About 150 people gathered at the corner of Buckeye and E. 116th St. in Cleveland Oct. 2 to celebrate the unveiling of “Lift Every Voice and Vote,” a mural meant to persuade residents to vote in elections this November and beyond.
The event spanned nearly two blocks in the Buckeye neighborhood, an area where revitalization is slowly but surely taking hold. Newer buildings, such as the Harvey Rice branch of the Cleveland Public Library, now blend well with the mid-20th-century architecture that surrounds it.
The event was a collaboration of three civic organizations eager to spur voting engagement, even as their primary focus is on restoring Buckeye to its former glory.
Joshua Perkins McHamm, a Buckeye business owner, photographer, and founder of Information Action Committee, collaborated with “I See Voices” art gallery and Ericka Anthony of Cleveland Votes to make her dream-day a reality.
“I’ve lived in the neighborhood for 20 years,” said McHamm, towering over the crowd at 6-feet, 7-inches tall. “Our goal is to make Wards 4 and 6 the most informed communities [in Cleveland] when it comes to politics and policy. We want to make sure our residents have access to information, because being informed is power.”
According to McHamm, much of the effort boils down to simplifying – but not substantially altering – the language on ballots so that all can understand.
The centerpiece of the event, the “Lift Every Voice and Vote” mural – the title alludes to the Black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” – is an attempt to create conversation on community involvement. The mural is strategically placed in a prominent area with an abundance of pedestrians and auto traffic on E. 116th street.
The colorful artwork includes raised fists that harken back to a different time in political activism: the 60s and 70s. Kacey Gill, a recent Harvard University graduate who studied African-American History and culture, and Stina Aleah, who collaborated with Gill on the mural, are both self-taught artists. Aleah competed in track in college until an injury ended her athletic career, and she shifted her energies to art.
“The concept for the mural came about from a photo taken by Josh [McHamm],” said Gill. “Everything in the mural relates to Black empowerment and bettering our community.”
“We have the Black power fist, a very recognizable symbol. You see the crowd emerging in the mural and making a statement about what it means to be an active member in the community. The mural is about changing within.”
One of several groups participating in the event, Metro Health Medical Center workers passed out brochures and answered general health questions. A food vendor provided free cheeseburgers and fries from his food truck. The grassroots group “We Think for A Change” arrived with a mobile medical unit and provided free HIV testing and packets with condoms and information on preventing sexually transmitted disease.
McHamm and his crew’s vision of creative messaging will not stop at the mural. They plan to spread similar artistry in other places where it might become a conversation piece, such as in barbershops and hair salons. McHamm said he believes that a visual is worth a thousand words. Moving forward, he said, the Jackson administration’s $60 million Neighborhood Transformation Initiative could help change Buckeye for the better, into a place that lifts up and supports Black-owned businesses.
“We believe this neighborhood in the next three years could be a destination place,” he said.
For information on Informative Action Committee and I See Voices go to: Informative Action Committee
For more information on Cleveland Votes go to: www.clevotes.com
For individuals who would like to have a random HIV test, visit The Aids Taskforce of Greater Cleveland at 2829 Euclid Ave., or call We Think For A Change at 216-250-4044 for information on getting the mobile unit to your event.
Gregory Burnett is a freelance writer based in Cleveland.
Keep our local journalism accessible to all
Reader support is crucial as we continue to shed light on underreported neighborhoods in Cleveland.
Will you become a monthly member to help us continue to produce news by, for, and with the community?