On Sunday, July 30, EYEJ partnered with The Cleveland Foundation and 42 other host organizations bringing together over 1,500 Clevelanders to “meet, share a meal, connect and discuss what we can do […]
On Sunday, July 30, EYEJ partnered with The Cleveland Foundation and 42 other host organizations bringing together over 1,500 Clevelanders to “meet, share a meal, connect and discuss what we can do together to create a more equitable and resilient Greater Cleveland.”
Our event, Social Justice: Our Youth, was held in partnership with Plymouth Church in Shaker Heights, a longtime supporter of EYEJ’s mission to empower Cleveland youth. The discussion was led by a group of 14 high school students who guided over 100 participants from all walks of life, ages 7-84, through a meaningful discussion based on the following questions:
“What is social justice?”
“Why is social justice important?”
“Why are we here?”
“What injustices, challenges and issues do I face as a youth?”
After participating in an ice-breaker, everyone separated into small groups for breakout discussions. Each group was asked to come back afterward and share two things with the crowd: one “Ah-ha!” moment and one solution. It was a day of deep discussion, strengthened relationships and new connections. Problems that were discussed ranged from knowing several family and friends who have been murdered to frustrations and unfairness around state testing, racism, bullying, failing systems and the need for job-readiness training.
Participants spoke up for changes to existing laws and challenged each other to push through their discomfort, recognizing the need for social justice efforts to come through in all aspects of life. They also recognized the need to build bridges between people from diverse communities and backgrounds – reinforcing the value of EYEJ’s #BuildingBridgesTogether campaign.
Overall, there was a commitment to continuing the conversation and increasing self-awareness. Together, we imagined a future with more summer jobs for Cleveland youth, more school support, more community partnerships, more mentoring, more minority students being given the opportunity to take challenging classes and more summer programs for youth advancement.
One of the best quotes of the day came in the form of a challenge to advocates and allies that we should “be an upstander, not a bystander.” We heard from city council members, a school superintendent, ministers, homemakers, board members, police, children, bankers and more. As a whole, the group repeatedly called for more churches, non-profits and community organizations to empower each other through collaboration and partnerships.
The overwhelming success of Common Ground CLE is just one example of how powerful these partnerships can be, and we can’t thank The Cleveland Foundation and Plymouth Church enough for helping us bridge worlds together through this event.
Want to keep the discussion going in your workplace or community? Comment below and tell us how you’ve been inspired to get involved.
You can also click here to learn more about volunteering with EYEJ.
Or you can join the discussion about #SocialJusticeCLE on August 24 from 10-12PM EST for a live Tweet Up. You can participate right in the comfort of your home, workplace or wherever you may be on Twitter. Simply search for the hashtag #SocialJusticeCLE and join EYEJ along with students from Case Western Reserve University and Case Western Reserve University’s Social Justice Institute during a live Twitter chat about achieving social justice in Cleveland!