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Week 4: Elementz

October 17, 2011

Prompt: Based on your prior knowledge, assignments for this week, and our visit to Elementz, what are some of the key events and/or characteristics associated with Cincinnati’s racial history? Reflect thoughtfully on the racial unrest and riots (crica 2001) and how this has played a role in the subsequent rebuilding of community in Over-the-Rhine and other areas.

The key event in Cincinnati’s recent history is definitely the riots. It had extremely far-reaching effects; I remember that even Blue Ash had a curfew briefly. However, it seems to have triggered many attempts to prevent a repeat performance. The people at Elementz said that their project was a response to the riots, trying to get kids off the street. Even better, the director mentioned that more of their kids were in school (and the quality of CPS had improved), so they had to adjust their program to account for that. Finally, the police have started to cut down the crime rate in Over-the-Rhine. It’s still higher than the city’s average, but better than in 2001, and I couldn’t find any statistics from before 2001. One person quoted in WCPO’s retrospective said “I never thought that I would say on camera that the Cincinnati police have gotten better.” So the riots made it clear that there was a problem to be fixed, and we seem to be making progress on fixing it.

The main question now seems to be how Over-the-Rhine will be rebuilt, and how 3CDC, the nonprofit trying to revitalize the area, should approach the situation. WCPO’s documentary quoted Vanessa Sparks saying “Development is good, but it also should include the voices of the people, the people who are already there, and I haven’t seen a lot of that happening.” The main concern over gentrification is economic. Better housing means higher rents, which means more people can’t afford housing and get pushed out of the area. 3CDC says they are trying to create mixed-income neighborhoods to avoid concentrating low-income groups, and at Elementz, they talked more favorably about 3CDC and said they seemed to be taking a good approach. Unfortunately, it seems to be a very slow approach, however, as an Associated Press report mentioned that in 2009, 5 years after 3CDC got to work, two of every three homes in Over-the-Rhine were vacant. So I doubt that we’ll see a repeat of the 2001 riots, but things could definitely be better.

Empty neighborhoods fill rust belt. (2009, May 08). Retrieved from

Ten years later: a changed city. (2011). [Web Video]. Retrieved from




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  1. I like how you described the far reaching effects of the riots in Cincinnati. I didn’t know that even Blue Ash had a curfew because of it. The riots definitely shocked Cincinnati into action. I agree that the citizens should have a greater role in changing their community, because that’s really the only way dramatic changes can take place. What actions do you think Cincinnati citizens can take in this direction?

  2. Jessica permalink

    Ben, while you moved to a great discussion of 3CDC, I don’t see that this R&A post centered as thoughtfully on what was learned during our visit as it could have. How is is that Elementz came into being after the unrests of 2001? What even precipitated the riots and unrest? More detail would have been helpful in crafting a thoughtful overview of Cincinnati’s recent race relations and, in turn, the progress that has been made since that time.

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