“The Adrift Balloon” By Joey Oteng

Have you ever met someone whose passion for what they do was so poignant that it was palpable? By virtue being in their vicinity you feel the fervor, energy, and […]

February 28, 2017 // Mai Moore // No Comments //


Have you ever met someone whose passion for what they do was so poignant that it was palpable? By virtue being in their vicinity you feel the fervor, energy, and excitement they radiate. The feeling is truly remarkable, and yet when you are in the presence of EYEJ’s Gloria Sturghill that is the overwhelming feeling you are left with.

Gloria is a lifelong Clevelander and emphatic at the point. She is an embodiment of the best of what the city has to offer. She is a vision of dedication, civic engagement, and compassion. Gloria is one of the founding members of EYEJ, and works in the Accounts Payable for Northern Stamping, Inc. but her love has always been with children and families she serves in teaching Sunday school and with youth group at Plymouth Church. She raves about the children she has taught and spent time with over the years, how they impacted her, and why she does the important work she finds herself in. She spoke of Trayvon Martin, the young black man shot and killed by George Zimmerman in the summer of 2012, whose death catapulted the #BlackLivesMatter movement into the national narrative as protests, demonstrations, and outcry erupted in communities nationwide and is the reason EYEJ got started.

Gloria said, “We have to do something. We have to let these kids know that they matter, and that they are important.” It’s that devastating incident along with the historic and contemporary dehumanization, brutalization, and invalidation of young people of color, particularly black youth that engendered Gloria to join the EYEJ board in a director position. For her seeing the children in the surrounding community she has always been part of, and the crucial work that EYEJ has done, and continues to do, affirmed the kind of civic service she wanted to engage in.

In describing Gloria, other spoke of her pure authenticity, and the upbeat energy she carries with her. Her as a person shines as radiant beacon of light that encourages others to do the same. She is someone that refuses to compromise, and holds her autonomy in herself in high esteem. Her gumption to remain unabashed herself through changing times, trends and issues, and political climates is one of her defining characteristics.

Gloria’s life motto is “It’s a balloon; let it go.” Those words have a simplistic and yet intricately in-depth meaning to them concurrently. Gloria has learned to be accept things as they are, process through them, and continue on her quest to be a guiding light in a sea of darkness. Gloria grew up near in the intersection of 90th and Cedar. A self-proclaimed stubborn child who adored school. She navigated neighborhood politics, went to Baldwin Wallace University were she studied French and Finance, and found herself in the world but not of it.

Earth, Wind, & Fire’s classic hit “September” is one of the songs Gloria recalls listening to in her youth. It’s that understanding of the historicity and the contemporary developments of the communities of Cleveland that make Gloria an invaluable member of the EYEJ team. Gloria is someone who has an innate ability to garner buy-in, and orate exactly that je ne sais quoi about what makes EYEJ so distinctively unique. She speaks of why EYEJ is different saying “It’s because we stick with the same students; we do not veer away from our sixth-eighth graders.” She knows what she is doing has larger implications, “It’s not just social justice; we’re teaching self-esteem and self-worth. We want our students to the see the value of each day.”

Gloria’s motto rings true through and through. The way her voices dances in a symphony of funky seventies Mo-Town fills you with excitement. And yet she is selflessly humble. She is at once wildly animated and wholeheartedly down to earth. It is apparent the love that Gloria has for people, children, and the empowerment of others. In speaking with her, it’s as if you are being enticed to let it all go; to be bold; and most of all, to be yourself – a bright crimson balloon adrift in a sea of alabaster white clouds – carefree ad careful.