We will go into a dance room, and I will start dancing,” she said. “The student will say, `Why are you dancing?’ I say, `I am relieving stress.'”

So she will start dancing, too.

“Dance allows me to express how I am feeling,” Starks-Harris said.

In a spiritual sense, for Tabernacle of David Dance Ministry members, dance is an expression of their love and trust in God.

They dance on the third Sunday of the month at services in their church. The group dances at special events, including funerals and weddings. Recent appearances include the 50th anniversary celebration of the March on Washington in 2013 at Church of the Resurrection in Bond Hill, with the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company in 2013, and in April at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s Classical Roots performance at Cincinnati Music Hall.

The group ties its choreography to the service or event’s primary message but is anchored to Biblical foundation spelled out in Psalms 149 and 150: Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with tumbrel and harp.


What: An Evening of Faith, presented by the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio Guild

When: Friday, Nov. 13, 7 p.m.

Where: Inspirational Baptist Church, 11450 Sebring Drive, Forest Park, 45240.

Tickets: $35 for the main floor and $25 for the balcony in advance; $40 for main floor and $30 for balcony at the door.

Available in advance at, or at the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio, 3458 Reading Road, Avondale, 45229. Tickets also are available at Inspirational Baptist Church; I Hear Music in the Air, 11804 Conrey Road, Suite 150, Sharonville, 45249; and Lifeway Christian Store, 1183 Smiley Ave., Forest Park, 45240.

More information:
Contact Candie Simmons, (513) 559-5443.

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