The Voicing and Action Project is an oral and video life narrative research and community bridge-building initiative developed by the Case Western Reserve University Social Justice Institute. Debuting in the neighboring municipality of East Cleveland, the Institute's collaborative, community-based project gathers and documents residents' personal testimonies as the foundation for empowering residents' voices and contributing to ongoing and future organizing, visioning, education and revitalization efforts in East Cleveland. East Cleveland residents and stakeholders, as Community Researchers, are gathering the stories of residents, past and present. Our community researchers have been certified through the CWRU Continuing Research Education Credit program (CREC) and trained in oral narrative methodology and advanced audio-visual technologies.
Established as a city in 1911, East Cleveland is the oldest suburb of Cleveland and one of the largest Black communities in the state. The 3.2 square miles of the city are home to approximately 17,000 people. GE's NELA Park—the world’s oldest industrial park—hosts a Christmas light display that has marked the end of the year for residents for eighty-eight years.
People in East Cleveland are proud to support Shaw High School in its academic and extracurricular pursuits, especially the marching band. The Shaw High School Marching Band—which traveled to Beijing to perform at the 2008 Olympics—often performs in competitions around the country and has been featured on the evening news multiple times.
The East Cleveland Public Library (ECPL)—established over 100 years ago—is home to the Greg L. Reese Performing Arts Center. The library was recently given a five-star rating in Library Journal, marking the ECPL as one of the top libraries in America. Besides the library and high school, other institutions that shape the community include the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center and the East Cleveland Theater. Residents gather for recreation, both spontaneous and organized, at the Forest Hills Park.
With the help of active street clubs and community members' organizing efforts through the Northeast Ohio Alliance for Hope (NOAH), the citizens of East Cleveland are rising to meet the challenges of inequality that confront a city with a high poverty rate and declining infrastructure. Residents’ narratives—as shared with the Voicing and Action Project—belie the negative public perception of the city, instead revealing a rich history and strong community bonds.
The Voicing and Action Project is about a series of important ideas:
To watch oral history interviews with East Cleveland residents and advocates, visit the SJI YouTube Channel.