Jessica Skiles wants to give people a sign that Fairview Park is a good place for minorities to live and work.
Skiles, a Fairview Park resident, is working with different people and organizations to make that point by creating “Racism Free Zone” signs for local businesses to place in their windows.
“I want to make sure people are treated fairly and equally,” Skiles said. “It’s always been something I’ve felt very strongly about. Fairview is a good place for all people and this is a good way to show that.”
In addition to Skiles efforts, city leaders are also emphasizing Fairview Park is not a racist community.
Mayor Patrick Cooney wrote a letter June 26 also showing Fairview Park is taking a firm stand against racism.
“.The City of Fairview Park denounces and condemns racism and any other form of discrimination and harassment against any human being. As the Mayor, I pledge to work alongside City Council, members of the City Administration, and other elected officials to identify and address any sources of racism that may be present in our community. There are many layers to this societal problem and, unfortunately, there is no one solution. However, solutions must be pursued and achieved,” Cooney said in the letter.
The City Administration is committed to reviewing City policies and procedures to ensure that this community is a welcoming, safe, and inclusive place for all individuals, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or age. I will not tolerate racism – or any form of discrimination or harassment – here at City Hall or within this community. I will not tolerate racism, period.”
Cooney said the city will continue to take steps to combat racism. Cooney and other city officials said they appreciate Skiles’ efforts.
Skiles’ signs will be about 3 feet by 1 foot and enable businesses to put the signs in windows or on doors where people driving or walking by will be able to see them, Skiles said. The signs will say Racism Free Zone and Skiles would like to have them up in the next few weeks.
“It will be like the ‘No Smoking’ signs that you see placed in different locations,” she said. “They’ll be big enough to see and get people’s attention, but they won’t be overpowering and obnoxious. We want to get people’s attention, but still be respectful of the businesses and people’s needs.”
Skiles, 34, said she’s always been drawn to helping minorities.
“My best friend in high school was Muslim and I didn’t like people bothering her either,” she said. “I’ve always felt strongly about these kinds of issues.”
Skiles also aids people in her job as a patient support specialist at the Cleveland Clinic.
“I’ve always been interested in jobs and issues where I’m helping other people out,” Skiles said.
Family obligations kept Skiles from participating in recent Black Lives Matter activities in Cleveland, but Skiles said she will continue to look for ways to help.
Skiles is paying for the signs and is not charging the businesses for them.
In addition to Cooney, other city officials are also taking active measures against racism.
City Council President Mike Kilbane said Black Lives Matter definitely matter in the city and that council will support showing there is no place for racism in the city. Council’s Local Government and Community Services Committee will most likely discuss the issue of racism when council returns in September, unless the mayor proposes anti-racism legislation before then.
Kilbane said council is willing to work with Skiles on showing Fairview Park is a racism-free city through the signs and other actions.
Councilwoman Sarah Wering expects the committee sessions to help send a message.
“We want to make it clear that racism has no place in Fairview Park,” Wering said. “We’ve enacted legislation which makes sure people know that there is equality for all people, races and groups in the city and that racism and discrimination don’t have any place in the city.”
Wering said she’s happy to help bring discussions about racism to the city. Businesses and their representatives will certainly be involved in those discussions, she said. Only businesses wanting to participate would get the signs, Wering said.
John Sobolewski, executive director of the Fairview Park Chamber of Commerce, sees the signs as good for the city and businesses.
“Anything that helps show Fairview Park as a good place for businesses and people to live and work in is a positive thing for the community,” Sobolewski said. “It’s good to have projects like this where someone in the community wants to work with businesses and the city to do something good.”
Sobolewski said the chamber could work with the businesses to get the signs.
Skiles said she will welcome help from different areas in the business and governmental communities.
“Getting help from different places helps show that we want to include different people in activities and the community,” Skiles said.
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