BLACK HISTORY MONTH
For years we were expected to commemorate Black History Month, even as increasing numbers of our African-Americans readers told us they didn’t like the idea of their his- tory being conﬁned to the shortest month. Black history, they’d say, is American history. I agree. Yet, during February, I worked to take advantage of the opportunity to do stories that I’d have a harder time getting into the paper during, say, July. Only one of the stories in this chapter published outside of February.
Beacon for better education
Jennie Davis Porter stirred thousands of students to “lift as we climb”
February 7, 1997
In 1928, when she became the ﬁrst black woman to earn a Ph.D. from the University of Cincinnati – and only the fourth black woman Ph.D. nationally – the late Jennie Davis Porter wrote that segregated black schools were better for students than integrated ones.
She cited psychological and achievement tests of students at the three all-black Cincinnati schools she ran – Stowe, Jackson, and Sherman – and often held up future Cincinnati mayor Theodore Berry as the shining manifestation of her philosophy.
Segregated black schools provided a positive environment for development of students’ self-esteem, Dr. Porter wrote, and were a source of good jobs for black teachers.
The issue divided blacks. Supporters said quality and equal education for black children was more important than racial integration. Others said any form of segregation invited racial discrimination.
Today, almost 70 years after she wrote her dissertation and 60 years after her death, Dr. Porter’s argument for segregated schools has returned to the center of a growing debate among educators. In fact, her dissertation – “The Problem of Negro Education in Northern and Border Cities” – is still requested at least a half-dozen times a year from UC archives by black educators nationally who advocate a return to segregated, neighborhood schools.
Dr. Porter inﬂuenced two generations of black educators and was responsible for the edu- cation of thousands of Cincinnati’s black children. Without her iron will to provide all children a quality education, hundreds of young African-Americans would not have attended school.
Mr. Berry, chosen by city council as Cincinnati’s ﬁrst black mayor in 1973, believes Dr. Porter’s philosophy was rooted in her concern for the children of black families migrating from the South a century ago. “Instead of nine months of schooling, they only received six months because of their work in the cotton ﬁelds,” says Mr. Berry, now 91 and living in Hartwell. “She sold the school board on a special school that would help bridge that gap.”
Must help others
Dr. Porter’s father, William, was a former slave who became Cincinnati’s ﬁrst black under- taker. She was born in Cincinnati on Oct. 9, 1876, to Ethlinda Porter, a teacher.Her family’s wealth didn’t blind her to the plight of less fortunate blacks. She developed one of her favorite slogans – “We must lift as we climb” – at an early age. After earning her bachelor’s degree in education at UC, with specialties in art and music, Dr. Porter taught from 1897 to 1914 at Douglass School, Walnut Hills. One of her ﬁrst-grade students was William DeHart Hubbard, who, competing in the long jump at the 1924 Paris Olympics, became the ﬁrst black athlete to win a gold medal in an individual event. In 1913, when Dr. Porter and other inﬂuential blacks discovered that 147 black children ages 9 to 14 were not attending school, she organized a summer school at the old Hughes High School, West End. Again, Ms. Laws provided funding.
In 1914, Dr. Porter persuaded Cincinnati Public Schools Superintendent John Withrow to establish Cincinnati’s ﬁrst all-black school at the former Hughes site and rename the building Harriet Beecher Stowe School. Ms. Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, had taught in a girl’s school near Hughes in the 1830s. Dr. Porter was named Stowe’s principal, a ﬁrst for a black woman in Cincinnati.
Enrollment increased from 350 to 650 in the ﬁrst year, and she successfully lobbied the board of education to erect a new building. But World War I delayed construction.
Mr. Berry was a member of Stowe’s Class of 1920. “Miss Porter sponsored a series of public events to promote the school,” he says. “I made my ﬁrst public speech on the occasion of one of her festivals.”
Mary E. Rozier, 79, of Hyde Park, attended Stowe from kindergarten through ninth grade and was a member of its Class of 1933. “She had a gruff voice,” Ms. Rozier, who worked for many years as a legal secretary, says of Dr. Porter. “When she’d speak, we’d jump out of our skin. She insisted that kids be neat, and if the family didn’t have the means, she spent her own money on you” for school clothes and other supplies. Dr. Porter also insisted that black children learn about black history.
“The teachers made sure we had pride in our racial background,” Ms. Rozier says. “The standards were very high. We had to be very quiet in the hallways, especially when we were on the same ﬂoor as Dr. Porter’s ofﬁce.”
Dr. Porter’s inﬂuence among black Cincinnatians had grown several-fold by the early 1920s. The school board put her in charge of the “Colored Farm,” a site in College Hill where black students received agricultural training. She also oversaw 15 black clubs, a cultural center and a social service bureau.
“Power begets power,” Mr. Berry says. “Miss Porter knew this.”
On Thanksgiving Day 1923, the new Stowe School was dedicated at 635 W. Seventh St., in what is now the Queensgate building that houses, among other businesses, the ofﬁces of WXIX-TV Channel 19.
The school’s 2,000-student enrollment quickly grew to 3,080. Stowe was Cincinnati’s largest school. The building included two open-air classrooms, vocational and home-econom- ics facilities, a swimming pool, gymnasium, doctor’s ofﬁce, prenatal clinic, and an audito- rium that featured a pipe organ. The school had a national reputation for excellence and drew notable visitors such as Marian Anderson and George Washington Carver.
Even one of her critics, Wendell Dabney, publisher and editor of Cincinnati’s black Union newspaper who opposed her segregationist viewpoint, admired her and the school. “She has found time to take deep interest in the betterment of thousands of school children who have been under her jurisdiction,” Mr. Dabney wrote in 1926. “Stowe School is the only school in the city organized on a psychological basis to prove statistically that the Negro is not mentally inferior.” Dr. Porter’s 1925 master’s thesis at UC was written on the reorganization of Stowe School.
Jackson School, built in 1883 at Fifth and Mound streets, the West End, was closed during the 1950s and demolished to make way for Interstate 75 construction. Sherman, at Eighth and John, was built in 1879. Centennial Plaza now sits on that site.
A gentle side
In spite of Stowe’s extra features, Dr. Porter believed in basic education that stressed read- ing, writing and math. Porter Middle School, built in 1953 in the West End, is named in her honor. Her portrait hangs in the lobby. The school’s creed was her motto: “Take what you have and make what you want.”
“She was determined to ﬁnd students who had been left behind and get them on the road to success,” says Vera Edwards, 81, of Avondale, a UC professor emerita.
Ms. Edwards, who came to UC from her native Texas to earn her master’s degree in edu- cational psychology in 1931, considers Dr. Porter a role model for black women who went into the ﬁeld at that time. “She had great inﬂuence and was well-known,” Ms. Edwards says. “She was a taskmaster but had a gentle side.” That gentle side was expressed often in her art. Two of her paintings have been displayed in exhibits at the Cincinnati Museum Center.
She was a member of Union Baptist Church and died at her Walnut Hills home on July 3, 1936. She was still principal of Stowe School, which would close in 1962 and be turned into a vocational school. Dr. Porter never married. She was inducted in the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame in 1989. Upon her death, she left her $50,000 estate to create a trust fund for the education of black youths.
Two of her brothers, abolitionists, challenged the document in court. Mr. Berry, who received his law degree from UC in 1931, defended his former principal’s will and won the case.
Eye on life lessons
Ophthalmologist has spent 40 years prescribing medical and personal advice
February 10, 1998
‘’Howard, this is Dr. Pryor,’’ Howard Melvin Sr. said to his son.
Howard Jr., a 10-year-old fourth-grader, reached out and limply shook the eye doctor’s hand while he stared at the ﬂoor.
Before Dr. Chester Pryor would examine Howard Jr.’s eyes, he examined the boy’s behavior. ‘’Young man,’’ Dr. Pryor said, ‘’that is not the way you shake a man’s hand. You shake his hand ﬁrmly and look him in the eye.’’
‘’And then he made me practice shaking hands,’’ Dr. Howard ‘’Daryl’’ Melvin said today, 37 years later.
In almost four decades of ophthalmology practice, Chester Pryor has dispensed eye care and life lessons in equal doses. He’s as likely to diagnose a character ﬂaw as he does glaucoma or macular degeneration.
Dr. Pryor’s philosophy is based on his family upbringing and the teaching of segregated black schools: “Don’t worry what the other guy is doing, even if he’s trying to keep you down. Worry about what you can do to excel.”
So when he encourages black youths growing up in the 1990s not to use racism as a crutch, he’s not telling them anything he didn’t practice beginning in the 1930s.
‘’Disease and illness are very ubiquitous terms,’’ said Dr. Pryor, 68, of North Avondale. ‘’If people can’t take care of themselves, they’re going to be more susceptible to the things (poverty, substance abuse) that will make them sick.’’
Or as Dr. Melvin, now 47 and an ophthalmologist, said of Dr. Pryor: ‘’He talks the talk because he walks the walk. Whether he’s telling you to straighten your tie, lose a few pounds, curb your lavish spending, stop cutting church or do better in school, he has lived his life exactly to those high standards.’’ Many white doctors at Jewish, unhappy that a black doctor was interning there, ignored him in protest, Dr. Pryor says. He was rejected by many white patients who didn’t want a black doctor to examine them. His ﬁrst attempt to join the Cincinnati Ophthalmology Society was refused before a compromise allowed him to attend lectures and conferences but not the dinners that always followed.
Finally, a ranking white doctor in the society worked without Dr. Pryor’s knowledge to gain him full membership
Strength from faith
While enduring these and other racial slights, Dr. Pryor never lost his composure, said his wife of 44 years, the former Audrey Jean Keels of Bidwell, Ohio. “I never knew many of these stories,” said Mrs. Pryor, who is her husband’s ofﬁce manager. “He never came home and got upset in private. He was very consistent.”
Back then, as they still do, his days started with prayer and Bible reading. “He’d always get up 15 minutes, a half-hour early to have quiet time,” Mrs. Pryor said. “His faith is his strength. I’m the sleepy head who goes to bed early. He never sleeps more than ﬁve or six hours a night.”
But he isn’t slowing down. Dr. Pryor still sees as many as 75 patients a week in his clinic. He’s in surgery Friday morning. Part of Tuesday is spent working with University Hospital residents in the eye clinic.
Dr. Pryor is guided by the words of one of his mentors. In the 1940s, the late Dr. Raymond E. Clarke was the ﬁrst black doctor to perform surgery in a white hospital in Cincinnati. His por- trait hangs in the lobby of Dr. Pryor’s Highland Eye Medical Center in Mount Auburn.
“Dr. Clarke said to me, ‘Even if they’re wrong, always do right,’” Dr. Pryor said while look- ing at the portrait. “‘First, always do your work. Always be respectful. Always be honest and never plot revenge.’”
Chester Pryor did seek revenge once, but only once, as one of only a handful of black stu- dents at Withrow High School in the mid-1940s.
It was against a white math teacher who didn’t like black students. “He was a racist,” Dr. Pryor said. “He made fun of my clothes in class. My mother made my sweaters, and he asked me, ‘Did you get that at a pawn shop?’ The last thing he wanted to do was give me a good grade. [But] I aimed for and achieved the highest grade in the class.”
Likely to succeed
Mr. Spencer, Dr. Pryor’s middle school teacher, isn’t surprised by his former student’s success. “He was always carrying all of his books,” Mr. Spencer said. “He was strictly business.
Even when the other kids were cutting up, he was about his lessons. He always won a prize for knowing the most black history at the end of Negro History Month.”
Dr. Pryor’s boyhood friends aren’t surprised, either, by his personal and professional success. “He was always the one pointing out wrong and right and the way to improve the situ- ation,” said lifelong friend Carl Tuggle, 73, of Paddock Hills and retired Aiken High School assistant principal. “The biggest force in his life was his mother. She instilled that in him.”
Francis Pryor was born in Alabama and moved with her family to Cincinnati, where she met and later married Percy Pryor. Chester, born in Walnut Hills, was their only child.
Percy Pryor worked for more than 40 years at Provident Bank, where he was in charge of the supply room and retired as assistant secretary treasurer – the ﬁrst black ofﬁcer in the company. Francis Pryor attended Central State College (now University) in Wilberforce at the same time as her son.
She earned an education degree there and later taught business classes at Cincinnati’s Bloom School (now Bloom Middle School in the West End). She was the district’s ﬁrst black business teacher but was not allowed to teach in high schools. “My parents taught me hon- esty, respect, obedience, hard work, to stay within your means, to work in the church and in the school,” Dr. Pryor said. “We were never party people.”
The values have lasted a lifetime. Friends say Dr. Pryor’s non-work activities are serious ones. He’s involved in his boyhood church, Allen Temple AME Church in Bond Hill, and for- merly held the highest Masonic ofﬁce in the state.
As a member of the Mason’s True American Lodge No. 2 in Avondale, Dr. Pryor is most concerned with raising money for college and vocational school scholarships.
Concern for the young
Dr. Pryor has always had a heart for young people and continues to offer advice, even if many black youths today consider him outdated and meddlesome, said Dr. Melvin, his former patient and clinic mate.
“He’s the reason I became an ophthalmologist,” said Dr. Melvin, who rented ofﬁce space from Dr. Pryor for four years before opening his own clinic around the corner from his men- tor’s. “I had to do a report on the eye when I was 13, and my parents suggested I see him. I remember him being very busy but taking an hour for me. He loaned me several books that were over my head, but I did my best and got an A. After that report, I knew what I would be.” Dr. Melvin has patterned his practice after Dr. Pryor’s. “I take welfare referrals from hospi- tals, just like he does,” he said. “I’d say half of his patients, black or white, don’t pay him. But he doesn’t turn them away. He always makes time for people. He cares about people.”
He showed that concern for Dr. Melvin’s two young sons on a recent Sunday morning at Allen Temple. Dr. Melvin introduced the boys to Dr. Pryor. But they shook his hand without looking him in the eye. “I had to chuckle when Dr. Pryor sat them down to talk and make them practice shaking hands.
A Legacy in Action
Soon-to-be retired L. V. Booth steered ministry into banking and housing
February 20, 1998
In 1952, when the Rev. Lavaughn Venchael (L.V.) Booth came to town, Cincinnati’s black churches pretty much kept to the business of saving souls. But the Rev. Booth’s arrival ushered in an array of church-based economic development and social outreach programs that have forever changed the role of local black religious organizations.
He used the ﬁnancial strength of his ﬁrst Tristate congregation, Zion Baptist Church, to secure credit to build hundreds of low-income housing units and a church-run nursing home. He later established the region’s ﬁrst black-owned bank.
He often explained his actions by saying, ‘’We should have concern for the physical as well as the spiritual well-being of people.’’ The Rev. Booth is widely regarded as a visionary with the perseverance to get tough jobs done.
He latched on to the national black-empowerment trend coming out of Philadelphia’s black churches and brought it to Cincinnati.
‘’He is truly a pioneer,’’ says the Rev. Calvin Harper, 57, pastor of Morning Star Baptist Church, Walnut Hills, who worked with the Rev. Booth to open the Hamilton County State Bank in 1980. ‘’Our problem was we didn’t pick up soon enough on what Rev. Booth was doing. He was a man ahead of his time.’’
The Rev. Booth, now 79 and in his 15th year as pastor of Silverton’s Olivet Baptist Church, will retire soon, May at the latest. He plans to move to Daleville, Ind., where his wife, the for- mer Yvette Livers, 38, will be executive director of a Girl Scout council. The Rev. Booth’s ﬁrst wife, Georgia Booth, died from cancer in 1993.
“I’ve made my journey,’’ he says. ‘“I married [Yvette] to empower her. I am leaving to sup- port her.’’ They met at Olivet, which she attended upon the recommendation of her former pastor in Louisville.
“She was in a character-building organization, and I was amazed when she agreed to marry me,’’ he says. The marriage ‘’didn’t sit well with my children or the people in the church, but she’s good company. She’s understanding.’’ Yvette Livers Booth thinks her husband will keep busy in Indiana. ‘’I know him,’’ she says. ‘’He will move on and ﬁnd new challenges.’’
A storied figure
Still regarded as a “storied ﬁgure in Baptist circles,” the Rev. Booth in January came to the defense of the beleaguered Rev. Henry Lyons, president of the National Baptist Convention U.S.A. (The Rev. Lyons is accused of misusing church funds but has promised to enact reforms within the 8.5 million-member organization.)
Speaking at its winter board meeting in Los Angeles, the Rev. Booth suggested the convention cover some of the Rev. Lyons’s legal expenses, an idea that was not formally considered. The Rev. Booth’s appeal was for unity: “You have a great convention. You have a great president. You don’t have to kill a man to save a convention.”
U.S.A. (The Rev. Lyons is accused of misusing church funds but has promised to enact reforms within the 8.5 million-member organization.)
Speaking at its winter board meeting in Los Angeles, the Rev. Booth suggested the convention cover some of the Rev. Lyons’s legal expenses, an idea that was not formally considered. The Rev. Booth’s appeal was for unity: “You have a great convention. You have a great president. You don’t have to kill a man to save a convention.”
In 1961, it was the Rev. Booth and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. who founded the Progressive National Baptist Convention. It split from the National Baptist Convention and formed a denomination that would play a more active role in the civil rights movement by linking with groups such as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and providing the Rev. King a national platform. The Rev. Booth was its president from 1971 to 1974.
Progressives today have 2.5 million members in 1,800 churches. The Rev. Booth’s focus, however, was his local ministry, which he viewed as communitywide. His economic-develop- ment work won him many admirers, though he never sought the spotlight. “To God be the glory,” is his standard response to acclaim.
One admirer was then-Ohio Gov. James Rhodes, who in 1968 appointed the Rev. Booth as the ﬁrst African-American on the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees (1968), where he served until 1989.
Another admirer is ﬁnancier Carl Lindner, whose investments and donations helped the Rev. Booth establish the Hamilton County State Bank and Olivet Baptist Church and publish, in 1997, a book of poetry, Through It All … Keep on Praying (Inspiring Word Publications).
“I sensed early on that he had great leadership ability, was smart and hard working,” Mr. Lindner says in a written statement. “I was delighted to help him when he started the Hamilton County State Bank. His goal has always been to help others help themselves.”
Rev. Donald Jordan Sr. is pastor of Allen Temple AME Church in Bond Hill and a success- ful Tristate businessman: the chief operating ofﬁcer of Thompson, Hall, and Jordan Funeral Homes. “Rev. Booth believed racial progress was made by economic development,” the Rev. Jordan says. “When you judge him by his works, he stands among the elite ministers.”
The Golden Rule
The Rev. Booth’s work while Zion Baptist pastor stands as his most lasting and inﬂuential. Before he arrived, the church operated a handful of low-income housing units next to the church on West Ninth Street, but they didn’t pass his “Golden Rule” test. “Church people should not be housing other people in housing they would not live in,” he said at the time.
So he had the building leveled and replaced by a parking lot. In 1958, the church built two low-income housing developments in Westwood on Western Northern Boulevard: Shelton Gardens and Reid’s Valley View Manor. He was the ﬁrst African-American to borrow $1 million from the First National Bank (now Star Bank). He cultivated trusting relationships with First National bankers and ofﬁcials at Western-Southern Life Insurance Co., whom he still refers to as “friends.”
The construction of Interstate 75 forced Zion Baptist to move from the West End. The congregation purchased land and built a church and neighboring nursing home in Avondale another Cincinnati ﬁrst. The 50-bed Zion Nursing Home (now Zion Care Center) sits on the corner of Glenwood and Washington avenues.
In 1995, the center was expanded, adding a rehabilitation building, chapel, boardroom and dining room. J. William Poole, a 40-year Zion Baptist member and chairman of its board of deacons, is vice president and CEO of Zion Care Center, Inc. It is Medicare- and Medicaid- approved. “Rev. Booth believed that other elderly facilities were not up to par,” Mr. Poole says. “He had great vision and stamina to make this a reality.” Three more multi-unit apartment buildings were developed by the church under the Rev. Booth’s direction, bringing to 339 the number of units under church control. Four of the ﬁve facilities are for elderly residents, and each is operated in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). He also had a hand in the develop- ment of Avondale Town Center.
Zion Baptist was also the base from which he worked to establish the black-controlled bank. Mr. Lindner contributed almost $1 million to help the Rev. Booth found the Hamilton County State Bank in 1980. It closed in 1987, and its $14 million in assets were purchased by Provident Bank, of which Mr. Linder is the majority shareholder.
It was the Rev. Booth’s activity outside the church that led to problems inside. “Some younger people in the church were concerned with its ﬁnancial might and political power,” he says. “There was much discontent in the church. Some people thought I was giving too much to community service and neglecting the church. Membership had dropped from 1,000 to 700.”
Looking back, he admits he wasn’t good at delegating responsibility and that some members didn’t feel they could have a signiﬁcant role in the church. The Rev. Booth resigned in 1984, and 88 Zion members followed him to his current church, Olivet Baptist. Mr. Lindner again provided ﬁnancial assistance, and the Rev. Booth says he will leave the church with only a $129,000 mortgage balance and manageable monthly payments.
A high point in Olivet’s history was allowing the ﬂedgling Marva Collins Preparatory School to operate rent-free in the church basement for three years. It opened at Olivet in 1990 with 43 students and two teachers and moved to a Roselawn building in 1993. Named for Chi- cago educator Marva Collins, the local school educates children considered to be unteachable. Today, it has 201 students and 13 teachers.
When school organizers needed a home, “it was kind of automatic to go to Rev. Booth,” says Cleaster V. Mims, Collins school CEO and board president, who taught English at West- ern Hills High School for 27 years. “Some of the ministers are very reactionary, but Rev. Booth was always proactive. If you wanted to get something started, you could go to him.”
Letting the Collins School establish itself was consistent with the Rev. Booth’s ministerial style, said Paul Booth, 43, the youngest of L.V. and Georgia Booth’s ﬁve children. “He saw all of this as a way the church could serve the community,” says Mr. Booth, a local property manager, board president of the Citizens’ Committee on Youth and former Cincinnati Council member. His siblings include a Baptist minister, pediatrician, attorney and another professional property manager.
Family is important to L.V. Booth.
When he was honored by Zion Baptist in 1977 for 25 years of service, he said: “I think one of my greatest achievements is in bringing up our own children and getting them to make the most of their talents to serve the community. If we had not been able to do this, all other things would have been lacking.”
Through the years, the Rev. Booth maintained a low proﬁle and said little about himself. “He was not the marcher,” his son says. “He worked behind the scenes to get things done.”
The Rev. Booth will continue to work. He plans to write the histories of Zion Baptist families who were involved when the church was a stop on the Underground Railroad. He has no complaints as his service to Cincinnati comes to an end. “My ministry has been a giving ministry, but in giving I have received a great deal,” he says. “There’s a little bit of hurt and loneliness sometimes because I will not be with familiar people and things. But my adventur- ous spirit tells me there is more ahead. You don’t know what is out there. I’ve worked by faith through the years and will continue to work by faith.”
The children came first
For more than 30 years, Margaret “Nanny” Andrews has kept an eye on the community’s youngest
February 26, 1998
Before it was a tired political slogan, the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” was the code by which Margaret “Nanny” Andrews lived.
She never met a child she couldn’t love, and her concern for children has grown into a child-care business that is one of the black community’s most trusted institutions.
Mrs. Andrews, 85, known widely as Nanny, didn’t plan to watch more than 1,000 Tristate kids over all the years. It was her desire to help out a young neighbor that gave rise to what today is Nanny’s Multilevel Learning Center on Reading Road in Avondale.
The time was the mid-1960s. “The gal across the street got a good job at the courthouse, too good to pass up, except she didn’t have anyone to watch her baby,” Nanny says. “I knew I could help her out.” She remembers her ﬁrst kid’s name – Steven.
Nanny sits in the parlor of her Avondale home, surrounded by dozens of family pictures and hundreds of dolls and stuffed animals that have become the traditional parting gift of appreciative parents and kindergarten-age children.
“I have a whole bag of teddy bears in the closet,” she says. Arthritis and a 1991 heart attack forced her to “retire,” though she daily ﬁnds herself in the company of children who ﬁnd their way into her home.
It was that way from the beginning.
“I didn’t have to go out and get a job,” she says. “The jobs came to me.”
A week after she took in her ﬁrst child, she had a second. The following week she was caring for four preschoolers. Word of her devotion to children spread from mother to mother.
One of Nanny’s ﬁrst families was that of a classmate in adult night school at Stowe School in the West End. Nanny earned her GED in 1963, more than 30 years after she left high school in her native Johnstown, Pennsylvania, to marry and have a child.
The friend told her sister about Nanny. A single mother, Margo Lattimore took her daugh- ter, Alicia, to Nanny when the girl was 3. She stayed for two years, and even after she entered school, Alicia wanted to visit Nanny on weekends.
“It was always more than a day-care center at Nanny’s,” says Ms. Lattimore, now 46, of Kennedy Heights and a retired Cincinnati Bell technician. “She treated kids like they were part of her family.” Many mothers turned to Nanny for advice.
“You could talk to her about anything,” Ms. Lattimore says. “She never made you feel rushed, and she always gave you a thoughtful answer. She never steered me wrong.”
Ms. Lattimore never missed a payment, but some families did. Nanny put children’s well- being ahead of her own, say the Tristate parents who have known her for three decades. Single parents pulling weekend military hitches and those parents with drug or alcohol problems left their children at Nanny’s home for days – even weeks – at a time.
“I always said, ‘Just pay me when you can,’” Nanny says.
Then came trouble
By the mid-1970s, Nanny and a small staff were caring for 40 children in a child-care center she had established in her remodeled basement. She charged no late pick-up penalties. Some people did take advantage of her, she says, and Nanny’s generosity and inability to turn anyone away got her into trouble.
In March 1982, after receiving complaints about the trafﬁc congestion Nanny’s busi- ness was causing her neighbors, the Cincinnati Health Department’s Child Day Care Licensing Ofﬁce investigated in conjunction with building and ﬁre ofﬁcials. They found Nanny’s day care in violation because there was only one basement exit and too many children.
“It was not in the best interest to close her down and push 40 children into ‘underground’ day care,” says Bonnie Cipollone, the health department ofﬁcial who investigated. “We worked with her.” She helped Nanny ﬁnd a new location in the basement of a Walnut Hills church and get a license for 56 children. But in a year, the health department took Nanny to court for violating her license. At one point, she was watching 95 children.
“Ms. Andrews always wanted to do the right thing,” Ms. Cipollone says. “She wanted to comply with the regulations, but I wasn’t there every day watching. She had to choose between what she saw as two ‘right things.’ Complying or watching children.”
After her court appearance, in which Nanny was ﬁned $50 and court costs, she found a larger facility in another church. Nanny’s daughter, LaVerne Briggs, who had been teaching in the center, gradually took control of the business; she also completed child development courses at the University of Cincinnati. In 1988, Nanny’s moved to its current location on Reading Road. Today, Nanny’s serves 50 children, with 13 on a waiting list. In a time of upheaval about child-care staff turnover, Nanny’s ﬁve employees have been there an average of almost 10 years.
A second mother
While locations changed, customer satisfaction has not. Evelyne Butts, 41, of Madisonville took her two sons to Nanny’s. “To me, she was like a second mother,” Joey Butts, 16, a sopho- more at Hughes Center high school, says of Nanny. He and his brother, Everett, 13, were under Mrs. Andrews’ care.
Mrs. Butts remembers how hard Nanny worked. Beyond the traditional nap, lunch, and arts-and-crafts fare, she took children on ﬁeld trips to pumpkin patches, museums, and around the city to see the lights.
“She really brought with her the knowledge and wisdom of a lifetime and shared it with the children and families,” says Mrs. Butts, a systems analyst with Jewish Hospital.
Nanny, known as June Bug to her father, grew up in an environment that cultivated a car- ing heart. The late Hobert B. Hawkins nurtured that natural empathy. At age 9, young Marga- ret noticed that the girl who lived across the street – Queenie, who was 7 – wore a threadbare winter coat.
“I said to her, ‘Queenie, my dad will buy you a coat,’” Nanny says. “She said, ‘My brother needs shoes.’ I went to Daddy. He said, ‘Now what is it June Bug?’ I said, ‘Queenie needs a coat.’ He said, ‘Not tonight. Tomorrow.’ The next day, Queenie had her coat and her brother had his shoes.”
Her heart stayed soft despite years of hard work and disappointment. In 1932, she owned and operated Margaret’s Snack Shack and a rooming house in Johnstown. A lease misunder- standing forced her to close in a year. She thought she had signed for ﬁve years.
Later, during the Depression, she made a living from a private nightclub she opened in Florence, S.C. During World War II, she was called to Cincinnati to collect an inheritance that didn’t materialize. She had planned to use the money to build a hotel in Florence.
She stayed in the area. She moved to Springﬁeld, Ohio, and went to work for the railroad, in a farm tractor factory, as a theater ticket taker. She had been a seafood cook in the South.
“A living saint”
She moved to Cincinnati in 1962 and was hired as an in-home nurse for a Clifton man. Four years later, when they parted ways, the man’s wife gave Nanny a music box she had received as a wedding present. It hangs on a wall in Nanny’s parlor.
She volunteered as a reading instructor and babysitter at Avondale’s Burton Elementary, near her home. All the while, she let people – adults, families, children – stay with her in her home.
“She is a Christian soldier, a living saint,” says Sharon Rogers, 42, of Bond Hill. Nanny watched her son, who’s now 14.
“One little girl stands out,” says Mrs. Rogers, who works in the University of Cincinnati’s public relations department. The child, age 2, was being neglected. Nanny made arrange- ments with the family to keep the girl and tried to adopt her, which didn’t work out. Nanny cared for her, off and on, until the girl was in kindergarten and reunited with family, an aunt.
Nanny paid for the girl’s upbringing like she was her own and not once, friends say, did she take public assistance money to defray her costs. She got out of the business in 1991 when she suffered the heart attack. Mrs. Briggs, now 68, runs a tighter ship than her mother did. “It’s a business,” she says. “You have to be this way. Times have changed.”
What endures is her mother’s legacy of selﬂess love for children.
“She always believed God would provide for her if she did his work,” Mrs. Briggs says. “She’s true to God and to her culture as an African-American. Part of our heritage is to stay together and look out for each other. We had to.
The heart of a lion
Founder in 1985 of the Women of Color Quilters Network, Carolyn Mazloomi is honored for her quilts and her many achievements
February 1, 2014
Carolyn Mazloomi searched through piles of quilts in her sprawling basement studio.
She ﬁnally came upon the one she was looking for, “one that will get me in trouble around here,” she said. She pinned the black-and-white quilt, titled “Certain Restrictions Do Apply,” to a fabric wall. At its center is the Statue of Liberty holding a stop sign and surrounded by small boats carrying people of color.
“It was inspired by the Haitian people who lost their lives trying to get to Miami,” she said of the 2013 piece. “I don’t advocate people coming illegally, but everyone should be treated fairly when trying to emigrate.”
For African-Americans quilting is a way to keep history alive, and Mazloomi’s work is ﬁlled with historical themes that often connect to a shared African experience. During this Black History Month, she will be one of four people honored Friday as Glorifying the Lions award winners by the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio at its 65th annual meeting.
The name of the award, presented to people 65 or older, originates in the African proverb that says, “Until the lions have their own historian, tales of hunting will always glorify the hunter.”
Mazloomi works in narrative quilts. Subject matter includes the African-American experience during the civil rights movement and music, especially jazz and blues, an interest inspired by an aunt who owned a Louisiana juke joint. Her own experiences add to the richness of her work.
Born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in a family of amateur painters and artists, Mazloomi ended up in California. She graduated from Northrop University in Inglewood, and worked in Los Angeles as an aerospace engineer. She earned a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from the University of Southern California in 1984 and continued her career as a crash site investigator for the Federal Aviation Administration. She has a pilot’s license.
She describes her life as “family, art, and airplanes.”
Family led her to Ohio. Some 20 years ago, she and her husband, Rezvan Mazloomi, an engineer originally from Iran, wanted a better place to bring up their three sons.
“L.A. is not where I wanted to raise them,” she said. “My children got very good educa- tions here and were safe.” Two of her sons – they’re all in their 30s – live and work locally.
It’s here that her career as an artist, historian, author, and exhibit curator took off. An exhibition of her work just returned from a two-year tour of museums in China. Spon- sored by the U.S. Department of State, the exhibit opened in Shanghai and closed at the Beijing Museum of Women.
Her quilts have been included in ﬁve exhibitions at the Smith- sonian’s Renwick Gallery. Her artwork can be found in many museums and corporate collec- tions, such as the Wadsworth Museum, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, American Museum of Design, Bell Telephone, the Cleveland Clinic, and Exxon.
Founder of the Women of Color Quilters Network, she is one of six artists commissioned to create artwork for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. She is curator of an exhibit opening in July in Johannesburg that pays tribute to the late South African President Nelson Mandela. In 2003, Mazloomi was awarded the ﬁrst Ohio Heritage Fellowship Award, recognizing her as one of the state’s living cultural treasures.
For all of her personal acclaim and standing, Mazloomi didn’t forget the women who depended on quilting for a livelihood. It was in 1985 that she founded the Quilters Network, a nonproﬁt designed to preserve and foster the art of quiltmaking among women of color. Work of the 1,700 network members has been displayed nationally and internationally.
Kathy Wade, a longtime friend and jazz vocalist and educator, said Mazloomi “is a genius, a quiet genius, she has all that aeronautics and math and geometry plus the understanding of the need to present our history.”
Women are an important subject to Mazloomi. “It’s our charge to raise decent human beings,” she said. “In my work, it doesn’t matter their color. I try to remind women that they are the caretakers of the world.”
Her quilt “Grandmother’s Love” shows an elderly woman in her garden surrounding by grandchildren. “No Greater Love” illustrates a woman holding a child.
Promoting an art form and preserving African-American history are her goals, even if writing and curating have taken time away from her own art.
“Here as African-Americans we always learned about other folks’ history,” Mazloomi said. “Most white folks don’t know our history. Art in any medium is the greatest educator. Art
brings humankind together.”
A Syrian refugee bonds with a survivor of the Jim Crow South in a shoe repair shop
July 26, 2017
The storefront smells of fresh leather, glue, and rubber, circulated into a mixture by the small industrial fan above the door.
An older man, a life-long Christian who worked with his parents in the cotton ﬁelds of the Jim Crow South, takes an unblemished pair of men’s soles and heels from a shelf.
He hands them to a younger man, smaller and bearded, who speaks no English beyond basic greetings, he says through an Arabic interpreter. He is a Muslim from Syria, a refugee displaced by his country’s civil war.
The men wear identical blue golf shirts and full-length aprons. The older man holds out a well-worn pair of dress shoes. With a thick, almost muscular right index ﬁnger the color of dark chocolate, he taps the heel and the sole, twice each. The Syrian man nods. From beneath the bills of their matching baseball caps, they make eye contact, smile, and head toward oppo- site ends of Clarence Howell Shoe Repair in Pleasant Ridge.
The relationship of Clarence Howell, 78, and Bassam Osman, 36, is built on shared expertise in shoemaking and repair and shared experiences as outsiders looking for a safe place.
“When I met him, he reminded me of myself,” Howell said in a deep voice still dripping with rural Georgia after 57 years in Cincinnati.
Osman, the married father of (now) ﬁve children – the latest a U.S.-citizen son born earlier this month – came from the city of Aleppo, where war has claimed 31,000 lives and destroyed 33,000 buildings. He worked in a shoe factory before it was bombed.
Osman ﬂed ﬁrst in December 2011 to Turkey with a seriously ill daughter, before uniting his family in a United Nations camp there. After two years of intense vetting involving ﬁve interviews and document searches, the family arrived in July in Cincinnati.
Osman and his family members are among the 86 Syrian refugees resettled here since July 1, 2016, by Catholic Charities Southwestern Ohio. The agency celebrated World Refugee Day locally June 17.
Men find refuge in Cincinnati, five decades apart
The Osman family arrived six months before the Trump administration announced a ban that seeks to prevent most travel from Syria and six other predominantly Muslim countries.
The ban, almost all parts of which have been blocked by federal courts, also seeks to sus- pend the U.S. refugee program for 120 days. It was spelled out in an executive order called “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” that President Trump signed January 27.
Despite some strong opposition to Syrian refugees entering the country, Osman said he has experienced a positive reception here. “It is a very kind nation. In Turkey, my kids were called scavengers and dirty,” he said.
Howell can relate to name-calling and second-class citizenship. He grew up with it.
“If you met a white lady, you had to turn your head and look away, or they would hang you,” he said of his years in Georgia. “We had to sit upstairs in theaters. I remember being 11 or 12 when my mother was working in the ﬁelds. She said we couldn’t be playing when Mr. Charlie – he was the white man in the truck – drove past.”
So when a Catholic Charities volunteer introduced Osman and Howell in November, the shop owner decided to give him the same chance he received when he came to Cincinnati in 1960 and landed a factory job. “I had to cross the same kind of line he had to cross,” Howell said. “I try to help people who gone through what I gone through. I know when you’re shuckin’ and jivin’ me. Bassam ain’t doing that. Some Jewish people helped me when I got here and didn’t hold nothing against me.”
Three hours a day in the shop turned to four and quickly to full-time work for Osman.
Howell switched a former full-time worker to part-time to make room for him.
Osman’s salary rose from $9 an hour to $10 to $10.50 and ﬁnally to its current $11. “He’s a hard worker. He’s very grateful. He gets the job done, he’s not lazy,” Howell said. “At 6 o’clock, the American workers stop, sometimes at 10 minutes of 6. Bassam is working at 6:20 to ﬁnish a job. He works fast. I have to tell him he doesn’t have to work so fast.”
“I have nephews and grandkids who don’t work like that.”
Sometimes, Howell will ﬁx one shoe and have Osman repair the other. “Never need to show him twice,” Howell said. “He can do everything I can do if I show him.”
Howell worked the front desk on a slow summer morning. Osman was in the back of the shop at a machine called a master ﬁnisher that resembles a standing, encased power sander. He inked and polished a new pair of men’s heels. He put the shoes on a shelf in front of a box fan to dry.
Job central to long-term independence
Osman’s job complements the web of supports he has received since resettling here.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops provides $1,075 for each refugee to use upon their arrival. Catholic Charities administers that money to help families set up a household.
The local Syrian American Foundation provided the Osman family with furniture for its Roselawn apartment. They attend services at the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati in West Chester Township.
He said his children’s teachers at Roselawn Condon School have helped them learn English and adapt to American culture. A Catholic Charities volunteer tutors them.
Osman saved enough to buy a used car. By the eighth month here, he had to start to repay the U.S. State Department for the airfare and travel loan.
For all of the assistance, most of Osman’s affection is directed toward Howell, whom he calls “Uncle” in English.
“He is a great man. I can tell he cares about me and my family,” Osman said.
Osman’s children decorated eggs during their ﬁrst Easter season in the United States.
They gave some to Howell.
“They love him, too. They run up to him and hug his legs,” said Osman, who smiled at the memory as he rubbed his thin, dark beard with his right hand. “My kids know I am happy when I come home from work.”
For all of his good fortune, Osman faces challenges. Two of his children, a son and his oldest child, a daughter, Zulekha, have Wilson’s disease. It is a rare inherited disorder that causes copper to accumulate to dangerous levels in the liver. They are treated with medication by doctors at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Zulekha was twice misdiagnosed in Turkish hospitals with liver cancer and given chemotherapy. Another Turkish doctor said she needed a transplant.
Howell, a grandfather and the married father of three adult daughters, understands Osman’s need to be with his children at the hospital. Sometimes, visits can take four hours. The children will require lifetime treatment for the disease, which can worsen and have seri- ous side effects.
No such complications exist at the shoe repair shop.
“The way he treats me, he makes me want to give 100 percent to him all the time,” Osman said. “We do not speak the same language. We know we love each other.”
Said Howell, matter-of-factly, “I feel like he’s a family member. I love him like he’s one of my brothers.”