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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

CLEVELAND COMMUNITY RELATIONS BOARD

CLEVELAND COMMUNITY RELATIONS BOARD

The CLEVELAND COMMUNITY RELATIONS BOARD was created by the city council in March 1945 to improve relations among the racial and cultural groups within the community and to help ameliorate conditions which strained those relationships. The board, with a paid director and staff, helped end blatant discrimination in hotels and restaurants and established a policy that prohibited segregation in PARKS, playgrounds, and pools. After the city council passed the fair employment practices ordinance in 1950, the board was made responsible for the resolution of employment discrimination complaints, and in the first three years it settled 171 cases. In 1959 the board's 3-member staff was expanded to 12 in order to deal with increasing tensions brought about by the influx of large numbers of migrant AFRICAN AMERICANS from the South. During the early 1960s it became difficult for the board to be effective when many officials believed that its investigations stirred up rather than soothed racial tensions.

As the civil-rights movement became more active in Cleveland, the board, under Director Ellsworth H. Harpole, moved more aggressively to work with civil-rights groups, business and industry, and labor unions to improve employment opportunities for blacks and the acceptance of black applicants into union apprenticeship programs. In the latter half of the 1970s, it also helped ease fears about court-ordered busing to desegregate Cleveland schools. In 1992, the Community Relations Board, main sponsor of Unity Day, held 1 May, was selected by the city of Cleveland as "Department of the Year" for its outreach and community relations programs. The annual Unity Day recognized the city's ethnic, racial, and cultural diversity, and celebrated unity.

Committed to the promotion of amicable relations among the racial and cultural groups with the community, the membership of the Community Relations Board reflected Cleveland's racially, ethnically, and religiously diverse population. As the Board represented the social, economic, and cultural interests of the community, its members concentrated their work in the following broad areas: Community/Faith Based Outreach, Multicultural Outreach and Engagement, Conflict Mediation, Police/Community Relations, Fair Housing, and Youth Engagement/Crisis Intervention. The Board also sponsored the grassroots work of Police/Community Relations Committees in the city's six police districts. Composed of peacekeepers, Cleveland residents committed to improving life in their neighborhoods and schools by working with police to fight crime, and police officers, these committees met monthly at district offices to address community needs through dialogue and engagement.

As of 2009, the mayor served as Chairman ex-officio of the Board and appointed, with the approval of City Council, 14 members to serve four-year terms. In addition, City Council appointed two of its members to serve two-year terms. The Board met monthly to protect civil rights and to promote peaceful relations among and relieve tensions between cultural groups. Blaine Griffin served as director of the Cleveland Community Relations Board since 2006.