Climbing, Climbing to the Summit

37 flights of stairs, 1500 plus steps to the outer balcony of the Duomo in Florence, Italy at the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist. We looked across this ancient Italian city to all directions and for a moment felt connected to all of the people outside with us on this summit, on this giant church roof.

It took my daughter and I almost 15 minutes navigating the stairs as we moved heavenward, at times vertically, at times in a spiral staircase of stone that never seemed to end. What moved me was the way the lines up and the lines back down worked together in their own holy rhythm. People from China, India, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Poland, Israel, Lebanon, United States, Wales, Brazil, Australia all moved simpatico up the stairwells and back down. When the passage required the ascender and the descender to go back to back touching through the narrow straits it wasn't a spoken language that was communicated, it was a wave, a smile, and eyes meeting across borders and sovereign nations. No one cringed that our beings had to closely brush as there was only one path. No one even had to say excuse me. There was a sense of a common purpose between all of us. Some of us were straight up tourists, others on a pilgrimage, some looking to overcome a challenge, and others decided to make the climb because they were in Florence. All of us had just met for the first time.

I think about our nation, our state, our county and our city these uncertain days and how whenever we are at our best, it is this shared internal HUMANITY that urges us on. We don't always speak in one another's tongues, we often don't know enough about our neighbor's Geo-history or background. But in a spirit of cultural humility we rise above our own struggles and make so much more progress. We also continue creating economic opportunities for immigrants and native borne alike. We fill our neighborhoods and vacant places with people who celebrate different holidays and worship in different buildings; people who still create the ancient greatness of what makes this place and her people worth coming to.

Cleveland is a rare place, one whose population surged both from immigration and migration: immigrants from the East and West, migrant African Americans from the South. And somehow in this year of celebrating the 50th anniversary of the election of the first African American Mayor of a major city in the United States, Mayor Carl Stokes, in the same city that hosts the world known (MULTI) Cultural Gardens of Welcome AND Peace, we are all on a similar journey here in Northeast Ohio.

We have challenges ahead of us. Kumbaya is not a song that comes to people of different lands right away. But there is so much we share here in the beginning days of Black History Month in a community that welcomes newcomers and native born citizens alike.

We have room for entrepreneurs and we have the need for more talent. We know when people have jobs their quality of life and the environment in which we all live improves. We know that hearing other languages at the West Side Market isn't called quaint, it's called CLEVELAND . We know that we have days ahead of great work and greater struggle. But one thing we know and share is that OUR response and our love for one another, regardless of zip or country code, is constant.

Thanks for coming along with us on the journey. Thanks for your openness to reading this newsletter that tells some of what we are working on. Mostly thanks for making our community a place where we can all rest and make a life after our unique climbs.
To the summit.


Joe Cimperman

President of Global Cleveland

It’s Almost Black History Month

It’s almost February, which means it’s almost Black History Month!

Black History Month is an important observation of the revolutionary works black people have contributed to the United States’ history. Within this celebratory month, it’s important to remember that the struggle for racial justice is far from over.

Blacks, Hispanics, immigrants, and refugees still face unique oppression. For many immigrants and refugees, the intersection of racism, class, and gender create obstacles to living freely. Global Cleveland’s ‘Welcoming’ mission is to create a welcoming region that is a place of opportunity and prosperity for people of all racial, ethnic, and international backgrounds.

In my role as Welcoming Coordinator I am very cognizant of the importance of including the African American community in the integration of immigrants and refugees. One of Global Cleveland’s Welcoming Initiatives is our African American Advisory Board. This group of African American community leaders meets to develop strategies that improve the quality of living for African Americans, while retaining our region’s rich heritage. We recognize that if Cleveland residents do not feel welcomed in the community it will be challenging to ensure that immigrants and refugees will feel welcomed. It is our desire to create a community that is a place of equitable opportunities and outcomes for everyone. By building alliances with the African American community it is our desire to do just this.

This Black History Month we celebrate the contributions of courageous trailblazers in the black community who were immigrants:

  • Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman to serve in the United States Congress and the both the first woman and the first Black American to seek the Presidential nomination of the Democratic Party was born in Brooklyn, NY to Caribbean parents.
  • Marcus Garvey, noted Pan Africanist and mass movement organizer and Founder of the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) was born in Jamaica, migrating to the U.S. in 1916.
  • Kwame Toure (formerly known as Stokely Carmichael) political organizer and activist leader with Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and later the Black Panther Party for Self Defense was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.

Author Tia Oso eloquently wrote, “Often we obscure our immigrant backgrounds as we fight for social justice, leading to an oversimplified idea of what it means to be Black and making it seem as if the interests of Black Americans and immigrants are not connected. This is far from true.” The struggle for racial justice and migrant rights remain at the forefront of Global Cleveland’s work and we will continue work with the community to find solutions to both issues.

We are proud to support Black History Month and we honor the contributions of African Americans, Native African-Americans, and other immigrants from the Diaspora.

Join us as we celebrate Black History Month in the month of February, at of our many events!