In Cleveland’s Hough neighborhood, young leaders have a seat at the table where key decisions are being made, and their influence is making a difference. Convened by Daniel Gray-Kontar and Lexy Lattimore, the Hough Youth Council – part of Twelve Literary Arts – is a group of young people between the ages of 14 and 24 who live in Hough and care deeply about their neighborhood’s future.
The council was originally formed out of public planning for the streetscape improvements on E. 66th Street from Euclid Avenue to Superior Avenue. Youth worked with urban planners from LAND Studio, NOACA, City Architecture, MidTown Cleveland and others in focus groups to inform the redesign plans, and they decided to continue their collaboration through the formation of the Hough Youth Council in November 2020.
Today, the council is working at the intersection of art, urban design, leadership development and social justice. Members, who are paid a monthly stipend for their participation, are helping to organize public art and neighborhood beautification projects, and they are gathering input from other residents about the things they want for their neighborhood – including how they would like to see areas of their neighborhood zoned through new form-based code.
As Hough residents, the youth are experts on their neighborhood and their own lived experiences in it. As members of the council, they are also gaining expertise in form-based code, public art and urban design. They are combining their neighborhood expertise with this technical knowledge to realize a vibrant vision for the future of Hough that centers the needs and desires of residents. They share what they know through community events and meetings as well as art and performances.
The Hough Virtual Freedom Zones are one such space where the youth council is sharing knowledge and engaging with other residents. These events bring together Hough residents of all ages to talk about their neighborhood, the changes they would like to see, and how urban planning and design tools can help them realize their vision. As they think about the future, they are also contending with the history of structural disinvestment due to redlining in Cleveland’s east side neighborhoods like Hough. The Hough Virtual Freedom Zones are an ongoing project, with more than 100 residents already involved in the growing network. The youth council plans to continue the Virtual Freedom Zones through 2021, with the goal of creating an intergenerational collective of residents to advocate for change. Check out a video of the Freedom Zone Livestream Performance here:
On Feb. 18, 2021, members of the Hough Youth Council gathered for a virtual event hosted by the Schubert Center for Child Studies at Case Western Reserve University to talk about their work. You can watch this recording of the event to learn more about the youth council’s projects and plans:
We are excited to see the ongoing impact of the Hough Youth Council, and we look forward to being even closer to their work as the Cleveland Foundation moves into a new home at the corner of Euclid Avenue and E. 66th Street next year.
You can join us in supporting the work of Twelve Literary Arts and the Hough Youth Council here.