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The Sound of Ideas

Listening to Imperial Avenue

Posted Wednesday, November 11, 2009

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Listening to Imperial Avenue The Imperial Avenue murders have stirred up some long simmering anger in the Mt. Pleasant community. Last week, one listener--Joanne from Cleveland--emailed this: No one cared. [Even] if they had been college students with Rhodes Scholarships, as long as they were black from a black neighborhood, the crimes would have been ignored. It's not only here but every place. We do not matter. Is it true that no one cared? Have our communities lost the capacity for empathy? We'll talk about it Wednesday morning at 9.

Tags

Government/Politics, Other, Community/Human Interest, Courts/Crime - Fire/Law Enforcement

Guests

Pastor Lawrence Boone, Covenant Community Church
Ronnie A. Dunn, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Urban Studies, Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs, Cleveland State University
David C. Barnett, Reporter, ideastream
Florence Bray, mother of victim Crystal Dozier
Blaine Griffin, Executive Director of Community Relations, City of Cleveland

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Please follow our community discussion rules when composing your comments.

matthew 10:19 AM 11/11/09

you can attribute this to the “don’t snitch” attitude of poor african americans, which stems from their us-versus-them attitude toward the police. this is not the last time something like this will happen.

Steve, Cleveland 10:49 AM 11/11/09

Cleveland has time and again been listed one of the poorest cities in the US and the Mt. Pleasant area, while not the poorest of the poor is not far behind.

As a life-time resident of the lower Buckeye neighborhood, I would have to say that I’ve never seen the mood and atmosphere of my neighborhood much worse than today, with the possible exception of the summer of 1967, when I was 10-years-old.

All the side-streets around my home have dozens of abandoned and vandalized homes. About 50% of the street lights on both Buckeye Road, MLK Blvd., and Shaker Blvd. are dark on any given evening.

The traffic lights between here and downtown are missing a working lamp at every other stop light.

The pot holes on Buckeye Road, Shaker Blvd, and Rapid Transit Tracks at Shaker & Van Aken Blvd all could ruin your car’s front-end with a single encounter..

The neighborhood has gotten a lot poorer, people are working three or four different minimum-wage jobs to hold body and soul together. They don’t have time to supervise their children much less partake in “community” organizations.
Last summer packs of unsupervised school-age children and teens ran wild on my street vandalizing gardens, pets, and property at will.

We’ve “outsourced” neighborhood and “neighborly” responsibility to professional “community development” organizations who are more interested in their next development grant, professional peer recognition, marketing star properties to “upscale” prospects, or courting foundations program officials, than they are with the real needs and concerns of the residents they already have. Often they seem to see the current residents as a problem to be “fixed” rather than a situation that must be dealt with.

With the collapse of the American middle-class there just are not enough working, caring, and financially able people to live, work, and care about
all this abandoned urban real estate. Too much of the cream of our population, has moved out and abandoned the poorest, sickest, and most uneducated to fend for themselves with a failing city tax-base to cope.

Sally, Lakewood 10:49 AM 11/11/09

I feel that it’s not necessarily the fact that these rape victims were “poor and black” but that they were possible drug/alcohol addicts that made these missing women be not reported to police.  Someone mentioned that if this were a wealthy white woman from Beachwood, the police would have been all over the neighborhood immediately.  I think the difference here is that police in the Imperial Avenue district feel that there are so many women in this neighborhood who may be drug users or prostitutes, that “it’s just another casualty.” IT’S NOT THAT THEY’RE BLACK, IT’S THAT THEY LIVE IN A NEIGHBORHOOD WHERE THIS IS DEEMED TO BE ‘COMMON’ AND IS NOT DEALT WITH IN THE SAME WAY IT WOULD BE DEALT WITH IN A MORE SOPHISTICATED NEIGHBORHOOD WHERE THIS IS LESS COMMON.  We need to train our police to treat crimes the SAME in all communities…but we also need to educate the community to report all missing persons to the police, no matter WHAT they say “the police will or won’t do.”

James Poole 10:49 AM 11/11/09

The poor black people of Cleveland have not mattered to the powers-that-be of this city for quite some time:  Does any body remember Arthur Feckner, a convicted felon - a white man - was allowed to sell crack cocaine on Woodland Ave., across the street from Morris Black CMHA projects in the late ‘70s/early 80’s. With the knowlege and assistance of police and elected city officials this man unleashed the plague that has murdered, crippled, castrated and yes even raped the potentialities of our people and this community the past 30 plus years.

What we are witnessing now - the evidence of 11 slaughtered black women, a stinking, decomposing and ravaged central southeastern Cleveland community - is the immoral failure and disregard of our City leaders to have allowed the original crime to occur and continue to ignore this crime’s perpetuation.

This community needs healing!  We the residents and the 4th District Police Department know where the drugs are being sold.  Our people need drug rehabilitation and recovery services.

It is not enough to grieve.  We must take responsibility and take action.

John, Cleveland 10:50 AM 11/11/09

Nothing can diminish the tragedy here. Yes there was not enough follow up. However, when it is heard more than once that drug use and street life is irrelevant, that does not sit well with the larger community. It is not considered normative behavior. It is also not normative behavior for women to be out on the street using drugs etc. while there children are raised by others. These are not popular issues and charged. Until societal problems are addressed on a macro level, things will not change and predators will continue victimizing people.

Lynell, Shaker Heights 10:52 AM 11/11/09

Throughout US History, Black people have been treated, perceived, and depicted as less than human.  Black women are depicted as whores everyday in hip-hop videos, and yet now we are outraged?  Black women from midle-class families go missing, and Nancy Grace barely takes notice.

The tragedy of the Imperial Avenue situation and many other circumstances in poorer Black communities is that we as Black people have adopted larger society’s view of ourselves.  As Black people we do not respect our own, or value our own lives.

The net result is “no snitching” and criminal get away with crimes in pooe neighborhoods; families do not report their daughters, mothers and sisters missing for weeks and Sowell gets to slaughter them.  Poor Black women have no heroes in their community.  How can we expect the police to care?

We as Black people must start to value ourselves, and we must emand that the larger US society treat us as human beings.  Stop supporting anyone who does not respect and champion our humanity- politicians, recording artists, etc.

mark jackson sr 11:10 AM 11/11/09

’Must we be defined by our most troubled elements?’ Sharon Pratt-Dixon former mayor of D.C.
Wanna do something to effect change: parent’s go to school MONDAY A.M. with your kids...tell their teachers (in front of the kids), that U support THEM. And that U want to know what you can do to help the teachers teach YOUR kids. Now follow up, follow through...you’ve started something.

Pastor Boone’s statement re: the demographics of the crowds at the post tragedy meetings is telling AND not surprising...you’ll find much the same in most black churches on any Sunday: Few men between 15 - 55...A lot of folks don’t articulate it, but they KNOW what’s NOT working & what hasn’t worked; religion as conventionally delivered has no resonance with this demographic...Pastor sounds thoughtful enough to know the WHY of that...but maybe HE can’t see anymore either: been in it too long…
Politics/Government: how do u hold a government accountable when all you do is vote (to the extent you do), for the same party ALL THE TIME? Impossible…
SO what now? Please don’t wind up standing helplessly in line, waiting for the SAME types (govt. bureaucrats) of folks to SAVE you who have been SAVING you for 50 years! 
Nobody will say they want to be poor...who has DONE something TODAY/everyday to get themselves or their family OUT of poverty?
This tragedy is, in part, about class & race...what in the world isn’t?
Perhaps we need to start to gain a more sober understanding of how politics/society/public policy really works...then leverage that knowledge with tactics & strategies towards collective objectives...a tall order...what’s the alternative?
And remember: everybody that means well (even those with power), do not necessarily have meaningful answers stemming from root cause analysis. Politics!

Jackie from Geauga Co 11:18 AM 11/11/09

I’d like to point out the most significant point I took from this hour-when asked about the role the families and communities played in these murders, the mother of one of the victims said “No one in the community noticed these women going into Anthony Sowell’s house and never coming back out.  It’s a problem of neighborhood watch.” The silence on the other end was deafening.  All of us listening knew what needed to be said, but no one ever says it...the responsibility lies with ownership of our life choices.  If one chooses to do drugs and live a life of ill repute-then bad things might visit them.  If a family chooses to ignore that their child is doing drugs, then they may end up burying them.  I think the bigger point I’m trying to make here is the disservice Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have done to the black community.  Whenever a tragedy happens like this, all I hear is who should have prevented this.  To put into context-because everyone wants to bring race into the equation-when a white parent is interviewed on Dr. Phil about the death of their drug addict child what I hear is “Why did I not do something to stop this” not “It’s someone else’s fault” Own your choices and be proud of them.  If Cleveland sucks and there is a lot of crime, then leave with the clothes on your back.  I’m just guessing here, but I’d bet it’d be a lot easier to leave if you don’t have 6 children with six different fathers holding onto your apron strings when trying to leave for a better life…

Tom 11:28 AM 11/11/09

There is a glaring fact here. It is the elephant in the room, and many people are dancing around saying that elephant isn’t there: It is the STENCH. I went to the scene yesterday. The stench is still palpable. All you have to do is to inhale through your nose a bit when the wind is in your direction. Now. People. Listen to someone who knows: I know the smell of a dead body! When I went there yesterday there was NO MISTAKING THAT STENCH. It is an odor that is unique. However, if you do not know WHAT it is, you are not going to come to the correct conclusion. It can be devided thus: If you see a body and smell the stench, you will sure as heck know what that stench is. If you smell the stench but DO NOT see a body, you will not know what it is.
Now, many have asked why the Police or other officials didn’t know what it was, or didn’t do anythign sooner. In the interest of hearing both sides, I called a Detective I know from CPD. I asked him how many Police would know that smell. Answer: ALL OF THEM. And why would all of them know? Answer: They are taken to the MORGUE in their training so they will know it.
This smell is UNIQUE. I can tell you it is. It is unmistakable for those who know it. It does not smell like a dead dog, sausage (prepared for eating!), the sewer, and so on. IT SMELLS LIKE A DEAD HUMAN BEING. And once you smell it you cannot forget it!! IT is revolting, nauseating, disgusting.
Now, we didn’t have just one body there. We had at least ELEVEN! Eleven bodies ,and two of them unburied. The rest in shallow graves. This was a massacre. The stench therefore was multiplied 11 times.
I spoke to at least one person at the scene who stated he knew that smell, that he called Police, and that nothing was done. Granted, the cops are as busy as bees in that very area, with crime left and right. I listen to the police scanner regularly. They’re over there all the time. ALL THE MORE REASON TO WONDER WHY SOME COP DID NOT SAY GOSH, THAT’S A DEAD BODY SMELL! Further, since there was a lot of drug activity right there in front of the corner store where Sowell got his malt liquor, they should have been out of the cars and ON the area.
It is therefore sound to say that the POLICE SURE AS HECK SHOULD HAVE KNOWN WHAT THAT SMELL WAS LONG AGO AND DONE SOMETHING ABOUT IT PRONTO. Please don’t tell the community that there was some issue of where the smell was coming from. You’re a cop, you smell that smell, you figure it comes from a one block area and everyone tells you it does, YOU GO BUST DOWN DOORS UNTIL YOU FIND THE BODY! They did not. Why remains to be seen.
Tom
ps, for those who wonder, I am white, middle class and I LIVED in that area, on S. Moreland Blvd right out of college as I started my career. The people of that area have every right to be angry with the City.

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