That said, I must admit I expected there would be rioting the night of the Championship win when 800,000 fans were celebrating downtown. Why? Because I have wondered for months why Cleveland hasn't had violent protests like Ferguson and Baltimore. As a city, we have experienced some painful incidents. You may have heard the names Tamir Rice, Timothy Russel and Malissa Williams. These are just the most publicized incidents. The federal government found over 600 incidents of excessive force in their investigation of the Cleveland Police Department.
These incidents have made Cleveland ripe for a riot, and yet the protests have been peaceful. Why? I was discussing this with a friend who said "Apathy, Cleveland just doesn't care enough." But that is not true - Cleveland cares. Look at the over a million people who showed up to care for the Cavs. We raised 1.8 Million Dollars for St. Jude's in 96 minutes. We Care.
My work has allowed me to view Cleveland from the inside out. As a computer consultant, I've worked with inner city schools, non-profits and government agencies. I've met a war veteran who is dedicated to providing quality school buildings for our children. I've seen school halls lined with student's achievements, including a scholarship recipient to Phillips Academy Andover, one of the best high schools in our nation. I've attended luncheons where the Cleveland Municipal School District's Army of Believers awarded significant college scholarships to our brightest minds. I've met a man who keeps extra umbrellas in his car to hand out when it rains. I've met a woman who slows down enough to listen to the untold story. It's a beautiful thing.
One of my favorite moments of the Caviler's parade came while watching an online news broadcast. They must have switched the feed too early and it showed a woman preparing to go live. She talked to the crowd around her, asked where they were from and explained what was going to happen when they went live. As she was primping her hair, a large, tattoo'd black man from Cleveland helped two white girls from Avon Lake make their way to the front of the crowd so they could be on TV. A small, meaning full act of kindness.
THAT is the Cleveland I love!
I've seen the bad as well, I've worked in towns with bars on the windows. I've seen extreme, heart breaking poverty, I've been followed to my car by someone I suspect was not mentally healthy. In my 20 years in Cleveland, I can say the good outweighs the bad.
I ask again, why does Cleveland remain peaceful? It has a lot to do with these beacons of hope in our communities. They show us how to take pride in our city. They show us the good, when the troubles seem insurmountable. They show us a future that is better than the present. There is poverty and pain in Cleveland, but there is also compassion and love.
We're about to step into the national spotlight again with the Republican Convention. I'm nervous. But not for my native Clevelanders. I worry that this particular convention is going to draw people from all over the county, with all kinds of perspectives. I hope these visitors can look at Cleveland and see our beauty and heart. I suspect they will be too focused on their own agendas. I worry that viewers will receive a poor impression of Cleveland when the rest of the county sees news casts of protests turning violent, as they have in other cities throughout this election year.
I hope that when the time comes the nation will remember us as the town that does not riot, despite great pain and great successes. A town that cares, a town whose history speaks for itself. A town where, in Lebron James' words "Nothing is given, Everything is earned. You work for what you have." A town that works together.