Jake Dingler
Black Lives Matter: Cincinnati

On March 10th, Black Lives Matter: Cincinnati (BLMC) held its second Saturday discussion series at The First Unitarian Universalist Church on Linton Street in Corryville, Ohio. This month’s discussion was centered on the recent racist incidents racist events that have happened in Cincinnati and the institutional racism that allowed these acts to occur. Podcast recording of the event is available here.

Tanisha Agee-Bell was the first speaker on the panel. Agee-Bell is the mother of a Mason Middle School student whose teacher threatened him with being lynched for talking in class. Agee-Bell told of her meeting with the teacher following the remarks, as well as the teacher’s lack of willingness to admit fault. She met with the principal that same day, and asked to pull her son from this class. While they did pull him from the class, this teacher also hosted his homeroom, and they kept him in that homeroom for another three days until she found this out and demanded the situation be rectified. Agee-Bell and several other parents also submitted a list of 20 demands to school administrators for changes regarding race in Mason Schools . As of the date of the event, only four of those demands had been worked on, and none had been fully implemented.

Left: Tanisha Agee-Bell. Center: Prince Edward Johnson II. Right: Clara Guerra

Following Tanisha Agee-Bell was Clara Guerra, a student at Miami University who came to shed light on the racist culture within her school’s campus. She mentioned an occurrence in the early 2000s when the nearby Talawanda High School saw two white students come to school on Halloween dressed as Klansmen. While it wasn’t clear what repercussions these students faced, this did embolden the Ku Klux Klan to March through the town of Oxford where both Miami and Talawanda are located.  

Clara Guerra. (Credit: Jake Dingler)

Clara first became involved in combating these issues when a series of white supremacist flyers were posted across campus. A group of students, Clara included, organized a rally against white supremacy on campus, making it known that these hateful ideas were not welcome. Most recently, a resident assistant in the campus dorms overheard talks of students attempting to throw a “blackface party”, an ongoing problem on many campuses across the country.

Prince Edward Johnson II, a local teacher spoke next. Johnson commented on the structure of the U.S. educational system often using fear as a motivator for children, and how this kind of tactic, when used on African American children can easily manifest itself in a racial context, leading to situations such as the one at Mason Middle School. Prince linked what transpired in Mason to his alma mater, Xavier University, where a student hung a skeleton with an afro wig from a noose out his dorm window. He compared the lack of response, and the bureaucracy of the educational administration, fostering inaction in the face of racist controversies. Prince closed by stressing the need for accountability, and ensuring schools have the tools to properly deal with these incidents as they arise.

Brian Taylor, a member of the BLMC Outreach and Recruitment committee, closed the panel. Accompanied by a Power Point presentation, Brian was able to take the institutionalized racism described by each of the former speakers and draw a clear timeline from slavery to the ratification of the 13th amendment to today, illustrating how these systematic forms of oppression have been catalyzed in our culture. From the orchestrated dismantling of progress made during radical reconstruction to the lynching in the Jim Crow South, to children’s cartoons that normalized the dehumanization of black Americans, it is evident, Taylor said, that the bigotry faced in schools is not by accident, but by design.

Those interested in hearing the complete discussion on institutionalized racism in education, can download the BLMC podcast “BLMC Events: It’s the Institution” at blacklivescincy.com, or search popular podcast apps for “BLMC Podcast.”. The BLMC podcast has other episodes ranging in topics from environmentalism to gender sovereignty and more. The next second-Saturday discussion will be on April 14th.