CINCINNATI — Cincinnati residents have faced their share of adverse experiences. but the city is also rich in organizations and individuals willing to help those building resilience.
And when you think about resilient community leaders, Iris Roley, project manager for the Cincinnati Black United Front is at the top of the list. Known for her activism on policing, Roley’s broader focus is on kids. But she’s worried.
“It seems as if we’re taking our eyes off the children, which are the prize in all of society.”
Losing focus on kids may be the result of COVID-19’s assault on community physical, mental, and emotional health. As Roley puts it, “we live through trauma, of trauma, and about trauma all day long.”
The effects of trauma, brought on by aces, or adverse childhood experiences, place some youth at risk for negative encounters with police. Roley and other Cincinnati leaders want to help youth avoid these outcomes.
And that’s where combating aces met with community efforts to bring police and area youth together in Cincinnati’s Avondale neighborhood. April Gallelli is project manager of the Avondale development corporation.
“One of the things that kept recurring was hear me out because it felt like everybody during the conversations and in general and in life, the two groups we’re listening to each other.”
The act of listening, and sharing concerns, is a reminder of what psychologist Lisa Ramirez said about building ACEs resilience in the first part of our ACEs series—quality relationships with adults are critical.
But CPD and Cincinnati communities haven’t always been interested in hearing each other, and Bishop Ennis Tait, and local religious leader who works with community youth, says this perception may affect today’s youth. “We have a generation of young people who don’t understand the role of the police officer yet—they’ve only heard about it or seen it from negative views.”
But times are changing, and the Avondale police mediation mural, unveiled last month, is a physical reflection of progress. CPD Lieutenant Shannon Heine sums up the department’s approach to engaging youth and their communities by first asking questions. “What’s going on? What do you need from us? And what can we do together to make this a better place for everyone—the residents, the children that are here learning, the business owners, the stakeholders—everyone?”
Speaking of questions, what advice is there for youth currently facing aces and their toxic stress? Roley’s advice is clear. “If they have question about what they’re about to do—to talk to someone. Talk to that wise person that they have identified. That’s someone safe that they can talk to that will give them advice.
And Roley says to write. “[they should] journal and write their thoughts down before they act—before they act.
Thoughtful action is empowering.
Averiey Offord, an Avondale resident who took part in the hear us out project says he felt “proud of myself, and feel very empowered.”
And empowerment through community is key in building ACEs resilience.