And it’s time for us to listen. The Bechdel Test for films is easy: at least two female characters with names must talk to each other about something other than a man or boy. Akron teacher/activist Brit Charek took those guidelines and turned them into the Bechdel Film Fest, taking place at several venues in Akron this week.
14-year-old Cleveland singer/songwriter Ava Preston is Billboard’s Best Junior High Jazz Vocalist for the 2nd year in a row, and she is performing at the #1 Jazz Club in the USA, the BOP STOP. Street glass artist Deanna Dionne shows her work at Oberlin’s Verite Gallery. Film icon Bette Davis stars in the 1950 film All About Eve,screening at the Capitol Theatre’s Happy Hour Classic Film Series.
Peruse our curated listings and features below and you’ll find other superwomen (and men) appearing, performing and otherwise strutting their stuff in our region this week. Be sure to check out our popular annual 2019 Summer Festival Guide, freshly updated. Then we’ll see (and hear) you out and about this week. –Thomas Mulready
The Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corporation was created in 2006 to deal with the nationwide foreclosure crisis that hit Cuyahoga County with a vengeance. Commonly known as the Land Bank, the mission of this quasi-governmental organization is to eliminate vacant and blighted properties. It does so by having tax-burdened properties transferred into its name. The transfer wipes out the outstanding tax obligations. Properties are then transferred and sometimes sold to new owners who obtain the properties free of the tax liens and back taxes. The Land Bank is mandated to put property into the hands of owners who will make it economically productive, produce tax revenues, create jobs and rejuvenate neighborhoods.
That is why it is so important for the Land Bank to thoroughly investigate prospective applicants before transferring properties. That is why questions have now arisen as to the decision last August to transfer property located at 12735 Kirby Avenue in Cleveland’s Glenville neighborhood to Level 5 Global Corporation. Level 5 Global, its Ohio subsidiary North Coast Natural Solutions and its front man, Tierney R. Williams, have in recent weeks come under fire regarding the propriety of their business dealings. The question is, did the Land Bank unwittingly become the first of many Clevelanders scammed in what is likely to become known as the Hempgate Scandal?
The Land Bank, like many others in the community, saw great promise in the proposed hempcrete factory, touted as an economic engine that would rejuvenate Glenville. The project received the immediate support of two prominent members of Cleveland’s black clergy. Their support may account for the rapidity with which the traditionally lengthy and arduous process of obtaining land from the Land Bank was apparently short-circuited.
In rapid succession Williams got the land he needed to get the project off the ground. In March of 2018 the property went from a private owner to the State of Ohio. On August 28, 2018, deeds were filed that transferred the title of the property from the State of Ohio to the Land Bank and then to Level 5 Global — all in one day. That’s particularly interesting considering Level 5 Global had just filed to become an Ohio corporation on July 17, 2018.
When Williams came on the Cleveland media scene last fall, he was thought by some to be something akin to the second coming of Christ for Glenville. But now, amid allegations of broken promises, unpaid wages, bounced pay checks and a recently filed 19-page federal lawsuit that alleges multiple violations of state and federal employment laws and allegations of fraud, his halo has started to tarnish.
Williams’ original plan touted the creation of 650 entry level jobs, paying $17 an hour and the bonus of job training, free childcare and transportation back and forth to work. A self-proclaimed corporate consultant and financier, Williams is a native Clevelander but lists his main offices in Bethesda, Maryland. His claims of an ecofriendly, durable and biodegradable product made in Glenville was a dream come true. The pot was sweetened with his claims of $46 million dollars to finance the project.
Rev. E. Theophilus Caviness, pastor of Glenville’s iconic Greater Abyssinia Church, and Rev. Aaron Phillips of the Cleveland Clergy Coalition, were the prime movers and shakers in support of the project. Caviness, president of the Cleveland Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, frequently mixes preaching with politics, having served in Cleveland city council in the 1970s. He has profited from long-time friendships with local elected officials and especially with Ohio Republican governors, even though he claims to be a Democrat. Caviness and Philips — a disbarred lawyer turned preacher — stood by their man. Caviness even sponsored a job fair at his church, where prospective employees could fill out job applications.
With such solid backing, Tri-C opened their doors for training programs and local vendors extended credit. Believing the job prospects were for real, prospective employees quit jobs, and the unemployed bought into the dream of secure employment close to home.
The problem is, Williams has a few holes in his story. His global array of offices would rival BP America worldwide. A Google search of the address of his main corporate office shows that more than 500 corporations use the same mailing address — a modern-day version of a post office box. He shows no academic credentials — not even a degree from Trump University.
A quick check of the website of the clerk of the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court shows that Williams had three encounters with the felony court between 1986 and 2003, As a result he did some time due to theft offenses to which he plead guilty. We would all like to believe that is the prodigal son, returning to the city of his birth to lift his people out of economic bondage. The reality is he is beginning to look more like a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Property in the Land Bank is kept there in a public trust. That puts a heavy burden on the Land Bank to make sure that transfers go to legitimate businesses. One wonders if doors were opened at the Land Bank and the process of acquiring the Kirby Avenue property fast-tracked. Did the Land Bank fail to do its homework? The information available about Williams and his corporate record and criminal background is all available online. It didn’t take much to find it.
Williams’ corporation now has title to land and a building valued at $146,000. With the clouds that hang over this project, this transfer of property looks like ill-gotten gain. The Land Bank needs to recover it. If not, they are putting their own credibility and years of good work are on the line.
The governing board of the Land Bank, which includes County Executive Armond Budish — longtime friend of Rev. Caviness and recipient of the SCLS’s 2018 humanitarian of the year award — Council President Dan Brady and members of Cleveland city council should ask serious questions as to how this transfer was approved. The public and taxpayers deserve an answer. Unless the public gets some quick response, Hempgate will become the next scandal facing the county and the Budish administration. This community needs more jobs and economic development, not more scandals.
C. Ellen Connally is a retired judge of the Cleveland Municipal Court. From 2010 to 2014 she served as the President of the Cuyahoga County Council. An avid reader and student of American history, she serves on the Board of the Ohio History Connection, is currently vice president of the Cuyahoga County Soldiers and Sailors Monument Commission and treasurer of the Cleveland Civil War Round Table. She holds degrees from BGSU, CSU and is all but dissertation for a PhD from the University of Akron.
Carlos Jones has been part of the Cleveland music scene for more than 40 years, and his P.L.U.S. Band’s upbeat reggae has been drawing crowds for more than 20.
But Jones isn’t the type of guy to stand still. He recently announced several new projects he’s working on, starting with a brand new album he’s in the process of recording with their full band, with an expected release date this fall. It’s called A New Day; he’ll be launching a Kickstarter campaign July 1. Check his website for more details.
He’s also rebooted his signature coffee blend, with a new blend and new partner. His private label “Positive Vibrations” coffee, a blend of African and Colombian beans, will be produced and distributed by the Cleveland Coffee Company, and will be available at locations such a Heinen’s and Dave’s Supermarkets.
Finally, Carlos Jones & the P.L.U.S. Band will be hosting the first annual Reggae on the Water cruise on the Goodtime III Tue 6/18. Tickets are $35 in advance, $40 day of event, available now.
In this era of government polarization, with one party having gone to extremes in both policies and its refusal to negotiate compromise, it might be unexpected to learn that the Libertarian Party — often known as the home of people on the right too kooky to be Republicans — actually finds a lot of common ground with those on the left.
Case in point: justice reform. Several months ago, the Cuyahoga Libertarians invited a speaker from Black Lives Matter Cleveland. The discussion about how much government can or should do to alleviate racism (and how much it was involved in furthering it) was spirited but the upshot was that the groups agreed that they should work together on bail reform and improving conditions at the county jail.
This month, the Cuyahoga Libertarians welcome a speaker from the other end of the political spectrum — Americans for Prosperity Ohio, the Koch-funded Tea Party folks. The discussion will center on bail reform, reducing incarceration and providing more funding for Ohio public defenders, stuff AFP actually supports in the interest of reducing government spending, for once, wisely.
The event takes place at Denny’s on West 150th off I-71, and all are welcome, regardless of political persuasion.
Brooklyn-based Goth-style folk cabaret act Charming Disaster has established a beachhead in Cleveland at Lakewood’s Good Goat Gallery where they made a couple of appearances last year, and where they return this week.
The duo of Ellia Bisker and Jeff Morris draws on dark-hued sources to inform their musical narratives of crime, death, love and the supernatural. Swirling around in their musical mix are murder ballads, the stories of Raymond Chandler, the work of Edward Gorey and the films of Tim Burton.
When they return, they’ll be joined for the evening by Cleveland vaudeville duo Pinch & Squeal, aka Jason and Danielle Tilk, whose sense of humor ranges from the dark to the zany.
White South African playwright Athol Fugard, now 86, has fought apartheid in his native country since the early 60s, both in his life and his work. His 1972 play Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act, involves a black man and a white woman whose criminal relationship is measured in secret trysts at a library. Eventually, they are reported to the police and arrested.
It’s a change of pace from the usual dark humor and weird, wacky pieces at Tremont’s convergence-continuum theater, which will be staging the play, with in-demand freelance director Terrence Spivey at the helm.
Tickets are $20, $15 for seniors, $10 for students.
The Underground Classical series, taking place at the Praxis Fiber Workshop gallery on Waterloo Road, specializes in bringing in distinctive, eclectic chamber ensembles.
The alt Default out of Miami is a trio of musicians whose musical ingredients include indie rock, jazz, classical music and folk. They got together in 2014 when they were plating together in the New World Symphony in Miami Beach, where they merged from all over the country: Nathaniel Wolkstein (violin, guitar, vocals) is from Wisconsin, Hannah Rose Nicholas (viola and vocals) hails from Philadelphia, and Dave Connor (electric and acoustic bass) is a Massachusetts native. They’re currently works on an album that will feature both acoustic and studio versions of their original material.
Artist Deanna Dionne, who moved to Cleveland from Michigan in 2014, has become known from creating jewelry out of “street glass” — broken car windows. Since 2016, she’s been a regular at events such as the Cleveland Flea with her distinctive one-of-a-kind pieces. Recently she established her own Street Glass Studio in the Superior Arts District where she’s been creating larger, sculptural works from the same material.
She’ll be part of a three-artist show at Verite Glass in Oberlin, with Steyven Curry and Beth Negro. The show opens with a reception Fri 5/24 @ 4-8pm. It’s free and open to the public, and there will be refreshments!
As we get closer to the big celebration in June of the 50th anniversary of the last Cuyahoga River fire, events are taking place everywhere.
This week, the Music Box Supper Club’s Cleveland Stories series is devoted to “The True Story of the Burning River.” There historical interpreter Doug Kusak, who works with the Cleveland Metroparks and the Great Lakes Science Center, sharing his love for this region, will share some of the story of the Cuyahoga River. And if you want to know still more, he leads a two-hour Cuyahoga River boat tour from May through October.
Doors open at 5 for dinner, with storytelling beginning at 7. As usual there’s a fixed-price $20 menu with themed courses: River Water Soup, Perch and Fries, and Bananas on Fire. The event itself is free
Sixth year, three more houses. Rooms to Let CLE returned to Slavic Village where once again, teams of artists took over three homes slated for demolition and transformed them with paint, writing, found objects, light, plaster and installations of all types. Creativity spilled out into vacant lots and backyards and even into the street where an ensemble of Hungarian dancers performed nether invited passersby to join in.