Affirmed YP Honors Brunch and Awards ceremony

Affirmed YP Honors Brunch and Awards ceremony is a celebration of top-tier young professionals in the Greater Southwestern Ohio region who are contributing to their community, while making great strides in their profession.

This year’s event will be held:

  • Saturday, April 21, 2018
  • from 11:00 am – 2:30 pm
  • at The Phoenix in Downtown Cincinnati.

The event will be hosted by Jennifer Moore, WLWT Executive Producer.

There will be a keynote address given by Dorian L. Spence, Director of Special Litigation and Advocacy at the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

Entertainment will be provided by the Stephen Felton Quartet.  Litbooth Photobooth will be on hand.  There will also be a raffle.

Table sponsorship is $1,000. Please contact Urban League Development at or (513) 487 – 6532.

The event is hosted by the Urban League Young Professionals of Greater Southwestern Ohio. ULYPGSO’s mission is to advance the Urban League Movement through volunteerism, philanthropy and membership development. We seek to have a transformative effect on the region through service and development of our members as agents of change in the community and workplace while providing YPs a platform to exchange ideas, learn and network with others.



10th Anniversary of the African American Business Development Program




Helping Firms Help Themselves

The Business Development & Entrepreneurship (BD&E) division of the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio (ULGSO) helps established minority entrepreneurs obtain the necessary management skills that will enable them to take advantage of new business opportunities and qualify for financing that will lead to higher levels of business growth.   BD&E works with private, public and nonprofit resources to build strong, sustainable and successful minority businesses.  BD&E administers the African American Business Development Program (AABDP) and will celebrate its 10th Anniversary this year.

The mission of the AABDP is to identify, prepare, involve, empower and sustain African Americans entrepreneurs who are committed and positioned to serve the needs of the Greater Southwestern Ohio region. AABDP is a six-month accelerator program facilitated by the ULGSO encompassing the following elements:

  • Experiential learning, lectures and classroom discussions
  • Leadership and skills assessment
  • Organization and process management
  • Assessing products & services
  • Marketing
  • Understanding business financials and how they impact business growth
  • Strategic planning and growth strategies.

Our keynote speaker will be Otis Williams, CEO/President of Otis Williams Limitless, Inc.

Details related to the 10th Anniversary celebration are below:

When:   Wednesday, May 9, 2018 6:00 PM

Where:  National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Grand Hall and Terrace

50 East Freedom Way, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202

Time:     6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Your presence and support of the event will be greatly appreciated.






3rd Annual Miami Valley Urban League Luncheon

ULGSO Logo with GCUL and MVUL



Wednesday, May 23, 2018, 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Sinclair Community College

David H. Ponitz Great Hall (Building 12)

444 West Third Street, Dayton, Ohio 45402


The Miami Valley Urban League Luncheon is a celebration of the organization’s expansion of program offerings to the Dayton community.  During the event, we will recognize and pay homage to the organization’s 2018 MVUL Luncheon Honorees, the Pillars,  (Ronita Hawes-Saunders and  Willis “Bing” Davis.)    Your presence and support of the event will be greatly appreciated.

The MVUL is located in Dayton, Ohio at 907 West Fifth Street in Dayton’s historic Wright-Dunbar neighborhood.  The MVUL is a division of the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio located in Cincinnati. The parent organization was incorporated in 1949 and has been a high performing National Urban League affiliate for over 12 years.  The MVUL is dedicated to carrying out the mission of the League “to transform generations by promoting personal empowerment and economic self-sufficiency” through its program offerings and services.

With a focus on minors and young adults, the work that the MVUL is engaged in is vital to the long-term stability of the Miami Valley area.   Youth who are academically prepared, socially adjusted and have in demand skill sets will be able to persevere when faced with life’s challenges.  Through a combination of tutoring, mentoring and job readiness training, the MVUL seeks to maximize the potential of its program participants.

Our ultimate goal is to ensure that our program participants become proud citizens earning livable wages.  Your support of the League’s mission will help to provide life-changing skill sets to members of our community who are  unemployed, under-employed or re-entering society.   We hope to see you at the Third Annual Miami Valley Urban League Luncheon.


The State of Black Dayton

Miami Valley Urban League report reveals lost opportunities and promise for African-Americans in Greater Dayton and Montgomery County.

The State of Black Dayton


The Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio is proud to launch its 2020 Strategic Plan:





Economic Community Change Initiative

ULGSWO Website ECCI Teaser Final 1-20-17

In August 2015, the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio released its report:

The State of Black Cincinnati:  Two Cities

In February, we will launch our “collaborative” response to addressing the disparities found in the report.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter:

th @urbanleaguecincinnati


Strategizing for Change!

The Urban League Young Professionals present the Suits and Sips Soiree

Updated SSS 2016


The Urban League Young Professionals present the Suits and Sips Soiree — the after party to the Urban League’s Gala and Silent Auction.  Come party and network with the hippest young professionals in the region.  There will be a DJ, live band and food!

  • It all goes down on September 17, 2016 at the Duke Energy Convention Center.
  • The party starts at 10 pm and won’t end until 1 am.
  • Entry is free with your purchase of an Urban League Gala and Silent Auction reservation
  • If you just want to come for the after party, reservations are $30 for general admission and $50 for VIP
    • General admission includes hors d’oeuvres
    • VIP admission includes VIP seating, two drink tickets, hors d’oeuvres & access to bottle service.


This is a fundraiser with all proceeds benefitting the Urban League’s Suit Yourself Gentlemen’s Clothing Closet.  Come out and party for a great purpose.   We can’t wait to see your face in the place.


Macy’s Fashion Show and Shopping Event

2016 Macy's updated 042816Join the Urban League Guild on Wednesday, May 25th for a fashion show and shopping event at Macy’s at Fountain Place.  Admission to this event is $5.  Your admission gets you an additional 20% off all purchases made that evening.


If you have questions, please call Ms. Candie Simmons at (513) 559-5443.  We look forward to seeing you there!

Holiday Drive for School Supplies

ASL flyer



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!

An Evening of Faith, 2015

The local Urban League Mass Choir performs `Ezekiel Saw the Wheel' at the Urban League National Conference in July 2014 at the Duke Energy Convention Center. A. Michael Cunningham directs.

Urban League Mass Choir performs `Ezekiel Saw the Wheel’ at the Urban League National Conference in July 2014 at Duke Energy Convention Center. A. Michael Cunningham directs.


By Mark Curnutte
Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio

AVONDALE – In the mid-1950s, the fledgling modern civil rights movement found its home in the black church. Its leaders, many of them preachers, organized mass meetings held in their sanctuaries and undercrofts.

Black church music – filled with images of overcoming injustice and oppression through perseverance and faith – became the movement’s soundtrack, strengthening its foot soldiers’ steps, sustaining them, and keeping their eyes fixed on the prize.

The marriage of music and black community struggle remains strong even today, in the face of stubborn and sometimes widening racial disparities, detailed here in the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio’s report The State of Black Cincinnati 2015: Two Cities.

So it’s natural that this Urban League, part of the 93-affiliate national civil rights movement, has a choir. Resurrected in 2009 by President and CEO Donna Jones Baker, the Urban League Mass Choir consists of up to 75 voices from 35 congregations and performs at special events.

One such event is An Evening of Faith on Nov. 13 at Inspirational Baptist Church, Forest Park.

A regular Urban League fundraiser presented by the League’s Guild, Evening of Faith features national acts, this year Byron Cage and J Moss, and the TOD Dance Ministry from Zion Global Ministries.

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, in its fifth year under the direction of A. Michael Cunningham, is preparing to perform solo and two songs with Cage: “I Will Bless the Lord” and “The Presence of the Lord Is Here.”

“When we put that Urban League logo on the (choir members’) collar, it represents the spiritual element to what we do,” said Baker, who has led the local League since 2003. “You can be spiritual without being overzealously religious.

“Having the Urban League Mass Choir underscores our connection to the people we serve.”

The Urban League in Cincinnati and Dayton offers industry-leading job-readiness, youth and business development programs.

The League helps at-risk youths stay in school, earn academic promotion, graduate with their peers, and prepare them for the college application process.

The League helps 80 percent of its job-readiness graduates – many of them returning citizens – find work and keep it for at least 12 months.

The League certifies minority- and women-owned in three states, opening the door for them to lucrative supplier chains.

To Cunningham, Minister of Music at New Jerusalem Baptist Church, Carthage, black church music and the Urban League’s mission are a good fit.

“The vision and direction of the Urban League is about second chances at jobs and life,” Cunningham said. “Black music lines up with the community even in times when things seem down. Black church music is uplifting. It draws people in. It gets everybody on the same page.”

Not counting his position at New Jerusalem, Cunningham is musical director of four choirs, including the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s Classical Roots Mass Choir. He surely knows music and he knows the Urban League.

In 2009, he graduated in Class 16 of its Urban Leaders program, formerly known as the African-American Leadership Development Program. His wife, Takiyah Cunningham, formerly worked in the local League’s development department and sings in the mass choir. So does their 13-year-old daughter, Dylan Aria.

Takiyah Cunningham also once worked as a job-readiness trainer in the Urban League’s program best known by its acronym, SOAR (Solid Opportunities for Advancement and Retention). It pairs with Accelerated Call Center Education (ACE) as the core of the League’s entry-level, life-readiness courses.

Rebranded this month as the Accelerated Customer Service Education program, ACE is taught by Teri Dixon. She sings alto in the Urban League Mass Choir and in the choir at the Catholic Church of the Resurrection, her home parish in Bond Hill.

Historically, in the black community, mass choirs are made up of members of several standing choirs, normally church choirs.

“It’s a great bunch of people, people of different faiths who come together out of a common bond,” said Dixon, an Urban Leaguer since 2008.

That bond is the love of gospel music.

“It helps me,” Dixon said. “It’s feel-good music. It makes me (spiritually) full.”


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.

An Evening of Faith

EOF for page

The State of Black Cincinnati

Layout 1

The Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio, and its affiliate, the Greater Cincinnati Urban League, will publish its report “The State of Black Cincinnati 2015: Two Cities” on Monday, Aug. 31. A press conference is scheduled for 10 a.m. at the Urban League, 3458 Reading Road, Avondale.

Statement on Tensing indictment


DJB Letter to Board Regarding Grand Jury Outcome


AABDP graduate honored

Peter McConney is a graduate of the Greater Cincinnati Urban League’s African American Business Development Program and is going to be honored for his achievements by the Cincinnati Business Courier.

He is president and CEO of Premier Mail & Fulfillment, a full-service print, fulfillment and mailing house, in Blue Ash, Ohio.

AABDP lasts seven months and has reached 60 firms since its inception in 2012. Participating companies increased their spending with other MBE (Minority Business Enterprises) firms from $503,000 in 2013 to $2 million in 2014.

From Sheila A. Mixon, Senior Vice President of Business Development & Entrepreneurship at the Greater Cincinnati Urban League:

“Please join me in congratulating our own, Pete McConney being recognized as Forty Under 40 and Second Act awardee. … Congrats Pete, well deserved.”

Fox 19 covers summer tech program

Thank you to Fox 19 WXIX-TV and reporter Lisa Hutson for their heartfelt story on the Urban League’s summer tech program with Toyota, the city and Cincinnati Public Schools.

Ghosts of dead black men

Composite portrait, including Trayvon Martin, in artist Titus Kaphar''s "The Jerome Project."

Composite portrait, including Trayvon Martin, in artist Titus Kaphar’s “The Jerome Project.”


The asphalt-and-tar composite portraits — haunting, at first glance seemingly out of focus — peer unflinchingly at viewers.

They are the overlaid faces of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Amadou Diallo — black men racially profiled and killed by police or law enforcement representatives in Titus Kaphar’s “The Jerome Project” exhibit, one of two installations by the artist showing at the Contemporary Arts Center through Oct. 11.

The Contemporary Arts Center invited the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio to a private, small-group tour of the exhibits. Center officials asked for ideas on how to connect the exhibit to the city’s current police-community challenges and to the young African-Americans whose lives are most affected by the twin social ills of poverty and violence.

“The Jerome Project,” paired with Kaphar’s “The Vesper Project” — a universal search to find and understand his black family history — form a real-time examination of America’s ongoing racial struggle.

Kaphar, 39, after all, is the artist who painted the Ferguson, Mo., protestors’ portrait for Time Magazine’s 2014 Person of the Year edition.

His visual treatment of Ferguson protestors is similar to he covers up the history of the three women he paints in “Vesper,” whose skin — hands, arms, faces up to the bridge of the nose — are covered with newspaper. Their personal stories and histories are not known, mirroring how Kaphar obscures the black open hands, raised arms and faces of Ferguson protestors in the sights of police guns.

Cincinnati is among the major U.S. cities where a police shooting of an unarmed black man led to widespread violence. A white Cincinnati Police officer shot and killed unarmed Timothy Thomas, who was running away and trying to climb a wall, on April 7, 2001 in Over-the-Rhine. The shooting led to weeks of violence and protests and, ultimately, to the widely hailed Collaborative Agreement that changed the way Cincinnati’s police department worked.

The creation of the Community Police Partnering Center, housed in the Greater Cincinnati Urban League, Avondale. The Center, led by executive director Dorothy Smoot, the local Urban League’s chief program officer, has successfully brought police, community members and business owners together to come up with mutually agreeable solutions to neighborhood problems ranging from shootings and property crime to drug dealing and prostitution.

Cincinnati-based activists the Rev, Damon Lynch III and Iris Roley of the Black United Front, distributed copies of the Collaborative Agreement in Ferguson, a predominantly black St. Louis suburb, in August at the height of protest. A white police officer had fatally shot an unarmed black man, Michael Brown, 18.

Still, while Cincinnati Police reforms have improved the relationship the community has with law enforcement, the city is plagued by gun violence.

Through June 27, Cincinnati had experienced 38 homicides, compared to 40 in the same period in 2014. Shooting victims, however, are up 28.4 percent, from 176 in 2014 to 226 this year, according to Cincinnati Police data.

The Contemporary Arts Center tour included Hyde Park School Principal Tianay Amat, former Cincinnati School Board member Vanessa Y. White, Cincinnati Enquirer editorial board member Byron McCauley, and Clarence Newsome, president of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. The consensus of a post-tour discussion was that while exposing African-American youths to the exhibits would be positive, supports needed to be in place to help them deal with the psychological “can of worms” that might open as a result.

Newsome said he wanted the Freedom Center staff to tour the exhibit.

The genesis of “The Jerome Project” came when artist Kaphar performed a Google search for his father’s name and date of birth, which resulted in the find of 90 men, whom, like his father, had been incarcerated. The work represents, he said, “a community, specifically African-American men, who are statistically overrepresented in our nation’s prison population.”

Though African-Americans make up only 12.5 percent of Ohio’s population, they represent more than 45 percent of the state’s prison population. Closer to home, in Hamilton County, where 25 percent of the population is black, African-Americans comprise 60 percent of the people processed through the criminal justice system.


The Contemporary Arts Center, 44 E. Sixth St., Downtown, is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday through Monday and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. Admission is free for CAC members and children under 5, $7.50 for adults and $5.50 for people 60 and older. Call (513) 345-8400.

Today at the League

These SOAR graduates were part of first Hand Up Initiative class in Corryville. They are taking a test today to try to be accepted into the Construction Connections program, the next one of which will begin Friday. It is a nine-week pre-apprenticeship program that provides its graduates with a number of industry-recognized certifications.

New SOAR graduates take Construction Connections test.

New SOAR graduates take Construction Connections test.

SOAR graduates discover hope

Jamika Morris

Jamika Morris: `I don’t want her (daughter) to know the struggle I did.’

Class 1: `

Class 1: `I love you all. My classmates are the real MVPS.’

Proud dad Ras Yeremiah Tafari and graduate Ras Tosh Tafari

Dad Ras Yeremiah Tafari and graduate Ras Tosh Tafari.




The tears started before the words.

“I was tired of struggling,” said Jamika Morris, 20, of Avondale, waving her laminated certificate of completion and standing behind the podium.

“I don’t want (her 1-year-old daughter) to know the struggle I did. She is going to have a trust fund, so when she graduates from high school she can go straight to college.”

On Friday afternoon, Morris joined 15 other graduates in completing the Greater Cincinnati Urban League’s first off-campus job-readiness class. It is the first of 11 the League will offer as part of Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley’s $1.12 million Hand Up Initiative; the Urban League received $250,000.

The second Hand Up class will begin July 27 in Madisonville. Other neighborhood sites in the next year will include Westwood, East Price Hill and Mount Auburn. Transportation is a barrier to class attendance — and job retention — so the logic is to take the program to the neighborhoods.

Until now, this Urban League flagship, three-week job-readiness class, SOAR (Solid Opportunities for Advancement and Retention), have been held at the League’s Avondale campus.

While the location changed – the Hampton Inn, Corryville – the raw emotion is the same. People who’d largely endured negative reinforcement begin the process of transforming their lives through the soul-bearing course.

Corryville is in Uptown, the part of the city that offers the region’s second highest concentration of jobs, behind only Downtown Cincinnati.

“Everybody has a light that needs to shine. Thank you to the Urban League for giving me the chance to better myself.” — Justin Keith.

Rob Rodgers, a program director in the Urban League’s Workforce Development department, opened the hour-long graduation ceremony by singing what he termed a “song about dedication.

“The itsy bitsy spider crawled up the water spout,” he sang along with graduates, who stood to join him. “Down came the rain and washed the spider out. “Out came the sun and dried up all the rain. And the itsy bitter spider crawled up the spout again.”

… “Think about it,” Rodgers said. “It’s about getting back up again after being knocked down.”

“I did this so my little nephews and nieces could look up to me.” – DeAndre Fannon.

Morris knows plenty about rain and being washed out. She said a disagreement with her mother during the class forced her one morning to walk more than two miles from Burton Avenue in Avondale to the Hampton Inn.

“We had to literally ring out her jacket when she got her,” said John Garner, SOAR trainer who led the class. “It shows her determination. She did not want to let herself or her classmates down.”

The downpour was not the first of her life. At age 8, Morris was place in foster care by her mother. She did not finish high school. She ran away. A marijuana habit caused her to drift, she said, for two years.

Then she experienced incidents of sexual and physical abuse by family members.

“Those are always the ones,” she said.

“To be real, I was convicted of a crime in 2012. I didn’t know where to go. … I found myself in this class.” – Iris Jennings.

Started in 1998, SOAR graduates 81 percent of its participants; 76 percent find full-time employment. They earn an average first-year salary of $21,262 and inject $4 million into the local economy.

About 63 percent of SOAR graduates retain jobs for at least 12 months.

During the three-week course, men receive dress clothes suitable for interviews from the League’s Gentlemen’s Clothing Closet. Women receive two sets of clothing, the first through the Freestore Foodbank’s Back on Track store and then from its Dress for Success subsidiary. Often dressed on Day 1 in street clothes – shorts, T-shirts, sleeveless tops, gym shoes – participants are required to dress appropriately for business over the final 12 days.

Trainer Garner told of seeing one graduate wearing his suit while riding his bicycle home from class one afternoon up Reading Road.

“I’m never taking this suit off. I never had one before. I feel different with it on, better.” – Daniel Jones.

Upon graduation, SOAR participants get a plastic binder for their resume and other personal documents needed for work.

More than a physical gift, graduates receive a promise that the League will continue to support them in the job-search process and onto developing a career and managing their money.

“If I call, pick up the phone. And if you change your number, I will still find you,” said workforce development specialist Edna Avelino, herself a SOAR graduate who has worked for the Urban League for two years. “We are here to help.”

The agency provides follow-up services for its program graduates, ranging from helping to update resumes to providing bus tokens. Some graduates have received helped renewing revoked driver’s licenses or recalculating child support payments.

The phrase goes, “Once an Urban Leaguer, always an Urban Leaguer.”

“I was tired of sitting around and waiting for handouts.” – Kijana Davis.

SOAR creates something new inside its participants, people who otherwise had rarely been told they have value or had ever been able to complete anything.

“Hope,” said Greg Walker, the League’s SOAR trainer. Its next Avondale class begins July 6.

“SOAR takes people who’ve lost hope or never had it and shows them a light at the end of a dark tunnel,” Walker added. “It gives them empowerment to change their tomorrow if they want to.”

Morris wants to change her future. All she has to do is think about her daughter, Dalila. Morris said she receives $222 a month in support from the girl’s father, which goes to diapers, wipes and baby formula.

She would like to marry, but her child’s father is not for her. “I have self-value and self-respect,” she said. “I never had a dad in my life. I was not close to my mother. I had to raise myself.”

“I feel good right now. I wrote a graduation poem. I wrote it at the bus stop this morning. It’s short. `Preparation, dedication, and sacrifice were the keys for me.’” – Ras Tosh Tafari.

Morris already has moved toward a new life. She worked through a temporary service while attending SOAR from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. She did housekeeping, cooking and busing tables.

“Sometimes I had to work until midnight or 1 p.m., but I still got up and made it to class,” she said.

Morris wants to get into the League’s Construction Connections program. SOAR graduation is a requirement. Connections is a nine-week pre-apprenticeship course that provides graduates several industry certifications upon completion, including those provided by the National Center for Construction Education and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

“That’s what I want to do for the short-term,” she said. “Long-term, I want to be a nurse.” First, she plans to complete her high school education and earn her diploma.

“I was in my second stage of cancer and felt myself dying. That’s why I went to the Urban League.” – Shaneishewa George.

The next Hand Up Initiative SOAR class will begin July 27 at the Madisonville Arts & Cultural Center, 5021 Whetsel Ave. Eligible participants must live in Madisonville.

Information sessions will be held July 6, 13 and 20 from 6-8 p.m. at the center. Thursday sessions will be from 10 a.m. to noon, also at the center.

The course is strategically being offered in Madisonville, within two miles of the new Kroger Marketplace being built at Oakley Station. The Kroger Co. hires SOAR graduates and provides SOAR training assistance.

In addition to the Arts & Cultural Center, Madisonville SOAR is sponsored by the Madisonville Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation. Call Lionell Roberts at (513) 913-3413 for more information.

“I saw the opportunity right in front of my face to better myself as a person. My classmates, I love you all. My classmates are the real MVPs.” – Shyrena Thomas.

Helping families displaced by fire

Angela Dews and her boyfriend, Ricardo Battle, of Forest Park, sit on some of the donated furniture the Urban League's Torrance Jones found for them. Dews and her 17-year-old daughter were among the eight people displaced by a May fire at the Somerset, Avondale. They are living temporarily in the Poinciana, also in Avondale.

Angela Dews and her boyfriend, Ricardo Battle, of Forest Park, sit on some of the donated furniture the Urban League’s Torrance Jones found for them. Dews and her 17-year-old daughter were among the eight people displaced by a May fire at the Somerset, Avondale. They are living temporarily in the Poinciana, also in Avondale. Urban League photo/Mark Curnutte


Urban League’s Jones secures used furniture, household items

AVONDALE — Angela Dews and her 17-year-old daughter, smelling thick smoke, woke at 4 o’clock on the May morning. The apartment above their first-floor unit in the Somerset, Blair Avenue and Reading Road, was on fire.

Dews and her daughter, Aiken High School junior Tekobah Lewis, escaped, but their clothes and furniture were damaged by smoke and water.

For the next week, they lived in a room at Comfort Inn and Suites, Mitchell Avenue and Interstate 75, but had no place to go afterwards. Then Torrance Jones called. He and Melissa Hill are the two community access coaches at the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio, charged with working with residents of the five low-income apartment buildings, including Somerset, that are part of the five-year, $29.5 million Choice Neighborhoods Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The Urban League is providing social services for residents of the five buildings through 2017.

Dews’ household was one of six displaced by the three-alarm fire, which Cincinnati firefighters largely contained to one unit on the second floor.

“Torrance gave us rides from the hotel to different agencies,” said Dews, 39, who has lived in Somerset since 2001. “He took us to pick out some furniture.”

Grant recipient The Community Builders (TCB), the landlord of the five buildings, paid for the hotel room and some clothing for displaced Somerset residents. But it was Jones, residents said, who went beyond his Urban League job description to help. He gave them bus tokens if he was unable to drive them himself. Jones and TCB helped Dews and her daughter get an apartment in another of the landlord’s Choice Neighborhoods Grant’s buildings, the Poinciana, Avondale. When renovations are completed on two previously vacant apartment buildings in Avondale, the Ambassador and Commodore, Dews and her daughter will move in there. TCB purchased and remodeled those buildings.

“Torrance was the only person I saw hustling,” Dews said. “He was the one who was trying to help us put the pieces back together. He was always positive. He knew what we needed.”

Jones found used furniture at an agency in Over-the-Rhine and secured food for displaced families from the Freestore Foodbank. He came up with baby seats, toiletries and clothing. The Community Builders provided a truck, and Jones store items in the garage of his home.

“I prayed for these families, and things just kept happening,” Jones said. “These families already are suffering from generational poverty. How can we expect them by themselves to recover from a fire when they lost everything? I can’t get them back to 100 percent, but maybe I could get them from 40 percent to 60 percent, where they wouldn’t feel so overwhelmed and hopeless.”

Jones is working with Dews and her boyfriend, Ricardo Battle, 43, to help them find jobs. Dews has experience in food service. The next step is likely going to be a job-readiness program at the Urban League.

Civil rights missing from bill

Letter from Donna Jones Baker, President and CEO of Urban League of Southwestern Ohio, to Ohio Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman.

Portman Letter 061815

Citizens speak; Blackwell listens

Jeffrey Blackwell

AVONDALE — An audience of more than 100 citizens — not counting a dozen police officers and handful of elected officials — squeezed into the Urban League of Southwestern Ohio’s Community Room on Friday morning to give Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell their solutions to the city’s recent spate of gun violence.

Blackwell had listened in a meeting Thursday night at New Prospect Baptist Church, Roselawn.

As of May 24, 162 were injured this year by gunfire, more shooting victims than within that time frame than at any time in the previous 10 years, according to a report presented to City Council. And as of May 30, the city had experienced 30 homicides, compared to 33 during the same period in 2014, according to Cincinnati Police data.

“Shootings are up 25 percent. Homicides are down 10 percent,” Blackwell said in brief opening remarks.

Some members of council have criticized Blackwell for the city’s violence, and The Cincinnati Enquirer reported in late May that Blackwell had been handed resignation papers, which he refused to sign. He has received many votes of confidence from citizen and organizations.

On Friday morning, during the two-hour meeting, citizens were split into several small groups and instructed to come up with three solutions to the root causes of ongoing violence, especially experience in the city’s predominantly African-American neighborhoods — primarily Avondale and Walnut Hills in recent weeks.

Citizens presented several ideas — which were written on notecards and handed to Blackwell’s staff members. Themes centered on illegal gun control, job creation, better parenting of children, and better communication and collaboration between city services.

“This is not a Chief Blackwell issue. It’s a community issue,” said Tracie Hunter, Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge and Westwood church pastor.

Other community members offered various proposals: Make the Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV) more effective or get rid of it. Curb access to violent video games in which youths are desensitized to gun play involving police officers. Create a scared straight-type of program that would take young people to emergency rooms, prisons and the morgue to witness first hand the effects of gun violence. Community meetings such as those held Thursday night and Friday need to be a consistent happening, addressing concerns and celebrating successes.

Jobs and economic conditions came up repeatedly.

The U.S. Department of Labor reported Friday that the nation’s unemployment rate stood at 5.5 percent, yet it is double that among African-Americans.

“We know that 1 percent of people commit 85 percent of crime,” said DeAnna Hoskins, director of Hamilton County’s reentry program, which helps returning citizens remove barriers to employment. “We have to give them a reason to put guns down. We have pushed individuals into violent crime. We have to change the culture. Reentry is not a program. It is a process.”

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation of Corrections released more than 21,000 prisoners in calendar year 2012, not counting inmates under local transitional control, such as parole and probation. That year, 1,940 prisoners from Hamilton County came home, in addition to another 1,203 from adjacent Butler, Clermont and Warren counties.

The Urban League specialty

The Urban League — nationally and in Greater Cincinnati — is the industry leader in job-readiness programs that help graduates find and maintain employment and advance on career tracks.

As a recipient of Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley’s Hand Up Initiative grant, the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio is offering an additional 11 SOAR classes in different neighborhoods. The initial three-week course — co-sponsored by the Uptown Consortium — will begin June 15 at the Hampton Inn in Corryville. Courses during the next year will be held in several neighborhoods: Madisonville, East Price Hill, CUF, and Mount Auburn. These classes also will provide, for the first time, customer service certification from the National Retail Federation.

SOAR stands for Solid Opportunities for Advancement and Retention, and recent graduates found work that paid an average of nearly $22,000 in the first year. Many SOAR graduates move into the League’s Construction Connections program — which offers several construction certifications, including heavy equipment operation.

The Urban League’s call center training program – Accelerated Call Center Education (ACE) – led 2014 graduates to jobs that paid an average of $11 an hour. From 2010 through 2014, the Urban League in Cincinnati welcomed 12,000 participants through its doors into its workforce, youth, small business and women’s business programs.

Community, police find solutions In addition to leading in job-readiness programs, the Greater Cincinnati Urban League houses the Partnering Center. Created as part of the city’s groundbreaking Collaborative Agreement of 2002, now seen as a national model, the center brings residents, business leaders and police together to develop solutions to neighborhood crime problems, said Dorothy Smoot, executive director of the center and the local Urban League’s director of programs.

The Collaborate Agreement resulted from months of long negotiations that came on the heels of a police shooting of an unarmed black man, Timothy Thomas, in April 2001 in Over-the-Rhine. Days of civil unrest and a declaration of martial law followed.

“Cincinnati has a more accountable and transparent policing process in 2015 that makes the community partners in keeping it safe,” Smoot said Friday morning.

Community meetings involving police are planned for later June in Avondale and East Price Hill, Smoot said, meetings that will make use of the process known as SARA — scanning, analyzing, responding and accessing.

“Neither Chief Blackwell nor the police can do it by themselves,” Smoot said. “We have shown that when the community is an engaged partner in public safety that crime goes down.”

Avondale, Bond Hill, Corryville, Madisonville and Northside are Cincinnati neighborhoods within the past decade that have successfully employed the Partnering Center and the SARA process to develop successful solutions to crime problems.

State Sen. Cecil Thomas, a Democrat who represents District 9 in Hamilton County, attended the session and said Cincinnati has a process to involving citizens and police to reduce crime problems.

“This is part of that foundation,” said Thomas, a long-time Cincinnati Police officer.

For his part, Blackwell — though he faced a weekend of writing a 90-day plan to reduce violence, due to City Manager Harry Black on Monday — said he was enthused by community response during a tense week.

“This (meeting) demonstrates how much love this community has for each other,” he said in closing remarks. “It’s not about me. It’s about us. A negative has been turned into a positive. “Violence is not as high here as in other cities. I’m encouraged that this city is going to get this under control.”

Information on ACE, SOAR, Construction Connections and the League’s other workforce, youth and economic development programs is available on this Website or by calling (513) 281-9955.

Where to Get a Job

If you are looking for a job in the Greater Cincinnati area and you are not sure where to start your search, the “Where to Get a Job” page is a great place to start.  On this page are direct links to companies and organizations who are hiring right now. The mission of the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio is to “transform generations by promoting personal empowerment and economic self-sufficiency.”  A major step in accomplishing this goal for you and your family is obtaining and maintaining full-time employment.

Before you apply, increase your chances of success by attending one of our programs, ACE, SOAR or Employment Connections, or Construction Connections.

Colleges and Universities




Other Resources

Bakers Dozen

Saving our Sons Matters

A new school year has begun and each day as I drive into the Urban League I see younger and younger African American male faces loitering on the corners on school mornings. As I have watched the ever increasing number of male youth, it occurred to me that SOS should have a double meaning in our community. Traditionally, SOS is thought to be a distress signal. It is the international Morse Code signal for help but maybe it should be an acronym for Save Our Sons. There is clearly a need for a distress signal in our community. Many times we unconsciously drive past young Black men who are destined to die because of feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. It is as if they are waiting for death to drive by or the police to offer a complimentary ride to the Hamilton County Municipal Jail. Consider this cold, hard fact: 68% of all males in state and federal prison do not have a high school diploma.

School to Prison Fact Sheet

Our boys are part of the school-to-prison pipeline, an epidemic that is not uncommon across this nation. Frequently, there is a double standard. “The system” works against our boys who are often held to a different standard in our schools and are suspended, expelled or arrested for what are minor offenses for others. After Sandy Hook and Columbine it is not difficult to understand why schools take strong offense, but justice must be meted out fairly. Students forced out of school become stigmatized and branded as trouble makers, incorrigibles and incapable of learning. Eventually, those students give up and drop out of school.

This is not the time to play the “ain’t it awful” game. At the Urban League we see the results of the phenomena on a daily basis. We work to salvage what is left and rebuild broken men and women so that they may become productive citizens earning a livable wage. Many of our SOAR program participants come to us doubting our ability to help and their ability to achieve. At the end of four weeks they leave us with an attitude that is positive and future focused.

It still takes a village to raise a child. What if we who are parents or just concerned people banded together and held our own Saturday schools? What if we shared our collective knowledge, worked in small groups with our children and devised a way to keep them positive and focused on a bright future? It doesn’t take a lot; just one adult who is good in math, helping three boys get the basics; or one adult who loves to read working with two or three boys to develop their reading and comprehension skills. You get the idea—each one, teach one. There will be no public accolades given to you but the satisfaction and reward will be in the destruction of the school-to-prison pipeline. SOS. Who will answer the call?

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