Friday, April 27, 2001

After the riots

Listen to wisdom of children

        Cincinnati needs a new nickname.

        The Queen Ciy should become:

        The City That Listens To Its Children.        

        Lend the kids an ear. Follow their advice. Then, everyone — grown-ups and children alike — will live in a better Cincinnati.

        What kids are saying in the aftermath of the city's recent riots makes more sense than words coming from some people masquerading as mature adults.

        Children propose to solve the city's problems by peaceful means.

        “Talk to each other kindly. Give joy!” eight-year-old Chaela Thompson wrote in an essay for Avondale's Wesley Education Center for Children and Families.

        “Don't fight about your problems. Talk them out,” a first-grader at Rockdale Academy told the Rev. Steven Wheeler. During the week the minister spent at the Avondale school after the riots, another first-grader reminded him:

        “There is no room in your heart for hate.”

Grown-ups speak

        Contrast the children's words with what adults are saying and writing.

        The National Socialist Movement, a white supremacist group, litters West Chester lawns with hate-mongering leaflets.

        White power banners hang from interstate overpasses.

        Local civil rights attorney Ken Lawson speaks at a seminar in Washington D.C. While not condoning violence, he makes what appears to be an attempt to justify hate crimes — where drivers are pulled from their cars and beaten solely on the color of their skin — by implying that two wrongs can make a right.

        Protesters outside the Hamilton County Justice Center claim the rioters behind bars are: “Heroes.”

        My heroes are not jailed thugs who loot and hurt innocent people.

        In this instance, my heroes are the school kids who know the value of talking together and the power of words.

Mouths of babes

        Since I left grade school a few years ago, I wondered if these students' wise observations were unusual.

        To find out, I called two experts, Uncle Al Lewis and Sally Moomaw.

        Uncle Al became famous in Cincinnati as the accordion-playing host of a children's TV show. “Not surprised” are the words the retired broadcaster used when he heard about children sounding more sensible than adults.

        “For 35 years, I lived with children on my TV show,” he said. “In all that time, I never had a problem with black and white children getting along.

        “They just wanted to play together.”

        Sally Moomaw is the professional development coordinator at the University of Cincinnati's Arlitt Child & Family Research & Education Center. She has spent her career working with young students, from preschool to third grade, and their teachers.

        Children know, she said, good things can happen by getting along.

        Sally told me about two preschool boys. One made a building out of blocks. He was afraid the other boy wanted to knock it down. The boys started to fight.

        “Sounds like the riots,” Sally noted.

        She sat the two boys down. They talked. Words, not fists, resolved their differences.

        Pretty soon they were building things together.

        In peace.

       Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.

Archive of reports on the riots and their aftermath

Reebok pulls car-stunt ad
No more loose lips on stunt, judge orders
Rivals square off over teens' stunt
Riverfront tax figures doubted
Public relations experts say city image is fixable
- RADEL: After the riots
Suburban students visit urban world
Family of children hit by beanbags sues city, cops
Remarks on shooting assailed
Taft asks government for discounted riot loans
Tarbell calls for vote to oust city manager
Higher-ed officials battling state cuts
O Rodger, we lift our proud voices to thee
Small wall holds big reminder
Area doctors facing public report card
Ceremony marks the Holocaust
Court: Mining firm lacked grounds for suit
Deters foe finds support here
Fine Arts Fund meets $9.1M goal
Hamilton's Multicultural Celebration gets bigger
Harlan Co. won't agree on displays
Historic town tavern burns
House GOP proposes tax amnesty
Letters deemed no threat
Off-duty police officers report attack by crowd
Official questions park's safety
Pact might end protests over black man's death
Some oppose move by hospital
Taft shifts, backs aid for cancer treatment
Teen fined over fatal car crash
West Clermont aims to get small
Tristate A.M. Report