BY BOB HYLAND In early March 2020, just before COVID-19 disrupted and rearranged so much of our lives, I was honored to attend the 6th Annual Cincinnati Project Symposium at the African American Cultural and Resource Center (AACRC) on UC’s campus. Yes, I was honored to have been invited to speak on a panel with colleagues, and to share space with UC greatness like Drs. Littisha Bates, Brandi Blessett, Tia Sherèe Gaynor, Rebecca Wingo, and others, but I was most honored to be joined by five past students of mine who were under no obligation to be there. They were there because they prefer to do scholarship toward the pursuit of justice in our communities, and demand a platform for their voice that extends beyond the classroom. And, so, they did.
These five UC students engaged in the kind of scholarship that makes The Cincinnati Project (TCP) such an important part of the College of Arts and Sciences at UC—that is, working alongside marginalized groups to understand the injustices communities face and bringing the university’s resources to bear for positive impact. Whether it was studying inequities in access to greenspace and building partnership with Cincinnati Public Schools to facilitate Nature Days in a neighborhood park, measuring the capacity of greenspaces to mitigate urban heat island effect, or investigating threats to surface water quality in the community, the students strived to implement best practices in community-based participatory research at every step. They made good trouble by presenting their findings to city council as part of an evidence-based demand for action to bring equity and environmental justice where there is none.
Looking back on that day, it is clear to me that, figuratively speaking, a fly on the wall during the keynote, panels, and general discussions at the 6th Annual TCP Symposium would today find those conversations to have been prescient. The exploration of disparities and discrimination in housing; unequal access to public services, education, public health, and social infrastructure; hermeneutical and testimonial injustice; and the role of racism in the perpetuation of these injustices have been made plain in the public view as a result of the pandemic and failure of leadership. Those who once hid behind a veil of ignorance are now exposed, and can no longer credibly claim not to know what’s keeping marginalized groups from flourishing. This turn presents us with an opportunity, I think.
The opportunity is to support and participate in The Cincinnati Project as part and parcel to:
- protecting our academic freedom
- ending the town/gown divide and doing scholarship for justice
- facilitating praxis for words like “impact,” which look good on promotional materials but require follow through in order to bring about progress for all
- providing undergraduate students not only the theoretic, critical thinking, and transferrable skills they need to succeed in their chosen field, but also platforms from which they can practice amplifying their own voice and the voices of those who are marginalized in our communities.
Whether you are staff, faculty, or administrator at UC, a member of UC alumni, or part of the broader Greater Cincinnati community, I hope you’ll join me in supporting the TCP at UC. I can’t wait to see what’s next!