Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Get Your Nominations In

Best line encountered recently:

"He is a fine man who smiles at you with his whole face..."
--Mary Bradley Marable, a Cleveland actress who appeared in the movie Antoine Fisher, speaking about director and co-star Denzel Washington, as quoted in the spring newsletter of the Cleveland Catholic Diocese's Office of Ministry to African American Catholics.

If you ever tire of the whole coordinated Cleveland establishment and their coordinated, lowest-common-denominator decisions about the best this and the best that, please remember that there really is an alternative world of other groups with fresher ideas. Take Community Shares, for instance. Once ignored as a band of aging Heights social-venture hippies not so long ago, it has since become institutionalized as a real alternative to United Way. And it raises hundreds of thousands for causes in this town that the big daddy and its CEO volunteers find a little too controversial.
Anyway, to the point: Shares hosts an annual round of awards for social justice, and one that especially interests me is their award for social justice reporting. A contradiction in terms in these days of ever-safer local media you say? Well, almost. A couple of recent winners, the PD's Mike O'Malley in 2000 and Roldo Bartimole in 2001, were no-brainers. Roldo's merely been doing it for over 30 years, and soulful Michael O (whom I got to know and respect when I did some work for him at United Press International in the late '80s) is easily the conscience of the paper's beat reporters.
With that as background, Shares is looking for nominations for this year's award. But you'll need to get to it fast. Nominations are due by this Friday, May 2. Go to this page, fill out the nomination form, and get your voice heard.
My nominee for this year: Charlise Lyles. You probably haven't heard of her, but you should. She's the editor of an excellent foundation-funded magazine, Catalyst for Cleveland Schools, that covers the Cleveland schools in a knowing, aggressive manner, with just enough advocacy but plenty of independence too. It's a sister publication of an organization in Chicago that for over 30 years has been publishing a fearless, peerless voice known as The Chicago Reporter (tagline: Investigating Race and Poverty in Chicago Since 1972).
When it came to Cleveland in 1999, Charlise was tapped to edit. She proved an immediate success, even though her publication is far too little-known outside of the public schools and foundation circles. Then, about a year ago, while wandering through the local history section of the wonderfully shabby W. 25 St. Bookstore, I found out why her voice resonated so deeply on this subject. I came upon a memoir she wrote about her climb from the Cleveland housing projects to her later success as a journalist. Her moving book is called Do I Dare Disturb the Universe: From the Projects to Prep School. It's available on Amazon for $10, and I'm going to make it a personal goal to get this book stocked in a few other local independent bookstores, starting with the best of them all, Suzanne's Mac's Backs on Coventry. Perhaps we can even coax the far-too-modest Charlise to talk about her work, life and publication in some future event(s).


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