Cuyahoga County, OH - "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter," stated Martin Luther King Jr.
Activism is one of the most significant movements feared by elected officials and policymakers. Activism can stop political abuse, government corruption and cease social injustices. There are many forms of activism. A seasoned activist is mindful of what kind of actions an activist should employ and deploy at any given moment. They must always consider the consequences of the outcome. Activism is the process of promoting, holding up, directing, or interfering in social, political, economic, or environmental reform with the desire to make changes in society for the collective whole.
There are various forms of activism - writing letters to newspapers, petition signing, boycotts, marches, and lock-ins. These kinds of antics are good, but Cuyahoga County has seen some of the most unforgettable acts of activism.
We will introduce you to four fearless black women as we continue to acknowledge trailblazers in Cuyahoga County. These women are breaking barriers and risking it all for the betterment of the collective whole. Cuyahoga County overlooks its successes and achievements. They exist and do the work, but they are ignored and unelectable to serve. Because they are result-driven, some men look down on them while women frown upon their work. They are the abolitionists of Cuyahoga County. "Life is a hard battle anyway. If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down, these women together ought to be able to turn it right again," argues Sojourner Truth. As we celebrate Black History Month, we recognize the triumphs of Movement Activist Donna Walker-Brown, Social Justice Activist Kimberly F. Brown, Legal Activist and Analyst Cassandra McDonald, and Business Activist Deonna Moore Taylor.
Donna Walker-Brown has made history in Cuyahoga County through her bold and audacious antics of advocacy. Her social movements have led to policy changes and the formation of state laws. Walker-Brown strategies are direct and calculated. Born and raised in Osceola, Arkansas, Walker-Brown knows how to get results. While other folks were talking about non-vital issues, Walker-Brown was doing the work and making the difference on important matters:
- Walker-Brown fought against Pastor R.A.Vernon and the WORD Church for using Cleveland Public Schools free of charge. In 2009, she protested against Mayor Frank Jackson and former CEO Eugene Sanders for granting approval to Pastor Vernon. (2009)
- Walker-Brown fought against the injustice that occurred to two Black Female students who were exercising their Constitutional 1st amendment right to protest a teacher lay-off. The students were harassed by the Cleveland Police. (Collinwood H.S. 2011)
- Walker-Brown fought against the Cleveland school levy. Walker-Brown challenged Turner to a debate about Issue 107, the Cleveland school Levy. Turner committed to attend and face Walker-Brown to discuss this issue. Donna Walker-Brown held a protest in front of her home after she failed to attend the debate.
In August 2012, Walker-Brown held a historic protest in front of the United Way building in Downtown Cleveland. The protest was after United Way gave the Cleveland School Levy Campaign $25,000 from the coffer of donated funds. This donation was appalling to many community members and donors. Never in the history of the United Way have they ever been protested against due to their questionable actions.
In March 2018, the case of Aniya Day Garrett made National Headlines. Aniya's untimely death was said to have been due to her mom's negligence. Aniya's mom and boyfriend were found guilty of murder. The four-year-old was under the watch of the Department of Children and Family Services. Walker-Brown held a sleepover outside of DCFS to garner news headlines and demand justice. The following week, Walker-Brown and Kimberly F. Brown barged into the county administration building demanding a meeting with the County Executive, Armond Budish. As a result of their interference, County Executive Armond Budish established the first Advisory Board for the Department of Children and Family Services. "Being raised in the south with my grandmother who believed your value in life is much more than the money that you have in your bank account, she would always ask, how many people did you help today? She never inquired about how much money I had or earned. Grandma always asked about people," says Walker-Brown.
Walker-Brown may be the movement activist, but Kimberly F. Brown is the social justice activist. Originally from New York, New York, Brown was raised on the east side of Cleveland. She has dedicated her life to fighting against human injustice. In 2009, Brown challenged a major corporation. It is because of her activism that independent contractors have a right to sue in federal court under Title 7 of the civil rights act.
Being the brainchild of Doveside Promotions, local advocacy limited liability company, she has successfully recruited like-minded women who advocate for individuals in court and corporate boardrooms. As President of the Black Women Commission of Cuyahoga County, Brown led many issues and spearheaded the successes:
- Brown - in 2017 forced the Mayor of the City of Brooklyn to write a written apology to a black woman who was harassed by a police officer while she was legally parked.
- Brown - in 2018 was victorious in a lawsuit against the City of Cleveland and Councilman Joe Jones. The City of Cleveland and Jones violated the sunshine law. (2019-OHIO-1819)
- Brown - in 2019, under the auspice of the BWCCC, championed Saniyah AWE Law that warns the community of high crime areas following the death of 9-year-old Saniyah Nicholson.
- Brown - in 2020, under the auspice of BWCCC, forced the Cleveland Metro Park Rangers and Cuyahoga County Prosecutors Office to re-open the murder case of 14-year-old Jalen Wise.
"It is regrettable that we have many injustices in our region. If we remain silent, we will never get due to justice. Our organization believes that everyone deserves a source of advocacy. We are not attorneys, but we know how to navigate systems and ask the right questions to accomplish tasks," stated Brown.
Let's turn the page to Legal Activist and Analyst Cassandra McDonald. McDonald is the founder of the LAWRS Foundation (legal navigators organization) and the Euclid Branch of the NAACP. McDonald is the first woman of color to found and become President of an NAACP chapter in the City of Euclid, Ohio. Although many prominent leaders and old guards fought against her, she persevered. McDonald stated, "it bothers me at times when people don't recognize my work; however, not as much as this statement may have you think. I mean recognition by respecting the opportunity cost, time spent, and financial, physical, and emotional sacrifices that have come to achieve those things I have done". McDonald has a record of proved-unselfish results:
- McDonald successfully championed legislation in the City of Euclid to assure those body cameras are part of police's regular uniform.
- McDonald successfully mediated between the owners of Euclid Hill Villa and residents to address asbestos concerns, public health & safety, rent, discrimination issues, and other issues impacting seniors who live in the complex.
- McDonald successfully petitioned to remove a law in the City of Euclid that had the historical potential to discriminate against people of color and those individuals with criminal records, including misdemeanors. The law required anyone moving to Euclid to disclose to the City their criminal history. Euclid first placed the law on the books in the early 1950s. In 2021, the City of Euclid repealed the law.
People are familiar with many forms of activism. Not too many individuals pay attention to business activism. Business activism is essential to the success of organizations. Few noted business owners see the big picture of how activism can impact their revenue and reputation. Business activists ensure that they tackle social challenges. Deonna Moore-Taylor, the owner of Taylor-Moore Consulting company, is socially conscious and aware of issues impacting neighborhoods, communities, and households. "Systems should never punish children for adult decisions – kids did not ask to come here, but the village has a responsibility and obligation to make sure our babies are well. If the parents do not take responsibility, the village has to step up and help", says Moore-Taylor. She has used her business to bring attention to social ills and to bring about amicable resolutions:
- Moore-Taylor established The Lydia Leader Project, a ministry for women and young girls to develop leadership and communication skills from a spiritual foundation.
- Moore-Taylor has also successfully worked on several state and municipal campaigns as a political advisor and campaign strategist.
- Moore-Taylor brought national attention to domestic violence following the tragic death of Aisha Frazier. Frazier's ex-husband, former Judge Lance Mason murdered her in broad daylight in front of family members.
Many activists throughout Cuyahoga County are making a difference while knocking down barriers. Activists are putting their lives on the line to give opportunities to those who are voiceless. "Not that we want recognition for our work. I want recognition for the benefits that our work has afforded society. Racism, injustice, socioeconomic inequity, education, and health disparities have all been chiseled away by many who have come before us. In 2022, don’t forget that our voice, activism, speeches, and protests have also been used to chisel away those very same things," said McDonald.
Moore-Taylor has a strong belief that things can and will get better. "If we stop electing the status quo, thoroughly vet candidates as they did back in the day before adding them to the ballot, and come together - we can become change agents. Importantly, people must stop taking black women for granted and invite us to the table where decisions are made. We are more than check markers. As the most educated demographic in the United States, it’s a travesty that we still have to fight to be acknowledged, recognized, and taken seriously. In the late Fannie Lou Hammer’s words, "I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired."
Activism is risky, it’s hard, and there could be a price to pay. As a result of any movement, activists have been black-balled, arrested, fined, beaten, tortured, or killed. Brown adds, "throughout history, churches have been burned to the ground, people have been murdered, bullied and terminated from jobs. Personally, I know this all too well. I lost a $60,000.00 a year job because of my activism. I stood up for the rights of a 73-year-old woman who a relative of an elected official scammed. This process is a cost an activist will pay when committed to turning a wrong into a right. I have no regrets."
"Collectively, we have done a lot in Cuyahoga County. This article is a snippet of our collective work. We are not elected officials. "We are professional servants who take time from our families to make sure others are granted opportunities. So, if I see good trouble and a good fight, I will jump in it, and I know my colleagues will do the same," stated Walker-Brown.
February is Black History Month. On this 11th day of February 2022, we are recognizing the "Unspoken Results" of four activists: Donna Walker-Brown, Kimberly F. Brown, Cassandra McDonald, and Deonna Moore-Taylor.