The book benefits from the extra time.
Moore, a self-taught visual artist, is attentive to OTR’s urban geography and does a decent enough job rendering social justice and civil rights workers so that they’re easily recognizable.
Unintentional or not, black characters aren’t darkened; rather, they’re given pen-and-ink lines to suggest shades.
Interviews of neighborhood residents and key players like the Rev. Damon Lynch III give MTWR a sense of reportage and balance.
He was also mindful to include women’s voices, something the civil rights movement did a poor job of in its halcyon days when martyrs became Black History Month idols and all its well-documented heroes were men.
Moore says his degree in community development from Portland State University and his experience in community organizing came in handy during the interviewing and writing.
“As a community organizer, a lot of what you do is make sure people have the opportunity to tell their stories,” he says. “Technological advances aside, people still have to tell their stories.”
Besides, Moore says all the uber-development along the Vine Street corridor is confusing enough — he doesn’t know how to feel about it — and plenteous blatant cultural appropriation has already occurred.
There’s no need to hijack people’s stories, too.
“As a white guy from North Avondale, I certainly don’t own the story … it’s not about me. I wanted to make sure that the stories from the African-American community weren’t being retold by me.
“They were being retold by themselves.”
Moore is in town, his first time back in a year, for a friend’s wedding and to promote MTWR. When we first spoke he answered his cell as he was walking through Gateway Quarter. I reminded him of that during our subsequent conversation so I could ask his impression of the street of dreams.
“I have mixed feelings,” he says. “It’s pretty,” he says quickly in a way that seems to surprise even him.
“It definitely is a different neighborhood. There is a space for everybody there but that doesn’t seem to be the goal.
(3CDC) has done a good job at historic renovation, but anybody who says there’s a social justice mission to what’s going on in OTR is lying to themselves. The people being lifted up have already been lifted.”
And this is where race clashes with class in Cincinnati generally and OTR specifically.
This, then, means OTR is Cincinnati writ large.
Further, there’s direct lineage — urban DNA — linking the eateries, boutiques, bars, safe surface parking lots and the strip mall branding of all things touched by 3CDC to the diminished presence of poor blacks below the secret dividing line somewhere just south of Kroger (and continuing northward) and the ghost-like presence of the indigent until after a certain bewitching hour happening long after “last call.”
None of this was directly mandated by the Collaborative Agreement; however, the largely white-owned and -frequented bustle of Gateway Quarter is a direct descendant of the 15 black men who died in police custody whose deaths culminated in rioting.
It won’t line up on Ancestry.com, but it’s related.
Moore knows the etsy generation, the newly wealthy and the new OTR condo owners might not — or might not want to — understand the relationship.
Doesn’t mean it’s not worth documenting.
“The people just coming to the community now don’t have that experience,” he says of the disconnect.
“People don’t remember that daily there were spontaneous marches by some of the most disenfranchised people,” he says. “That week people took power and said, ‘You’ve gotta pay attention to us.’ It wasn’t just random. It was people saying, for this week, it’s gonna be a break from what’s normal.
“It should be a chapter — not the only chapter — and it seems like 3CDC is trying to whitewash the situation.”
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