CLEVELAND — After a 2020 Bloomberg city lab study ranked Cleveland last in terms of livability for Black women in the U.S., the Cleveland City Council passed an ordinance supported by the mayor’s office to create the Cleveland Black Women and Girls Commission help address the issue.

But more than a year later, the commission still hasn’t started.

What You Need To Know

  • Cleveland City Council passed ordinance to create a Black Women and Girls Commission over a year ago, but it still hasn't started

  • Chinenye Nkemere of Enlightened Solutions worked with council to get the ordinance through and says she hears from women in the community often, asking when it will start

  • Council member Stephanie Howse says council will likely name their appointees in August, and the commission can start once all appointees are named

Council member Stephanie Howse, who played a large role in pushing the ordinance through, said part of the reason it’s been held up is because starting a brand new commission takes time, and there have been some miscommunications between the mayor’s office and council.

At the end of the day, she said she wants to make sure it’s done right.

“We want Black women and girls to just be in our community,” Howse said. “And knowing that they are loved, that they are supported and they are taken care of. Everyone deserves that, especially our Black women and girls, who are doing amazing work, who are pouring tirelessly, using their skills and talents to improve our communities for everyone else. They deserve that in return.”

Howse said she believes council will announce the names of their appointees at the next summer meeting in August. 

In a statement, the mayor’s office said:

"The Mayor has identified his appointees in compliance with the ordinance approved by Cleveland City Council. We’ve done our part of the work to create the Commission. Now it’s time for the Commission to move ahead with setting the agenda and informing the policies that will make Cleveland a better, safer and more livable city where Black women can thrive. We encourage City Council to act swiftly, in whatever process they choose, to make their submissions so this important work can begin. We cannot continue to slow down the will of the people.”

Chinenye Nkemere, co-founder of Enlightened Solutions, a local think tank whose work helped inspire the commission, said many Black women in the community reach out to her asking when it will start. 

“It’s not even a negative frustration,” Nkemere said. “It’s ‘I want to be useful.’ I want to be able to give my resources or my network. I want to be able to make Cleveland better too. I want to have a hand in it.”

Once all appointees are named, Howse said the commission can start meeting.

Nkemere said in the meantime, she and many others in the community will continue to fight for justice.

“When you’re able to center the most marginalized, all individuals are going to be able to do well,” she said.

Council’s next summer session is on Aug. 16.