Tuesday, April 17, 2001

Black youths speak of change

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Some sang. Others read raps. Most simply spoke. At an emotional forum at New Friendship Baptist Church in Avondale Monday evening, dozens of African-American teens and young adults — many of whom said their protests last week triggered long-overdue dialogue with city leaders — told a room full of community and business leaders they are tired of being ignored.

Malik Showes, 26, has his say while others wait in line.
(Craif Ruttle photos)
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        “It's time for African-American people to all come together as one to fix this,” said Leslie Anderson, 20, of Walnut Hills. “It's time to start treating black people like they ought to be treated and stop treating us like animals.”

        A fledgling local group, the Black Youth Coalition Against Civil Injustice, helped organize the summit after the April 7 shooting death of Timothy Thomas, 19, by Cincinnati Police Officer Steve Roach.

Angela Leisure, the mother of Timothy Thomas. speaks to the young crowd.
(Craif Ruttle photos)
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        Angela Leisure, the mother of Mr. Thomas, thanked young blacks for all they've done, but again called for peace. She told the young crowd that she felt their anger and pain, but urged them to await the outcome of the grand jury investigation.

        “We talk about addressing the problems that face the black community, but we never talk to the people it affects most and that's our young people,” said the Rev. Steven Wheeler of Impact Christian Ministries. “It's kind of like trying to make changes in a kitchen without talking to the cook.”

        One after another, young blacks detailed encounters with police and expressed fears about their future in Cincinnati.

        Many said if positive change is to happen, leaders must first address issues of police brutality, housing, employment and education in the African-American community.

        “Actions speak louder than words,” said Malik Showes, 26, of Walnut Hills. "Our power lies in our dollars.”

        Mr. Showes suggested that African-Americans in Cincinnati boycott the city's summer festivals and events. He said blacksshould stop supporting events in a city that cares nothing about their plight.

        “Black people are tired of everybody getting rich on our blood, sweat and tears,” he said. "We need to support our black-owned businesses.”

        Zach Adams, 27, of Westwood said he was tired of seeing black youths judged by their appearance. Dressed in baggy pants and a turned-around baseball cap, Mr. Adams said people sometimes mistake him for a bottle-throwing gang-banger.

        “But I'm not,” he said.


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- Black youths speak of change
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