A new group of activists is focusing on Bay Village with a campaign to shed light on racial injustice that members believe exist in the city. The grassroots activism group Bay Village Anti-Racism Network on July 10 submitted a petition to city leaders asking for education and policing policy reforms.
“This is needed,” said group co-founder Terry Coursen, 42, a resident of Bay for 13 years. “Often we feel like the issues of the world don’t affect us, but they do and we want to make sure we address them head-on.”
The petition outlines several actions the group wants to see the schools and government take. They include increased multicultural education, taking an anti-racism class and forming a community council to monitor curriculum-based decisions, police spending and zoning policies. The group is also requesting that the city’s police department adopt the Ohio Collaborative Community Police Advisory Statewide Standards.
“The petition is more like initial action to make sure that our institutions are aware that this movement for systemic equality in our community isn’t going anywhere,” said another co-founder, Dr. Sarah Sweeney, 35, a family physician who has lived in Bay Village for three years.
The 400-member group is also asking for a special City Council meeting on Monday to pass a resolution against racism.
The initiative is part of the organization’s Week of Action last week, aimed at raising awareness of racial issues in Bay Village. This included a vigil where residents were encouraged to put luminaries on their front lawns with the names of those who have died by police violence, including Tamir Rice, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. The week also included a virtual poverty simulation hosted by the Greater Cleveland Food Bank and a conversation with Police Chief Kathy Leasure
Led by Coursen, Sweeney and her sisters Elizabeth and Molly, the Bay Village Anti-Racism Network was formed during a protest on June 5 where more than 500 members of the Westshore community marched in solidarity for victims of police violence. The group’s Facebook page is dedicated to discussing racial inequity and promoting racial justice causes and has 315 active members. The group meets at 6:30 p.m. every Thursday via Zoom to discuss racial injustice and how to stop it.
Bay Village is a predominantly white city. Of the 15,295 residents, 93.6% are white while only 1% are Black and 1.8% are Hispanic, according to information provided by real estate database NeighborhoodScout.com.
This is the first campaign the group has held since its protest last month and it certainly won’t be the last, Coursen said.
“When you have an opportunity to get involved, do it,” he said. “Change comes from being uncomfortable and we sometimes have to get ourselves in uncomfortable situations to make a change. These are tough conversations to have with people, but they’re conversations that need to be had.”
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