Following the Beyond the Dream: Neighbors Reclaiming Akron community event on April 29, 2018, organizers gathered to review the issues and opportunities that arose from circle discussions with local residents focussed on three topics: (1) Economic Disparity, (2) Health Disparity, and (3) Education Disparity.
Art x Love commissioned three artists to create murals inspired by these discussions, which are now part of a permanent installation at Akron City Hall. To see the exhibit, please visit our @PLAY Akron gallery here.
The following is a summary of key insights with links to local organizations that are tackling these issues and serving those who face them. This summary was created by Dr. Oghenetoja Okoh and local leaders, and represents a starting point for anyone who wants to understand Akron’s social landscape and connect with organizations dedicated to building a beloved community here.
The big-picture take-away was that poverty and economic inequality is a driving force behind much of the other disparities we face in our communities. Akron has been struggling for several decades to reconstitute a thriving and dynamic economic base that can in turn support thriving schools and whole citizens. Participating in the local and state political processes is a key way to ensure the ideas and needs of local citizens inform the innovations and new ideas needed for economic revitalization. Holding our elected officials accountable to us is critical, but also showing up to have an impact on how they formulate policy is key. Akron City council has dedicated itself to focus on addressing poverty, and to be more transparent in its effort. In addition, there are several organizations committed to this work as well, as part of their effort to build and nurture vibrant communities. These include:
With regard to specific racial and economic disparities in health, increased cultural awareness among health professionals is necessary, but also that health professionals who share the cultural background of their patients can make a big difference in making people feel confident in their care providers. Health professionals also need to meet people where they are at. Access to healthcare is not just a local issue, but a national one, and it is a complicated problem to solve. Throughout Akron several organizations work to support local communities engage in healthful practices, and to address the needs of different populations within our cities. These include:
The disparities among Akron Public Schools is an on-going source of grievance for parents and students. What role do students play in generating solutions to the school-to-prison pipeline? How can we as a community support teachers and also ensure a greater representation of teachers who look like the students they teach? Prioritizing resources for mental health and social services over policing and surveillance was an important policy solution generated by each of the circles focused on educational disparities. Providing better support for teachers with better pay and increased funding for resources would also go a long way toward enhancing the overall educational experience for students, especially those from disadvantaged families and communities. Finally, mentorship was a critical element identified in supporting student success. Mentors coming from the communities in which students live, but also at the college and university level, provide inspiration and critical connection for students who aspire to achieve their dreams. These are local organizations focused on these questions, and supporting the well-being of our youth:
by Mac Love and Dr. Oghenetoja Okoh, with thanks to Project Ujima, CareSource, ProMedica, and the University of Akron’s EX[L] Center.