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Cleveland introduces Commission on Black Women and Girls, almost 2 years after its creation

Black women stand with their right hand raised at a long table where Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb reads from a piece of paper at the head.
William C. Rieter
City of Cleveland Photo Bureau
Members of Cleveland's Commission on Black Women and Girls are sworn in at a ceremony on Feb. 9, 2024.

The city of Cleveland introduced its Commission on Black Women and Girls Thursday.

Cleveland City Council passed legislation creating the commission in the summer of 2022 to advocate for and create programs and legislation that improve the lives of Black women and girls in the city. The passing of the legislation came after a 2020 Bloomberg study that identified Cleveland as the worst overall metro area for Black women in terms of educational prospects, wealth, health outcomes and overall well-being.

Mayor Justin Bibb, Ward 4 Councilmember Deborah Gray and and Councilmember Stephanie Howse-Jones, who represents Ward 7, sponsored the creation of the commission. Howse-Jones will also serve as a member.

“When you have various statistics that tell you that Cleveland is the worst place for Black women, you can go in a multitude of ways to start closing those gaps,” Howse-Jones said.

Commission on Black Women and Girls with Mayor Justin Bibb and City Council President Blaine Griffin.
City of Cleveland Photo Bureau
Commission on Black Women and Girls with Mayor Justin Bibb and City Council President Blaine Griffin.

The commission is tasked with conducting research and holding public hearings to create reports to be presented to City Council on the status of Black women and girls in Cleveland. The commission will focus on education, economic development, health care and justice and civil rights, according to the 2022 legislation.

The city’s legislation called for 12 commission members, two of whom should be college students and two of whom should be Cleveland Metropolitan School District students.

There are still some remaining openings to fill for the student members of the commission, Howse-Jones said.

Kathryn M. Hall, vice president of diversity and inclusion for JACK Entertainment, will chair the commission.

The commission members include:

  • Dr. Linda Bradley – Women's Health Institute, Cleveland Clinic
  • Eugenia Cash-Kirkland – Social support services director, City of Cleveland
  • Rev. Lisa Maxine Goods – Senior Pastor, Shiloh Baptist Church
  • Taneisha Fair – Associate, Racial Equity, The Center for Community Solutions
  • Stephanie Howse-Jones – Member of Cleveland City Council (Ward 7)
  • Shameka Jones Taylor – Chief Operating Officer, Saint Martin de Porres High School
  • Anastasia Sakairoun – Student, Cleveland State University College of Law
  • Dameyonna Willis – Founder and executive director, Queen IAM
  • Lita-Marie Wills – Commissioner of health equity and social justice, City of Cleveland

“There are not many commissions for Black women and girls in the state, let alone in the country,” Howse-Jones said. “We’re directly taking that population to be a partner with the mayor and council to come together, be able to advise them on solutions that can change the trajectory of that group. [It's] something that absolutely is unique."
With some exceptions, including the CMSD students being limited to a one-year term, the members are limited to three-year terms.

Gabriel Kramer is a reporter/producer and the host of “NewsDepth,” Ideastream Public Media's news show for kids.