Most years, Common Ground is a single-day initiative where people gather at locations across Cuyahoga, Lake and Geauga counties to share a meal, connect with one another, build community and take action on the issues they care about. This year was different. In response to the unique environment in which we are currently living, Common Ground 2020 adapted to give existing registered and multi-year hosts the flexibility to take action on the issues that matter to them and their communities. Every year, Common Ground shares a theme to help guide hosts as they build their events. Leading up to a consequential presidential election and decennial census, Common Ground this year invited Greater Clevelanders to creatively explore what it means to be counted and what it means to count.
Thanks to Neighborhood Connections, an essential Common Ground partner, a number of resident-led groups, grassroots nonprofits, and small faith-based organizations in Cuyahoga, Lake and Geauga counties received funding through the Common Ground “Count Me In” small grants program to lead important voter and civic engagement projects in the community. 10 grants were awarded for a total of $24,100. The projects funded by these grants used practical and creative measures to ensure compliance with social distancing and COVID safety guidelines, including the distribution of PPE, use of outdoor spaces, use of social media and other media. Thanks to Erika Brown, Neighborhood Connections Community Network Manager, Special Projects and Training, we’re sharing some highlights from this year’s Common Ground small grants program:
Your Vote Matters – $2,500
Since 2016, Dr. Yvonne Pointer has hosted and produced Live In The Hope Haven, a nightly Facebook Live broadcast. On any given night, Monday through Friday, 200-1,500 people across the country tune in from 8-9 p.m. to watch the broadcast. With help from a Common Ground grant, Dr. Pointer was able to spread the word about the importance of voting with a nightly PSA reminding viewers that their vote matters. With viewers sharing the broadcasts with their networks, the PSA was able to reach a broad audience ahead of a watershed national election.
Central-Kinsman Neighborhood Day of Action – $2,500
With a caravan and 11 pop-up locations at restaurants, gas stations, retail stores and neighborhood organizations, this project reached residents across the entire Central-Kinsman area.
Early Push to the Polls – $2,500
The Early Push to the Polls project provided voter education, registration and transportation for seniors and low-income residents during the month of October. The Cleveland Clergy Alliance’s twelve community navigators used social media, telephone calls and texts to keep the community informed of voter registration activities at Alliance churches and throughout the community. The project also engaged voters through rallies and parades at churches, with the goal of promoting voter participation in places with low turnout due to barriers such as transportation.
Vote for Them – $2,500
This project focused on printing and installing politically themed yard signs featuring the names of victims of police violence, including Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, Stephon Clark, George Floyd, Eric Garner, Oscar Grant, Breonna Taylor and others, at locations throughout the city with low voter turnout. The signs served as firm reminders of systemic injustices and the importance of voting.
PEARLS Presents: Exercise Your Right! Empowering Communities through Voting, Health and Wellness – $2,100
PEARLS Girls Mentoring and Empowerment Group spearheaded initiatives in the Buckeye-Larchmere and Hough neighborhoods to promote voting and get residents excited about the 2020 election. The project also sought to promote health and wellness by bringing fun exercise activities, including yoga and line dancing, to attendees.
Stop COVID-19 1965 Get Out to Vote – $2,500
This project promoted safety measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 while educating people on the importance of voting. By demonstrating safety measures, providing personal protective equipment and sharing messages about the importance of voting and the history of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, this project promoted public health and civic engagement.
Let’s Get Out For the Vote – $2,500
This project provided more than 300 constituents, including residents of local men’s and women’s shelters and drop-in centers across the city, with transportation to the polls as well as nutritious meals provided and prepared by the Delivering Hands of Five Ladies.
Healing Space for Women of Color Activists – $2,000
The Ellipsis Institute hosted a healing event for women of color activists on the front lines for our communities. The goals of this project were to (1) create an intentional space for women of color activists to heal from the effects of front-line work and (2) provide voter engagement and education for a marginalized community. In partnership with the Young Latino Network (YLN), Cleveland VOTES, and other organizations led by women of color, the project offered food and refreshments, voter engagement and polling information, and healing activities to energize and sustain activism efforts by women of color in our community.
We Vote While Youth at The Booth – $2,500
The goal of this project was to increase Ohio voter participation and recruit eligible youth to become poll workers. The project targeted geographic areas across Cleveland with low voter participation and census self-response rates. Through social media communications and community canvassing, they offered voter registration and education resources and recruited for the statewide “Youth at the Booth” initiative.
Every Vote Matters – $2,500
Every Vote Matters worked to maximize voter turnout in underserved and disadvantaged communities on the east side of Cleveland and East Cleveland. Collaborating with grassroots, community and civic engagement organizations, they coordinated events, hosted virtual concerts and led a caravan through specific neighborhoods to distribute voter materials, masks and hand sanitizer.
We’re grateful to Neighborhood Connections as well as the individuals and organizations who led these important projects in the midst of challenging circumstances. Stay tuned in the new year as we share news about Common Ground’s 5th anniversary in 2021!