Repost: Cleveland – Land of the Creatives

I have to be honest. When all the buzz surrounding Lebron James’ possible return to Cleveland started, I ignored it.  To say that the whole situation reminded me of his departure to Miami four years ago is an understatement.  For me, Lebron or no Lebron meant nothing. He departed my heart many years ago.

When I heard of his actual decision, I was shocked. Truth be told, my ignorance of the team debate partially stemmed from a strong belief that he would never return to Cleveland again. When I started to see friends’ posts on Facebook with the link to his Sports Illustrated article, I ignored those as well. Why would I want to read the words of a guy most recently known as a traitor?

Eventually, I succumbed to the peer pressure, otherwise known as news feed takeover, and read his article. Shoot. I found many detailed arguments that resonate with me – the desire to spread his wings and leave the Ohio borders for a period of time, the constant lure back to his home state, the determination to give something back to the city by the lake that raised him.

The underlying message throughout the article emerges prominently in one of the very last lines:

In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have. -Lebron James

This is a common thread within each Clevelander: we know what it’s like to be at the bottom and fight for what you want or rather, more often that not, fight for what you need. We know what it’s like to be an underdog more frequently than the number of times we’ve tasted Stadium Mustard. Lebron’s words are not foreign to me; in fact they are something I’ve written about on this blog before.  And although at the time of the original post I was a little perturbed with the King, many of these words still ring true today.

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Originally posted: January 18, 2013 (slightly edited)

Whenever I tell someone that I’m originally from Cleveland, I usually get the standard response “Oh, I’m so sorry about that.”  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I’ve heard it all before.  I used to try and come up with an intriguing response like “You just need to know where to go or.. visit in the summer; the lake is beautiful!”  Well, from now on, I’ve come up with something more appropriate:

F%*! YOU

And here’s why:

I’ve formally lived in only three cities so far in my lifetime: Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Washington D.C.

In D.C., I met the most physically fit and intelligent people of my life.  It’s hard to keep up with them most days.

In Pittsburgh, I ran into the most caring and simple individuals.  A parking lot and a case of Iron Cities are enough to keep them entertained for hours.

But, in Cleveland… good ole Cleveland; that’s the land of the Creatives.

Covering 82.4 square miles (thank you Wikipedia) just south of Lake Erie, Cleveland ranks as the 7th most dangerous city in the nation. The city hasn’t won an NFL Championship since 1964, the World Series since 1948 or the NBA title.. ever.  Lebron, excuse me, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is still an a**hole. But please media keep calling us the Mistake on the Lake or poking fun at why Nick Saban would EVER want to go to Cleveland.  Salt to the wound feels good.

In December 1978, Cleveland became the first major American city to enter a financial default on federal loans since the Great Depression.  The per capita income for the city is $14,291. 26.3% of the population and 22.9% of families are below the poverty line.

In Cleveland, there is no “blue blood trust fund that we can dip in to.”  I learned that to get anything in life, it must be achieved through hard work ethic and fearless determination.  Complaining is the quickest shortcut to a dead-end, which is hard to accept because trust me, we have a lot to complain about.

My family is fortunate, but I witnessed our fair share of struggles.  I watched my father get on an airplane to Chicago more times than I could count.  I watched my mom leave her 6-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son at odd hours of the night to work night shifts at the local hospital.

I know far too many people who work more than one two jobs just to get by and support their families.  What is even more special, though, is the amount of talent that flows through my newsfeed each day.  Singers – like him and them.  Musicians, photographers, skateboarders with a dream and DJs, too.

It’s well-known that Cleveland has its limitations – but to make art out of the limitations – that is where the true magic lies.  Clevelanders are the creatives quite simply because we can create anything out of nothing, even nothings that are laced with poverty, social injustice and lack of media coverage.

I realize that I don’t live in the city any more, but I carry it with me wherever I go.  I see it in others who have grown up in the area and moved on as well.  Cleveland  and its weaknesses quite simply motivate all who covet it to rise above what holds them down.

And, to go out on a limb, I think that is worth far more in the long run than any championship ring.

A Call to Action :: A Tale of School Shootings

I came across a shocking statistic the other day.  Did you know that there have been 74 school shootings since the Sandy Hook massacre in late 2012?  This number equates to at least one school shooting each week.  You may already know this, of course, since the findings went viral on Facebook, Twitter and all the social media-ites even to the point of raising a large amount of criticism.

This article constructively sums up how the advocacy group identified the shocking number – including further categorizing many of the school shootings the group contained in its original analysis.  That’s right, seemingly, in an attempt to invalidate the original 74 number, the authors of the article (linked above) actually broke down the so-called “school shootings” into more explanatory groupings like incidents in which the shooter intended to commit mass murder (ex. Sandy Hook, Columbine), incidents related to criminal activity (such as drug dealings and robbery) or personal altercations, and incidents unconnected to the school community and/or occurred after school hours.  Cause hey – if someone is shooting and it’s after 4:05pm then it’s okay?!

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that these authors condone acts of violence, by any means.  But something about the way our society is handling this situation, by in some ways excusing the makings of this school shooting statistic or denouncing the validity of its shock factor, sort of makes my blood boil.

I think that one of my greatest strengths (and most annoying weaknesses) is my dedication to self-reflection.  I’m constantly self-criticizing, wondering if I handled a situation correctly or picked out the right shirt for the day, etc.  I’m also constantly looking towards the future.  Like will I probably have kids within the next 6-10 years?  Of which, the answer is most likely yes. This figure depends on when the man of my dreams waltzes into my life and agrees to settle down.  NBD.

Anyways, now, here is where I get to the problem.  And to all the current parents out there, I don’t know how you’ve made it this far with your dignity and composure still in tact.  But, my problem is with raising children in a world where I have to be legitimately fearful of an attack at their place of education – where each morning, after I hug my little one at the front door, it is perfectly normal for me to be scared if he/she will walk back through it later that afternoon.

I don’t understand why we are in the situation that we are in now.  I don’t understand what goes through the mind of someone who wants to commit mass murder or any acts of violence on a school campus.  Is it for the fame and recognition?  Is it because they don’t feel understood?  Do they think it’s cool in their minds?  I don’t know if there are answers to these questions, but I do know that I have learned nothing from the 74-ish school shootings.  I don’t remember any of the shooters names, nor do I want to know them.  If it’s because he/she(?) felt misunderstood or wanted to be cool, the only thing that I can say is that there are far other, better ways to get your voice heard in this world and far easier ways to be ‘cool.’  There are so many groups and people who can help you find and express your coolness.  Trust me.

What I also know is that there is an answer to this problem.  I don’t think it’s a simple one to find nor do I think that we know exactly what it is yet.  But, we have some pieces to work with – like stricter gun laws, improved mental health care, art therapy, etc.  Hey – maybe we can all perform and promote a few extra acts of kindness?

Ideally, this post is about a call to action.  It’s about deciding – whether you think the answer is any or none of the pieces I mentioned above – that you will not accept existing in a world where our children are at risk of living another day purely because they stepped foot inside a classroom.  It’s about deciding that we might not have all the solutions yet, but that ignoring the shock factor of a once-a-week-school-shooting statistic is not one of them.  It’s about deciding that change begins and ends with you, and that waiting for the 75th incident – whether its a mass shooting or a misunderstanding on the playground – is about one statistic too late.

*What do you think?  What should we do to prevent school violence in America?

We will never have a perfect world, but it’s not romantic or naïve to work toward a better one. -Steven Pinker