Vol. 1 Issue 4
The Quad A Renaissance
By Regennia N. Williams, PhD
Editor and Distinguished Scholar of African American History and Culture
As we approach the end of our program year, I want to take a few minutes to reflect upon what can rightly be described as a Quad A Renaissance. While serving as the chair of the 50th Anniversary Program Committee, it was my great pleasure to work with Auxiliary members who continued to say yes to African American history and culture, despite the challenges associated with the nation’s ongoing struggles to combat the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and anti-Black racism.

Due in no small measure to the dedication and generosity of its members, Quad A is experiencing a rebirth. The organization’s list of community partners and friends of African American history now includes activists, artists, academicians, accountants, attorneys, authors, and other professionals. Together we are charting a course toward a brighter future.

By the end of April 2021, for example, we had raised thousands of dollars, partnered with colleagues at Cleveland Public Library, WCLV Radio, The RASHAD Center, Team Jenkins Ministries, and Twelve Literary Arts to create and share virtual programming that reached thousands of households. Quad A members and volunteers also facilitated the acquisition of more than 100 linear feet of manuscript materials and supported the creation of Kwanzaa and Black History Month displays at the Cleveland History Center.

In case you missed any of the four virtual events for the first quarter of the year, please know that the videos for these programs are available for your viewing pleasure on Cleveland Public Library’s Cleveland Digital YouTube Channel. I also want to invite you to join us for the late spring and early summer events listed below.

Lastly, please help us spread the word about the availability of student internships at WRHS, and enjoy reading the latest article from our own Dr. Todd Michney.

Take care and be well!

Learning from a Cleveland Legend:
A Conversation with Leon Bibb
By Todd Michney, Ph.D.
Journalist Leon Bibb recently spoke to me about his family roots, his youth growing up in Cleveland’s Glenville neighborhood, and where African Americans stand in the aftermath of the Trump presidency. Bibb studied journalism at Bowling Green State University, served with distinction in Vietnam (winning a Bronze Star), and worked at the Plain Dealer before starting a storied television career. In 1972 with WCMH in Columbus, he became the first Black news anchor in Ohio. In 1979 Bibb moved back to his hometown to join WKYC, and from 1995-2017 he anchored for WEWS, where he continues as a commentator. Bibb is a longtime resident of Shaker Heights.

Mr. Bibb began by explaining how he came to be born in Alabama in 1944: although his parents arrived in Cleveland in 1940, his mother returned to her ancestral home to give birth to him when his father, who worked for the U.S. Navy Department, was sent to serve in World War II. After initially living with his father’s relatives on East 86th Street in Cedar-Central, Bibb’s parents moved the family in 1947 onto Parkgate Avenue in Glenville. “You’re gonna pay big time to live out there,” their relatives told his father, “You’re going out to the Gold Coast and it’s expensive.” While still a predominantly Jewish area, Glenville was the city’s most up-and-coming Black middle-class neighborhood. His parents went in together on a duplex house with his father’s sister and her husband who was also a veteran; they were attracted by the stately Miles Standish Elementary School across the street and the Cultural Gardens at the end of the block. “We were surrounded by the Black professionals,” Bibb told me, “doctors, an architect, people who owned funeral homes, dentists, teachers, and assistant principals of schools.” As for Glenville in the 1950s, he joked, “if you could not find it on East 105th Street, you probably could live without it.” There were movie theaters, a new car showroom, hat and shoe stores, delicatessens, grocery stores and markets, hardware stores, pharmacies, soda shops and more. There was Scatter’s Barbecue, and nightclubs like the Tijuana and Café Society where the country’s biggest jazz bands stopped on tour. He watched the neighborhood’s demographics shift as he advanced to Empire Junior High School and then Glenville High School; only five white students remained by the time he graduated in 1962. “It didn’t worry me too much,” he recalled, because the people who were moving in were Black people who seemed to be very nice, and we were all very nice.”

“I don’t know how my childhood could be better,” Bibb emphasized. He and his friends spent their time playing Little League baseball at Gordon Park, where they named their teams after the star Cleveland Indians players: the “Colavitos,” “Helds,” and “Dobys.” The City’s Recreation Department and Board of Education kept the playground at Miles Standish open in the summer, even sponsoring crafts classes and other activities; Bibb learned to play the ukulele. Twice a summer the Show Wagon would perform for kids and parents alike, with a band or quartet, baton twirlers, maybe a comedian or ventriloquist. Bibb and his friends even organized track meets for a friendly competition with nearby Pierpont Avenue: “We would have a 100-yard dash, a 50-yard dash; we would have the 200-yard dash, the mile bicycle run. We would have a stopwatch and keep records – and we did this all by ourselves, there were no adults involved.” He felt he had been largely shielded from the hurts of racism, aside from a handful of negative encounters with kids from the Sowinski area, a Polish enclave on the other side of Rockefeller Park.

Mr. Bibb recalled family trips to visit relatives down South, or for funerals, and how his parents instructed him and his sister that they would be avoiding gas stops or bathroom breaks after crossing the Ohio River. On one trip around the time Emmett Till was murdered, his father had made a tense but successful stop in Kentucky for Pepsi-Colas to go. “I know it was hard, because you want your kids to know that they’ve got rights. But they also wanted their son to not be murdered,” he reflected on his parents’ dilemma. “All that is part of what it takes to survive in America and be Black,” he noted in referring to the organizations African Americans have built for self-advancement, notably fraternities and sororities which can now count Vice President Kamala Harris among their members. “Since 1619, we’ve been a strong people who just don’t go away; our strength is in our stick-to-it-iveness, our pursuit of education and dealing with the racism which is always out there.”

Todd M. Michney is a native Clevelander who teaches at Georgia Tech. He is the author of Surrogate Suburbs: Black Upward Mobility and Neighborhood Change in Cleveland, 1900-1980 (University of North Carolina Press, 2017).
Photos: 1-Leon Bibb in 4th Grade, early to mid-1950s. 2-Leon Bibb and his cousin Allen Moreland on Parkgate Avenue. 3-Leon Bibb's father (Leon Bibb, Sr.) with his sister Shirley in front of the Bibb home at 9122 Parkgate Avenue
Save These Dates!

Leadership That Defies Labels:
A Panel Discussion Commemorating the Birth of
El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X)

Panelists: Shakyra Diaz, Dick Peery,
Kareem Henton
Moderator: Sherrie Tolliver
Date & Time: May 28, 2021, 7 PM
Price: Free





Exhibit Opening:
Amanda Wicker: Black Fashion Design in Cleveland
Patricia Edmondson, Curator

Date & Time: June 10, 2021, 5:30 – 7:30 PM
Price: $20 - $25

Juneteenth: A Celebration Black Freedom
Presented by The Music Settlement, the RASHAD Center,
and the Cleveland History Center

Date & Time: June 19, 2021, 12 – 4 PM
Price: Museum admission ticket required for attendance

1619: An Interactive Presentation
Quad A 50th Anniversary virtual event by Prof. Sherlynn Allen-Harris

Date & Time: June 25, 2021, 7 PM
Price: Free

African American Soul Dancing Performance and Book-Signing
Featuring Frank R. Ross & Friends
Presented with support from Quad A and the RASHAD Center

Date & Time: June 27, 2021, 12 -2 PM
Location: Cleveland History Center
Price: Museum admission ticket required for attendance

Summer Internships:
Project Title:
Internship, The 2021 A. Grace Lee Mims Arts and Culture Oral History Project

Location:
Cleveland History Center

Department:
Distinguished Scholar of African American History and Culture (Office of the President & CEO)

Project Description:
Named for one of the founders of the African American Archives Auxiliary (Quad A) of the Western Reserve Historical Society (WRHS), the A. Grace Lee Mims Arts and Culture Oral History Project offers interns the opportunity to collect first-person narratives about African American life in Greater Cleveland. All research will support the ongoing Share Your Story Digital Collecting Initiative at WRHS.

Requirements:
Interest in African American history and culture (evidenced by the successful completion of course work at the post-secondary level or related campus or community programming), excellent oral and written communication skills, basic computer skills, and ability to work independently and with the project director using Zoom. Experience conducting interviews for oral histories or journalism is a plus.

Hours per Week:
10 hours (mostly off-site work); flexible scheduling (Monday-Saturday).

Application Instructions:
Send resume with contact information for two references, cover letter, writing samples and web links to or PDFs of interviews (if applicable) and application form to jdukes@wrhs.org.
Photo: The late Dr. A. Grace Lee Mims (1930-2019) is pictured here (left) with Dr. Regennia N. Williams in 2014. (Photo courtesy of Regennia N. Williams.)
Support AAAA
Please consider donating to the African American Archives. Your donations to the Booker T. Tall and George L. Forbes Endowments will support the work of the African American Archives Program. You can be confident, therefore, that all contributions to these funds will enhance the work of the Western Reserve Historical Society both now and in the years to come.
 
Thanks so much for your support!