By Imani Capri

“Never underestimate the power of a small group of people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mea

Cleveland’s leadership and residents are facing a crossroads on various issues. The hiring and resignation of Philip McHugh as the former senior safety advisor is a teachable moment.

The lesson is loud and clear.

The voices, votes, and interests of Cleveland residents matter. When residents, grassroots organizations, and elected officials engage, change is possible and tangible.

Courageous people change the world. Throughout history, we see examples in every area of human endeavor.
Whether we examine the lives of individuals like Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Fannie Lou Hamer, one theme rings consistently true: everyday people possess incredible power to change unjust realities. The health, well-being, and future of democracy and our communities depend on it.
However, courage alone is not enough. History shows that all people striving to make change eventually face a crossroads where a choice must be made.
Will they maintain the status quo to avoid the conflict that creating change usually brings, or meet the moment with courage and organized action in pursuit of a better reality?

Punching Bag or Accountability to the Power of the People?
The hiring of Philip McHugh as senior safety advisor in Cleveland was a flagrant mistake from the beginning.
The people of Cleveland had every right to voice their concerns consistently and confidently.
How safe or sound was it to hire a former police officer, who was the subject of a civil rights violation lawsuit brought by an elderly Black couple in Washington, D.C., to oversee safety in Cleveland, a city still under an extended consent decree?

Accountability Is Not Attack.

McHugh resigned on May 9 via a letter from defamation attorney Andrew Stebbins to Mayor Justin Bibb. McHugh stated his reason for leaving was his refusal to allow “certain disingenuous media outlets and members of City Council to use him as a punching bag” or “to hurt Bibb and distract from the work to be done in their communities.”
A review of the facts surrounding McHugh’s problematic hiring, who was also Bibb’s former college roommate, reveals something else: the democratic system and process of holding city government and elected officials accountable worked.

The Power Is with the People:

That’s Democracy!
Residents of Cleveland circulated,
signed, and submitted a petition with 258 signatures, spearheaded by the Cleveland NAACP, demanding the termination of McHugh for inadequate policing in Black communities prior to coming to Ohio.

Cleveland residents lobbied their City Council representatives, who spoke up and out consistently on behalf of their constituents despite obstacles and scrutiny.

Media outlets, both local and national, covered the stories.

The Plain Dealer and reported on contradictory statements McHugh made under oath in a deposition and to their news editorial board about his involvement in the Washington, D.C., case where he was sued for violating the civil rights of Eugene and Vashti Sherrod.
Is this not the democratic process at work?

Is this not a demonstration, in real time, of courageous citizens getting involved, making their voices heard, and community engagement affecting change?

Is this not journalism performing its function as the fourth estate “watchdog” of government?

What some have labeled as backlash, uproar, and outrage from Cleveland residents, stakeholders, and several elected officials is the voice of the people, not a “smear campaign.”

McHugh’s resignation is the result of everyday people exercising their power through their voices and the ability to organize and engage their communities.

Kayla Griffin, president of the Cleveland NAACP, stated the following via an Instagram post on behalf of the local branch: “We acknowledge the recent resignation of senior safety adviser Phillip McHugh. This change marks a pivotal step forward in our continuous fight for justice and equity in policing. Our commitment remains steadfast to bridge the trust gap and advocate for the fair treatment of all Cleveland residents, especially within our Black communities. Let’s keep the momentum going. Together, we can ensure meaningful reform and true safety for everyone.”

Mayor Bibb did not fire McHugh, as demanded, but he did issue a statement acknowledging the resignation and appealing to Cleveland to keep working together with him.

The masterclass message of this moment is this:

The power to reshape the city of Cleveland rests in the hands of the people and their ability to stay engaged and hold those elected to office accountable.

People are always the real power behind making change. That is democracy at its best.
The question now is, will the people meet the next challenge and crossroads with the same courage and engagement?

Petition Demanding Termination of Phillip McHugh
Court Order (10/13/22) Extending CPD Consent Decree

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BRIEF BIO FOR IMANI CAPRI Imani Capri, the #1 Energy Elevation Coach, is on a mission to help millions of people around the world to transform their relationship with fear and stagnation by helping them...