'Our Land': A Student And Actor Talks About Community Policing

Nigeria Gould (Tony Ganzer / WCPN)
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Today we have a new installment in Our Land, a series of conversations about community policing in Cleveland.  In the last three months, we’ve heard from law enforcement, pastors, residents of various neighborhoods, high school students, and others. Today we hear from Nigeria Gould, a second year Ohio State student majoring in arts management and theater, who still performs with Cleveland’s Near West Theatre.  She grew up in the Cudell neighborhood of Cleveland, where 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot by police in November 2014.  He had been playing with a pellet gun.  Ideastream’s Tony Ganzer began this interview as all pieces in this series do: by asking what should community policing look like, and how far are we from it?

GOULD: “Community policing is simple: all you have to do is just get to know the people around you. You don’t even have to live in that area, but if you go and visit and at least try to get to know these people, it helps so much with progressing like crime rates, etc. And Cleveland is really far from that.  This has been a constant issue that has been addressed numerous times, and no one has chosen to do anything about it.”

GANZER: “How did the shooting of Tamir Rice affect you, personally?”

GOULD: “Everything’s been going too far.  And hearing the multiple stories, and then hearing that a young boy lost his life, and there is no justice being done, and to think that every day, even after the incident, I was walking past that area…it hurt.  It hurt cuz I don’t have any younger siblings, and I’m not a parent but I love children, and to know that a young 12-year-old is gone in the blink of an eye…for playing…was just too much to handle, especially with many other things in this country happening.”

GANZER: “You are an artist, you’re an actor.  Can you talk about how all of the emotions and everything that you’ve processed, I guess, affects your art?”

GOULD: “So recently this past summer we did Hair at Near West Theatre, and the story is about a young man who gets drafted to go to the Vietnam War.  And while my personal character in theater couldn’t relate to that cuz I was a young, black woman, I brought it back.  Cuz there was a moment where it was the KKK lynching someone who was black, in our show, and I personally took it upon myself to see it as a race-based show for myself.  And being an actor, and like putting myself in to this realm of, ‘it’s the same.’ Like here I am in this era-piece, but there are still lynchings.  They may not be done with nooses, but there are still lynchings.  There are still people dying. When I was doing that show, and when I’ve been doing a lot of race-based things, it digs into the deep part that I may not want to acknowledge. If I don’t want to acknowledge it, I at least should have the audience around me acknowledge it.”

GANZER: “There’s a lot of attention on ‘Young Black Males’ but should there be more attention on the young woman’s perspective, do you think, in the conversation we’re going through now?”

GOULD: “Yes, I definitely feel as if there should be. There are many young black men names, and it’s so sad that there are so many, but there are also nearly as many young black women and we don’t know those names.  We know Sandra Bland…who else? And there are more. There are trans-victims dying. We have a very one-sided sense of who we want to stick up for. And while it’s understandable because the male victims keep piling up, up, and up, these female victims are dying just as fast.”

GANZER: “What do you hope to do after you graduate?”

GOULD: “I personally plan on opening up my own theater in an urban-based area, having a social-change, social-activism side to it, and having a focus on young black women.  I know that growing up, I came from a single-parent household, and I was the only girl, so I did have a very strong, like, connection and focus on how I should be, and what I should aspire to be as a young black woman.  So of course it’s going to be for men and women, all ages, very open, but we discard the young black girls so much that they need some place where they can say ‘here I am valued and here I get attention.’”

GANZER: “Are you overall hopeful for the process that’s going on in Cleveland, or where Cleveland could be?”

GOULD: “It’s hard to say, because, being that I’m going on 20-years-old, I’ve never see much change for Cleveland that should happen, happen.  I have hope that the momentum can keep going, and I have hope that the community can stay strong and do what they as people feel is right, because it’s gone too far.”

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