Sunday, December 30, 2001
What comes next?:
Good examples few
Community efforts look for progress, but there are few models
of real success to follow. Other cities have tried, though...
By Kristina Goetz
The Cincinnati Enquirer
It's been nearly a decade since rioters burned parts of Los
Angeles to the ground, after a jury acquitted four white police
officers in the beating of black motorist Rodney King.
Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent to help businesses
recoup losses and rebuild whole blocks that were destroyed. City
leaders and citizen groups created everything from jobs to
neighborhood watch programs in an effort to recover from the more
than $920 million in damage the riots caused. New partnerships
between the public and private sector were forged to ease racial
tension. And faith-based organizations sprung into action to fight
racism and poverty.
Still, no one is saying that even all those programs, money and
effort have turned the nation's second-largest city into any model of
American racial harmony.
A perfect model doesn't exist.
As Cincinnati contemplates its own plans to address deep divisions
that led to the worst racial unrest here in 30 years, recovery may be
more difficult than the riots.
"Cincinnati is not alone," says Richard Newman, a research
officer at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research at
Harvard University. "It's only emblematic of what the situation is
in every American city.
"What is to be done? That is the question no one can really
In Greater Cincinnati, city and civic leaders, public and private
officials and citizens are engaged in numerous programs that they
hope will help make things better.
Mayor Charlie Luken's race commission, Cincinnati Community
Action Now, has been working since early May to improve housing,
neighborhood development and health care, among other things.
A conflict resolution firm, Aria Group, has solicited ideas from
3,500 area citizens on ways to improve police-community relations.
It's part of an unprecedented process to resolve a federal racial
profiling lawsuit against the city.
The Cincinnati Human Relations Commission has coordinated 18
"Study Circle" discussion groups, in which more than 250 people
have talked about ways to improve race relations.
And The Cincinnati Enquirer has engaged hundreds more citizens in
seeking solutions in "Neighbor to Neighbor," a series of meetings
envisioned for nearly every neighborhood, village, township and city
in the region.
Across the country, other cities are trying new ways to help
people get along, too. Approaches range from ambitious to close and
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho (pop. 34,000)
In 1998, this city took steps to distance itself from the
Aryan Nation, a white supremacist group with a strong following
When the hate group made plans for a march through town, the city
and other organizations came up with "Lemons Into Lemonade," an
idea they copied from Pennsylvania.
Citizens were asked to pledge money for each minute the Aryan
Nation marched. The longer the Aryans marched, the more money the
citizens raised. The shorter they marched, the sooner it was over.
The march lasted about 22 minutes, and the town raised $35,000.
Much of it was directed to teachers in northern Idaho for classroom
instruction on diversity.
"It was a wonderful way to send a message," says Tony Stewart, a
member of the local civil rights group that organized the campaign.
Anchorage, Alaska (pop. 260,000)
Citizens in this city worked with a former Anchorage mayor to
create a program called "Bridge Builders" in 1996.
It began with members gathering a few times a year for potlucks
during which individuals or families were randomly paired with others
from different cultures. The get-togethers are seen as a good way for
small groups of people to get to know each other and their cultures.
More than 600 people now take part in the program.
Boston (pop. 589,000)
The National Ten-Point Leadership Foundation, a nonprofit
group based in Boston since 1992, has gained national recognition for
reducing crime and easing tensions between blacks and police.
Black clergy and black politicians were trained and then paired
with police and kids to work together on dealing with crime. Boston's
plan included using missionaries to serve as
advocates for black and Latino juveniles in the courts., establishing
links between suburban and downtown churches, and initiating and
supporting neighborhood crime-watch programs.
The approach was credited with helping reduce violence in the city
by 75 percent.
St. Petersburg, Fla. (pop. 248,000)
A civil disturbance in 1996 prompted city leaders to launch
"Challenge 2001," which pinpointed a 5-square-mile area in which
poverty, dropout rates, unemployment, property values and crime rates
were the worst in the city.
The goal was to reach certain numerical targets within four
years. In the first three years of the program, for instance, 29
businesses were added or expanded in the target area; property values
in the inner-city neighborhoods increased by at least 10 percent and
violent crime dropped 18 percent.
"Whether it helped or not (having numerical targets), I don't
know," project manager Tyna Middleton says. At the least, ""It gave
the community something to focus on."
This year, the project name changed to "Midtown Development:
Continuing the Progress." Its main focus is now economic
Akron, Ohio (pop. 217,000)
The Coming Together Project was started in September 1993 as
an outgrowth of a year-long series on race relations published by the
Akron Beacon Journal.
The newspaper documented disparities between blacks and whites in
housing, economics, crime and educational opportunities. As part of
its work, the newspaper asked organizations in the community to work
on improving race relations.
Within two years, 200 community organizations were working to
improve race relations in various areas. In December 1995, the
project was chartered as a tax-exempt, nonprofit corporation.
Phoenix (pop. 1.3 million)
The city's Human Relations Commission and community leaders
established a cultural diversity program in 1997 called "We're All
on the Same Team.'' It strives to improve race relations by addressing
hate-crime incidents and media portrayals of people of color. A local
hot line staffed by the Phoenix Equal Opportunity Workshop provides
residents with information about diversity programs, coming events
and training workshops.
A newsletter keeps communication open among citizens, schools,
local businesses and the human relations commission.
"It has to be a multifaceted approach," says Carole Coles Henry,
acting director of equal opportunity in Phoenix. "And I can't
emphasize enough that is has to be a participatory process."
Cincinnati 2001: Year of Unrest
Prologue to turmoil:
"A very tense time"
The trigger: Shooting
'ignites furious response'
The riots explode:
A city's dark week
Summer of blood - guns rule the streets
Tests of justice:
What can be done?
What comes next?:
Good examples few
WARD BUSHEE: A chance to talk honestly ... and to act
2001: A timeline
Unrest photo timeline
Jim Borgman on race