Forum seeks to shape vision for La Villa Hispana
(Plain Press, January 2016) Over 60 people filled the conference room in the basement of the bank building at W. 25th and Clark Avenue on December 1, 2015 to attend the La Villa Hispana Community Forum. They came to discuss the wants and needs of residents of La Villa Hispana for which the intersection of W. 25th and Clark represents the epicenter. The area represents the densest Hispanic enclave in the State of Ohio and one of the most impoverished areas on the West Side of Cleveland.
The forum, facilitated by the National Association Latino Community Assets Builder, was presented by The Hispanic Alliance in partnership with the Hispanic Business Center, MetroHealth System, and Stockyard, Clark-Fulton & Brooklyn Centre Community Development Office.
Jenice Contreras, Executive Director of the Hispanic Business Center, offered some context for the cultural place making initiative, La Villa Hispana. She said while the boundaries of La Villa Hispana are not strictly defined, the heart of the community lies within a quarter a mile from the corner of W. 25th and Clark Avenue. Taking a look at the demographics for the Near West Side of Cleveland, Contreras estimated roughly 22,000 Latinos live there. She envisioned that the La Villa, being a cultural and economic hub for Northeast Ohio, would share with the broader community not only its culture, but also the challenges facing the local community. Contreras noted that, in the Clark Fulton neighborhood, 35% of adults did not have a high school diploma; the median family income was less than $25,000 a year; and the poverty level was at 38% overall and even higher for families with children with a 52% poverty level. Health problems in the neighborhood include high incidence of lead poisoning and asthma. Contreras said 27% of households in the Clark Fulton neighborhood don’t own a car.
Contreras outlined eight strategic goals for La Villa Hispana: 1) Support new and existing businesses; 2) Streetscape and public art; 3) Promoting arts and culture; 4) Ensuring safety; 5) Real estate projects; 6) Marketing and branding; 7) Community Engagement; and 8) Economic Empowerment.
Juan Molina Crespo, Executive Director of The Hispanic Alliance, said that the input of those attending on the areas of community engagement and economic empowerment was critical to the task of assuring resources would go where they are most needed.
National Association Latino Community Assets Builder staff members Dawkins Hodges and Nicole Goodman then helped to facilitate breaking those present into groups for brainstorming sessions to answer critical questions about a vision for La Villa Hispana and to come up with some sample mission statements. The questions raised were: 1) What is La Villa Hispana? 2) Who is La Villa Hispana for? and, 3) What will La Villa Hispana offer to those who live here and visit?
The groups each came up with a sample mission statement. Some common words included in the mission statements were: authentic, community, residents, goods and services, united, religion, family, leveraging numbers, culturally competent, empowering, engage, arts, education and business.
An example of a mission statement one of the groups came up with is: To create, grow and sustain a safe flourishing and economically empowered Hispanic Community rooted in the Stockyard, Clark-Fulton area of Cleveland that offers culturally appropriate goods and services including but not limited to businesses, education, arts, culture and religion.