Working Together to Refresh the Collaborative Agreement

Working Together to Refresh the Collaborative Agreement

By Brian Robert Calfano, Ph.D.

Working with Iris Roley and Al Gerhardstein has been a meaningful learning experience for me, and I can certainly say that I have learned far more about Cincinnati from the viewpoint of these pivotal stakeholders than I would have initially imagined.

I was approached in early summer 2017 to lead a survey project that would assess community impressions of the Collaborative Agreement, community/police relations, and citizen familiarity with complaint processes put in place since the agreement went into effect in 2002. Both Iris and Al were heavily involved in helping to determine the questions and topics featured in the survey, and Iris was especially instrumental in working to ensure that community members were made aware of the survey’s purpose as part of the larger goal of determining the nature of a collaborative “refresh”.

Data collection ran from June to September, with analysis beginning in mid-September in anticipation of presenting the findings at the city’s first community forum on the collaborative refresh (set for the 25th). Working with Shaonta Allen, a University of Cincinnati graduate in sociology, Iris, Al, and I collaborated daily (sometimes multiple times a day) during the analysis and report write-up period to determine the best ways to communicate the findings and insights to the broadest possible audience.

Throughout the process, I was often reminded through Iris and Al’s abiding concern for the prospect of social justice in Cincinnati that the purpose of my effort was not simply to capture accurately the views of the over 1200 community members who participated in the survey research, but to enlighten and inspire the collective discussion about the Collaborative Agreement’s future in securing a truly just city for all its residents.

jmalatWorking Together to Refresh the Collaborative Agreement
read more
Reflections on my time as TCP Program Coordinator

Reflections on my time as TCP Program Coordinator

By Elaina Johns-Wolfe

About two years ago, I began my assignment as graduate assistant for the Kunz Center for Social Research, of which Dr. Jennifer Malat was director. The Cincinnati Project was only in its infancy at the time — more of an idea than a cohesive research center. Over the course of the next year and a half, it was my privilege to serve as its first project coordinator and to help it grow into a stand-alone research endeavor. As a sociologist-in-training, involvement with The Cincinnati Project enriched my education in the following ways:

cinciprojectReflections on my time as TCP Program Coordinator
read more
Ferguson, Baltimore and Cincinnati

Ferguson, Baltimore and Cincinnati

By Earl Wright II

On Tuesday, October 4, I will participate on a panel discussion on the implications of the Department of Justice reports on Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland titled, “DOJ Reports on Policing in Ferguson and Baltimore: What They Mean for Cincinnati and the Country.” During the few minutes I have to talk I will focus on two matters:

  • connecting the findings of the recent DOJ reports to an American history of policing that dates back to this nation’s years of reconstruction
  • advising the leadership in Cincinnati to use the findings from the DOJ reports proactively to provide leadership on issues of policing and, more importantly, to learn from the mistakes of police militarization as the trial of Ray Tensing nears and the decision on his guilt or innocence lay in the balance.

Black Codes

The Black CodesIn 1903 sociologist W. E. B. Du Bois wrote about the shadow slavery program that followed the ‘peculiar institution.’ During these years “Black Codes,” de jure and de facto laws severely governing the lives and freedoms of Black Americans, were established. Examples of punishable offenses include the gathering of two or more Blacks in a public area, and being unemployed. Having little to no protection under the law, thousands of men and women were unjustly jailed, some for simply not being gainfully employed. Their labor was literally sold to the highest bidder in the region. The successful bidder (i.e., plantation owner) then legally controlled the (slave) labor of the persons whom he purchased from local officials. This was practiced during the early twentieth century.

What say we today?

This practice is still in play today. One can look at laws connected to the American drug war that has led to a supply of able bodied persons whose ‘talents’ have been and continue to be utilized in private and government prisons for the production of various products at minimal expenditures. As it relates to Ferguson, Missouri, government officials purposely used the criminal justice system to extract monies from its primarily Black citizens to supplement the local budget.

The targeting of Blacks in this manner is eerily similar to that of years past. This gives one pause to raise the question, “How far removed from the reconstruction era are we?”

Militarized Use of Force

Ferguson shootingIn Ferguson and Baltimore the world witnessed how the militarization of an institution sworn to “serve and protect” the members of its community engaged in militaristic tactics designed for combat against enemies of this nation and in locations far from our borders. The militarized use of force against the members of ones community should not occur, unless the force employed against the policing community are also militarized. Notwithstanding the latter, the military rule over American communities must not be allowed.

What has the city of Cincinnati learned?

As the city of Cincinnati prepares for the trial of the University of Cincinnati police officer charged with killing Samuel DuBose one must ask the question, “what has the city of Cincinnati learned from the tactics of community engagement observed in other cities?” One can only hope that the powers that be in this city and region have carefully and clearheadedly examined the best practices in community engagement and policing. For if they have not then the name Cincinnati may, again, be added to the string of other cities whose citizens expressed displeasure with their treatment via the criminal justice system in ways that some may deem unpleasant. In order to prevent such unfortunate situations some of us at the University of Cincinnati are participating in a unit, The Cincinnati Project, that may serve as an intermediary between residents and the policing community.

The Cincinnati Project Serves as a Bridge

The Cincinnati Project (TCP) was established in 2014 to serve as a bridge between community stakeholders and institutional units at the University of Cincinnati such that those relationships can be (re)established and/or improved. The primary goal of TCP is to offer the skills and talents of members of the university community to the larger Cincinnati community whereby specific research needs of grassroots members of the community can be met. Moreover, TCP engages with community stakeholders as equal partners, not as a body of scholars single-mindedly focused on exploiting members of the community for our personal gain. However, as it relates to matters of social justice broadly and this panel discussion specifically, the goal of TCP is to serve as an intermediary whose efforts are useful in the maintenance of a prosperous and forward moving Queen City.

cinciprojectFerguson, Baltimore and Cincinnati
read more
I want to be an active part of social change in my city

I want to be an active part of social change in my city

By Kelsie Gerard
Junior, Sociology
Hometown: Cincinnati

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked by those involved with The Cincinnati Project to participate as a researcher at the annual NAACP Conference. This was a valuable experience for me as an undergraduate student because it was my first time attending a conference.

Kelsie Gerard

Kelsie Gerard was one of the students who attended the NAACP Convention in Cincinnati.

While at the conference, it was hard for me not to notice that I was one of the youngest people there, but attending with five of my peers from the University of Cincinnati allowed me to ease into the work more comfortably.

The varying levels of experience my peers have in researching and attending conferences helped make me feel less intimidated by the professional setting.

This was a great opportunity for me to practice my note-taking and listening skills, and learn how to actively apply them to research.

I wanted to be a part of this research process because I want to be an active part of social change in my city. I learned about the history of community-police relations in Cincinnati from the original negotiators of the Collaborative Agreement, and listened and shared countless stories of personal experiences with people from communities all over the country.

I found a sense of unity and connectedness in sharing similar experiences and feelings with everyone in the room, and it makes me realize that I am not in this fight alone.

cinciprojectI want to be an active part of social change in my city
read more
Social media and social justice movements

Social media and social justice movements

By Jeff Blevins

Today, everyone can be a storyteller. Social media and mobile streaming applications have the potential to change the relationship between news media and the public in significant ways, as virtually everyone now has the ability to document and live stream events to a global audience. To say the least, social media has become a primary venue for public commentary about current events, disrupting the gatekeeping power once held by national news outlets.

Social disparity in social media


Harambe, a western lowland gorilla, who was fatally shot to protect a 4-year-old boy who had entered its exhibit at The Cincinnati Zoo. (Jeff McCurry / AP)

In an article I wrote for The Cincinnati Herald, I point out the social disparity expressed in the incident that happened at The Cincinnati Zoo with a child and Harambe, and the incident that happened at Walt Disney World with a child and an alligator. Why was there an uneven expression of empathy towards the parents in both of these cases? What effect does this expression have on our communities and our political infrastructure?

Instant imagery and commentary in police shootings

Social media provided instantaneous imagery and commentary in the most recent police shootings. Diamond Reynolds live-streamed the shooting of her fiancé, Philando Castille, when they were pulled over by police for a broken taillight in Falcon Heights. Videos were posted online when police in Baton Rouge shot Alton Sterling, prompting an investigation from the justice department.

Civil unrest followed the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson in the summer of 2014. As the hashtag #Ferguson trended on Twitter, national and international news outlets followed social media activity in covering the protests, looting and militarized police response.

Sam DuBose

Sam Dubose (Photo courtesy of WCPO)

And in Cincinnati last summer, Sam DuBose, an unarmed black motorist, was shot and killed during a traffic stop by Ray Tensing, a white University of Cincinnati police officer. Local community groups led by @BlackLivesCincy and @theIRATE8 quickly mobilized on social media to decry the incident and confront competing narratives that it was justified.

Studying social media in social justice movements in Cincinnati

As one of The Cincinnati Project scholars, over the course of the upcoming academic year I will examine the role of social media in social justice movements in Cincinnati and share what I learn through a series of commentaries for local news media, conference presentations, and research papers.

A primary goal of this study is to understand how social justice groups and the public use social media to provide a more diverse array of commentary about the meaning and implications of civic activity, as well as assess the quality and clarity of their discourse on social media through qualitative textual analysis. I aim to show how historically marginalized groups have exercised their First Amendment rights in ways we haven’t seen before.

I also hope to discern more specific lessons about the power and utility that social media can play in civil discourse about social justice. I look forward to bringing the results of this study outside the university and sharing them with social justice groups and the public, who may rely on social media platforms as a primary means of expression. Understanding the impact of our social media channels and the power of our voices can improve the informational, communicational, and relational livelihood of everyone in our community.


cinciprojectSocial media and social justice movements
read more

Cincinnati Voices

By: Earl Wright II

A year ago we formally organized The Cincinnati Project (TCP). TCP encourages and promotes the use of faculty, student and administrator talents to work for economic justice, health equity, racial equality, improved conditions for women, and for other equity issues. Our current project, “Cincinnati Voices, is a major step in that direction.

Community Partners will decide our focus

Instead of deciding what we (university members) believe the most pressing issues of concern are to Cincinnatians, TCP is currently engaged in a baseline study that allows our community partners to decide the topics that we should address first. In so doing, a questionnaire is being developed and will be disseminated throughout the Cincinnati regional community by university and community participants.

This project empowers our community stakeholders and enables them to have a “voice” and representation in activities that will directly impact them. Unlike traditional research models that privilege university knowledge over that of community stakeholders, the main objective of this endeavor is to demonstrate that TCP is committed to an egalitarian relationship with its community partners. It is our expectation that by Spring 2016 the results of this study will be released and a more focused and detailed plan on how to address the needs of residents in the greater Cincinnati region developed.

Thank you Friends of The Cincinnati Project

Our efforts would not be possible without the Friends of The Cincinnati Project. We thank you for the support you have provided thus far and we look forward to continuing our partnership with you to maintain Cincinnati’s status as the most desirable place to live in the United States.

cinciprojectCincinnati Voices
read more

We are living in a NEW Social Movement

By Jennifer Malat

Never Doubt quote by Margaret MeadRecently I had lunch with 
Patricia Hill Collins, a prominent social theorist at the University of Maryland, and our upcoming symposium keynote speaker. As we talked about the widespread enthusiasm for the idea of The Cincinnati Project, I shared that it has been surprisingly easy to find people who would like to partner with us.

Is this because we are living in a new social movement?

Dr. Collins and I discussed this question. She told me that she worked with students last fall on this very subject. From their research, they concluded that we are, indeed, living in a new social movement. Their specific research and findings will be discussed at a later date.

How do we define a social movement? There have been many efforts by sociologists to clarify the criteria for a social movement. A concise definition by Blumer and Park in 1939 defined social movements as “collective enterprises to establish a new order of life. They have their inception in the condition of unrest, and derive their motive power on one hand from dissatisfaction with the current form of life, and on the other hand, from wishes and hopes for a new scheme or system of living.”*

Sociologists tend to modify the definition when witnessing a new social movement. For example, in the early twentieth century, a social movement polarized around unrest with the current political model. Since around the 1990’s, a “contention” model of social movement is more widely used, and this allows for the definition to include those who are seeking to change culture, not just politics or economics.**

Usually people who are living during a social movement aren’t aware of it. Only later do historians and sociologists tell a story of action that changed the direction of society.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr during Civil Rights Movement

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., leading a civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in March 1965.

From 1954– 1968, The Civil Rights Movement conducted coordinated efforts including boycotts, sit-ins, and marches, along with the individual efforts of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Junior. It’s easier to see the collective impact of these efforts after the fact.

Today, we see signs of a social movement in the actions and words from many people of our society: grassroots organizing, government officials speaking out, and artists making demands and expressing the emotions of millions in their work.  Black Lives Matter is the most prominent of the current movement, but attention is also being given to high rates of poverty and inequality as well. Since we have recognized that we are in the midst of a social movement, our challenge to our students, our peers, our partners is, 

“How will we use this social movement to make our community a better place for ALL people?”

*Herbert Blumer. “Collective Behavior,” in Robert E. Park, ed. An Outline of the Principles of Sociology. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1939, p. 199.
**McAdam, Doug, Sidney G. Tarrow, and Charles Tilly. Dynamics of Contention (Cambridge Studies in Contentious Politics). New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
cinciprojectWe are living in a NEW Social Movement
read more