Community Shares 'Cleveland Stories' From Mt. Pleasant and Nearby Neighborhoods

Family photo of Rochelle Gilbert-Cage taken in 1956. She writes: “On the left is my father's first cousin William, also known as Snake. My father's brother and cofounder of Gilbert & Gilbert Construction, Hosea Gilbert, is in the middle. On the right is my Uncle J. D. Washington who has me hoisted on his shoulder." [Photo: Cleveland Stories]
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In the 1980s, Charlotte Morgan honed her skills capturing stories for the East Side News on Woodland Avenue. She said she didn't realize at the time how important a black newspaper was to the community.

“We had a mandate: Get alternative news for the residents” she said.

So she did. Morgan is grateful to the publisher, Ulysses Grant, who was her journalism instructor and advisor, and she went on to teach writing, too. She reflects fondly on her time at the newspaper in “Cleveland Stories, Vol. 1,” an anthology of poems, essays and stories about life in Cleveland’s Mt. Pleasant neighborhood and the surrounding east side communities.

“People hold stories, and their stories are just better than fiction,” she said.

Literary Cleveland, an organization that supports writers and readers in Northeast Ohio, offered a place-based writing program this summer, and Morgan was both a participant and instructor. The objective was to reach out specifically to the Mt. Pleasant community through workshops at the Mt. Pleasant branch of Cleveland Public Library and Seeds of Literacy, a non-profit that provides adult education.

“Mt. Pleasant and the African-American community that lives in Mt. Pleasant and the surrounding neighborhoods don’t have the same access to writing programs as other parts of the city,” said Lee Chilcote, director of Literary Cleveland.

In an effort to address that and capture the history of the neighborhood, Literary Cleveland invited the public to storytelling workshops. About 100 people participated, and the anthology features about two dozen of their personal stories. 

A storytelling session at Seeds of Literacy on Kinsman Road. [Photo: Cleveland Stories]

“There were stories about growing up in the neighborhood, about families that had migrated from the South to the North during the great migration, pieces about sort of looking beyond the easy labels or stereotypes of the neighborhood,” Chilcote said. “They also didn’t shy away from the tough issues, so there were pieces about crime and foreclosure and homelessness as well.”

“Cleveland Stories, Vol. 1” launches with a reading at Seeds of Literacy, 13815 Kinsman Rd., Wednesday at 6 p.m. People can pick up a free copy there or read the collection online.

While no official plans are in place, Literary Cleveland is interested in continuing the program.

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