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Jun 08, 2022

The Cleveland Commission on Black Women and Girls was passed unanimously by Cleveland City Council at its last meeting before summer recess.

The Commission’s mission is to improve the quality of life for women and girls by advocating, initiating, and championing programs and legislation to strengthen families and communities. The vision is simple—women and girls in the City of Cleveland deserve access to unlimited opportunities to achieve social, health and economic equality. 

To make this a reality, Black women and girls from across the city must have a seat at the table and a voice where decisions are made. Black women comprise nearly 28% of Cleveland's population.  

“This Commission is creating an opportunity for Black women and girls to work in partnership with the City of Cleveland on the agenda that they believe is best,” said Councilwoman Stephanie Howse, a co-sponsor of the ordinance. “To get results, we must give the power to Black women. They know what is needed.”   

The Cleveland Commission on Black Women and Girls will serve as an advisor to the mayor and city council and make recommendations based on a data-driven approach.  Now that council has passed it, the mayor and council will start the process to appoint the members. 

“Cleveland is the worst city in America for Black women. We have a problem and Black women are the experts to help us solve it,” said Mayor Justin M. Bibb. “When Black women thrive, families and communities thrive.”   

The Commission will consist of 12 regular members and 2 ex officio* members, including:  

  • One Black woman representing the faith community 
  • One Black woman representing corporate Cleveland
  • One Black woman representing higher education
  • One Black woman who is a MD within one of the hospital systems
  • One Black woman representing social services
  • One Black woman representing labor
  • One Black woman representing education (primary, secondary and/or pre-school)
  • One Black woman representing grassroots organizations in Cleveland
  • Two Black women in college  
  • Two Black students representing ages 11-17 
  • One Black woman from the Mayor’s Office* 
  • One Black woman to represent Cleveland City Council* 

 “This is real progress toward freeing Black women from so many dead-ends in their lives,” said Councilwoman Deborah Gray, a co-sponsor of the ordinance. “I see this Commission as a historical step toward empowering Black women and girls who for so long have been denied so much.” 

The Commission will also establish a girls’ subcommittee to identify, explore and recommend solutions to obstacles that Black girls are facing in the city and, particularly, in the schools.  

Enlightened Solutions, the Cleveland research and advocacy firm behind the Project Noir study, is consulting with the city on this initiative, providing both data and expertise in developing and gathering the metrics required to measure the Commission’s progress over time.  

In response to the 2020 Bloomberg CityLab report that ranked Cleveland as the worst city for Black Women’s livability, Project Noir took a deep dive into the lived experiences of more than 450 Black women and girls and put rich quantitative and narrative context around the dead-last ranking.  

 “We really do think that there are solutions, but we need to stop looking to other regions and get creative with our own problems,” said Bethany Studenic, co-founder and managing director of Enlightened Solutions. “We believe that if we can solve this in Cleveland, we can solve it anywhere.” ORD 373-2022