Sunday, September 19, 2004

Boycott leaders: Where they are today



By Kevin Aldridge
Enquirer staff writer

The original leaders of Cincinnati's boycott have become involved in other efforts for change, too.

The Rev. Damon Lynch III

Then: As the media-savvy president of the Cincinnati Black United Front, Lynch gave the boycott street and national credibility. Under his leadership, the Black United Front sued the city for alleged racial profiling, leading to a landmark agreement to reform police policies.

THEY MADE THINGS HAPPEN

• Cecil Thomas, 51, leads the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission, which brings people and agencies together to talk about race and improve police-community relations. The commission's 50 community monitors are dispatched whenever there are police altercations with residents. "We've been getting recognition from around the country in a number of areas, which speaks to the efforts to move Cincinnati forward," the retired city police officer says. "I know that there is a lot of work still to be done, but realistically, you are never going to satisfy everybody. Cincinnati is in a healing process, and it takes time."

• Ross Love, 57, led the blue-ribbon race commission called Cincinnati Community Action Now. CAN established initiatives to help repair decades of neighborhood neglect, economic and educational disparities and bad blood between police and African-Americans. Love used the business acumen and connections he'd acquired as CEO and president of Blue Chip Broadcasting and a longtime employee at Procter & Gamble Co. He never allowed the commission to take a stance on the boycott, preferring instead to focus CAN's attention on creating jobs and education programs. Love was unavailable for comment.

• Spencer Crew, 55, directs the newly opened National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, which he sees as an important tool promoting dialogue to help resolve longstanding racial issues. Crew gave up his job as chief curator and top administrator at the prestigious Smithsonian Institution in 2001 to come to Cincinnati. "We hope that as we progress that the Freedom Center becomes a place where people come together for conversation and to find solutions for some of the problems in this city," he says. "Our goal is to create modern-day freedom conductors. To let people know that we can make choices ourselves that can make a difference."

Now: Lynch, 44, ran unsuccessfully for Cincinnati City Council in November and plans to run again next year. He stepped down as president of the Black United Front in January. Today, he works on programs to help ex-felons and the poor and homeless. He still pastors New Prospect Baptist Church in Over-the-Rhine.

Perspective: "The issues still remain. The vision of our city is still misguided, which means that there has to continue to be a struggle for those who care to bring some parity to Cincinnati."

Juleana Frierson

Then: Frierson was chief of staff for the Cincinnati Black United Front and Lynch's trusted colleague. She often acted as spokeswoman and was part of the negotiating team that developed new police policies.

Now: Frierson, 47, did not run for re-election as chief of staff for the Black United Front, although she remains a member. A federal government retiree, she is finishing out a three-year term on the Ohio Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline, a 28-member panel that investigates ethical complaints against judges and lawyers.

Perspective: "If we focus on something and are determined to stop it, we stop it 99 percent of the time. We decided not to go after this one (Ohio Classic events this weekend) because it is benefiting African-American schools."

Nate Livingston

Then: Livingston was a radio talk show host and longtime protester. He and Amanda Mayes took over the Coalition for a Just Cincinnati, another boycott group, in mid-2002. Their pressure for a more aggressive boycott covering the entire city - not just downtown - helped fracture the boycott groups' solidarity.

Livingston spent a portion of his time as leader of the coalition in jail, convicted of criminal trespass, disrupting a lawful meeting and prohibited use of Fountain Square.

Now: Livingston, 35, remains involved with the coalition.

While he was fired by WDBZ in June 2001, he recently launched a blog site, http://blackcincinnati.blogspot.com. It focuses primarily on news affecting African-Americans in Cincinnati.

Perspective: "The boycott is still going on. We'd be the first to admit there have been a number of setbacks... Despite that, we are of the opinion that there have still been a number of things that would have come to Cincinnati, but haven't, largely because of the boycott."

Amanda Mayes

Then: Mayes led the Coalition for a Just Cincinnati's "Artists of Conscience" campaign, which persuaded celebrities such as Bill Cosby and Whoopi Goldberg to cancel shows in Cincinnati in 2002. Like Livingston, Mayes found herself in jail on a few occasions for disorderly conduct at protests. She also took heat from the Jewish community after she was photographed on Fountain Square holding a sign that read: "Jews Killed Jesus."

Now: Mayes, 29, has been on the sidelines since giving birth in May to her first child, a boy.

Perspective: She could not be reached for comment.

The Rev. James W. Jones Sr.

Then: Jones was a chief architect of the boycott and founder of the First Coalition for a Just Cincinnati, another boycott group. His group was the first to call for an entertainment boycott. A longtime civil rights activist, Jones had called for a similar economic boycott of the city 30 years earlier because of perceived racial injustices. He pastored Greater New Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in Carthage.

Now: Jones suffered a heart attack and stroke in early 2002, which damaged his eyesight and deprived him of some mobility. He never fully recovered from his illness and died at age 68 in July.




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