Posted inCommunity, SLAVIC VILLAGE

Residents Discuss the Future of Slavic Village

By Mark Silverberg

A meeting brimming with excitement unfolded in Slavic Village at the Darl Center for the Arts. Nearly 70 Slavic Village neighbors, business owners, and representatives of community institutions gathered to envision the future of the Slavic Village community. What were the high priorities of residents? How could residents and institutions cooperate to foster a thriving future? What are the next steps to realize this vision?

The Discussion

Earl Pike, former Executive Director of University Settlement, highlighted the significant changes underway in Slavic Village in his introduction. New executive directors were on the horizon for University Settlement, Slavic Village Development, and the Boys and Girls Club. Earl emphasized the necessity of collaboration among the institutions in Slavic Village to effectively serve residents’ interests, citing ongoing challenges faced by residents.

Tom O’Brien and Taryn Gress of Neighborhood Connections facilitated the meeting, prompting participants to identify one thing they love about Slavic Village. Ten minutes were allocated for small group discussions on this theme. Residents expressed admiration for the resilience of the people, the positive neighborhood organizations, community restaurants, loyalty, churches, and various other aspects of Slavic Village.

Attendees were asked to provide examples of times when the community had united to effect positive change:

  • Preventing the establishment of the new Cuyahoga County jail in Slavic Village.
  • Transforming Trick or Treat on Fleet into an annual event, now in its fifth successful year. Organizers, led by Tamika Compton, responded to a community need, experimented with different trick-or-treating approaches, and achieved significant success.
  • The initiative behind Trick or Treat on Fleet spurred the organization of other community events, such as the recent Bunny Hop. It catalyzed the establishment of the Southeast Cleveland Resource Center, now in its second year.
  • Residents addressed concerns about groundhogs at the North Broadway Network Night, launching a campaign supported by a grant from Neighborhood Connections. This effort involved obtaining cages and a certified wildlife trapper, conducting an awareness campaign with t-shirts and yard signs, and hosting a free screening of the Groundhog Day movie. Neighbors collaborated to tackle a common problem.

Attendees also voiced a desire for more of the following in Slavic Village:

  • Improved information sharing and communication to keep residents informed about neighborhood developments, with SVD’s website highlighted as a valuable resource
  • Establishment of a community calendar and resource hub to disseminate information about events and available resource.
  • Implementation of a positive media campaign highlighting successes and positive aspects of Slavic Village.
  • Development of an asset map of Slavic Village to inform future planning based on community assets, shifting away from a focus on deficits.
  • Provision of small grants to support block clubs and events, as well as to fund block captains, recognizing the importance of block clubs in fostering neighborhood connections.
  • Creation of part-time paid positions for neighborhood activists to prevent burnout from volunteering.
  • Expansion of spaces similar to Darl’s Collection, including the renovation and activation of historical buildings, and the utilization of vacant spaces for creative endeavors such as music and art, as well as business spaces to support entrepreneurs

Expectations for the leadership of larger organizations in Slavic Village included:

  • To foster cooperation among the leadership of community institutions to benefit residents, setting aside ego.
  • To partner with grassroots groups already engaged in community work.
  • To ensure transparency regarding programs, plans, priorities, strategies, budgets, and expenditures.
  • To advocate for resident democracy, allowing every resident to become a member of the SVD board with voting rights, similar to the model on Cleveland’s west side, and electing board members from the community.
  • To improve reporting on the follow-through of priority issues identified by residents.
  • To strengthen connections with stores and businesses in the neighborhood.

Conclusion and Next Steps

Considerations of why certain neighborhoods receive more funding from the City of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, and other funders encompass various factors. These include the tax base of a neighborhood, the origins of its leaders, and the magnitude of longstanding structural challenges. However, one certainty prevails, when residents have a voice in decision-making, it results in investments of funds and energy that are more likely to yield lasting and impactful outcomes.

At the community meeting, residents expressed hope that the dialogue they initiated would persist into the future. Perhaps the new leaders of Slavic Village Development, Shauna Sanders, and University Settlement, Richaun Bunton, could play a role in facilitating this process.

The meeting underscored the neighborhood’s existing wisdom necessary to envision and cultivate a flourishing Slavic Village. Numerous examples illustrate residents coming together to drive positive change, such as Community Yahoos, Slavic Village Stakeholders, the Southeast Cleveland Resource Center, Slavic Village Neighbor Night, and others. The challenge now lies in harnessing this reservoir of knowledge, establishing an ongoing community engagement process that prioritizes resident voices, and effecting lasting, positive change aligned with resident priorities.