Dear County Executive, how will you address the inequalities and disparities within our community?

By: Crystal Bryant, Esq.

Dear County Executive,

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has been in existence since 1909. The Cleveland Branch of the NAACP was founded three years later, in 1912. Since then, the NAACP has prided itself on being a champion for civil rights and the advancement of equity and justice. But the work is not done, not by a long shot.

When George Floyd was murdered (May, 2020), there was an outpouring of passion, frustration, and funding from various sectors to get something done. We saw an influx of financial and philanthropic support into civil rights-related activities. We appreciated that support. Internally, we established a physical office and began growing our staff to meet the needs of our community. But the reality is, as the national conversation about policies that disproportionally impact Black people begins to fade in prominence, too many entities are going back to business as usual. For us, the fight for justice for all is not the flavor du jour. It is a calling. And we will continue to fight.

For us, the fight for justice for all is not the flavor du jour. It is a calling. And we will continue to fight.

Locally, we were thankful to see Cuyahoga County declare racism as a public health crisis, with the Cleveland NAACP participating in the Cuyahoga County Citizens Advisory Council on Equity. But the reality is that racism did not start in 2020. Racism did not end in 2021. The systems that are in place, that create the conditions for economic injustice, criminal injustice, and disparities in health outcomes, did not take months to create. They took decades to create, and the systems are functioning just the way that they intended. This has created a national emergency on the state of Black people in this country.

Studies have shown that Black people in Cuyahoga County are denied home mortgages at a higher rate, even with the same income as white people.

The same is true for Black people in Cuyahoga County. The pandemic had a disproportionate impact on the Black community in Cleveland, which has been ranked as one of the most unsafe places for Black women. Black trans individuals are dying at a disproportionate rate. And poverty rates continue to be unacceptably high, Studies have shown that Black people in Cuyahoga County are denied home mortgages at a higher rate, even with the same income as white people. According to a lawsuit by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Black residents of Cuyahoga County face policies that discriminate against Black customers. There are unacceptably high rates of suicide and suicide attempts by Black people in Cuyahoga County, according to data from the ADAMHS Board of Cuyahoga County. Our communities face trauma on a regular basis from gun violence. And we do not need to look far for instances of excessive force from law enforcement.

Our charge to you, Mr. County Executive, is to first acknowledge the role of county government and what it can do to address the injustices of systemic racism. How can we ensure that people’s rights are protected and that they are able to feel safe regardless of where they are through county police and county funding? What things are taking place that would specifically uplift the state of Black people in Cuyahoga County and combat the racial disparities mentioned earlier?

How can we ensure that people’s rights are protected and that they are able to feel safe regardless of where they are through county police and county funding?

The NAACP has a long record of standing up for civil rights. We will continue to use our voice and our platform to advance the interest of marginalized people across Greater Cleveland. We stand vigilant against injustice. We also extend a hand to help the county in outreach and awareness of the services that are available to residents. We must protect our Black elders and ensure that they have a high quality of life. We must protect our young people who are involved in child and family services. We need to invest in county-related programs that improve the social determinants of health, reform criminal justice, and advocate for greater economic inclusion. Together, we can help make this city, this county, this state, and this country live up to their potential. Let’s get to work.

Crystal Bryant, Esq, Executive Director