I arrived early yesterday morning in the beautiful city of Cincinnati, Ohio, my college nickname’s namesake (Joey Cincinnati). From Wikipedia I have gained the knowledge that Cincinnati was orininally called Losantiville:
“Losantiville” from four terms, each of different language, meaning “The city opposite the mouth of the Licking River.” “Ville” is French for “city,” “anti” is Greek for “opposite,” “os” is Latin for “mouth,” and “L” was all that was included of “Licking River.”
Indeed. I am here with my theatre company Big Picture Group to participate in the Cincinnati Fringe Festival opposite the mouth of the licking river. We are furthering our production of TRUE+FALSE.
With no one else around today I was able to take in the city. The best way to get to know a city is by walking it. Although I didn’t charge myself with the task of walking the entire city, I did set out to get to know my immediate area. Our company is being housed in an arts complex on the southern border of Over the Rhine and Downtown. I started out on a giant loop around the area. First north on Vine up to 13th. Right to Main. Main all the way down to 3rd Street which is where The Taste of Cincinnati was happening this memorial day weekend. Then it was over to Elm and all the way back up to 14th Street. I was getting some looks mostly on the North side of Central Parkway, which is apparently the dividing line between Over the Rhine and Downtown. I got a “what’s up big man?” from a kid hanging out with his girlfriend. And as I walked between Race Street and Republic on 14th I heard some shouting from down the block near Washington park. “White boy!” It could’ve been anyone really, if there had been any other white boys in the vicinity. “White boy!” I don’t think the Mohawk is helping here. “Go the fuck home white boy!”
I can’t say that it didn’t affect me. I’m still not sure what I think about it. Am I a white punk gentrifying this man’s neighborhood for the week? Why am I getting yelled at here, but not a couple blocks south?
When I got back to the arts complex I’m staying in, I started doing some research on the history of the area. Most notable are the 2001 riots sparked from the death of Timothy Thomas. Thomas, 19, was shot in a dark alley by officer Stephen Roach who was later cleared of criminal charges. Thomas was unarmed. Thomas was wanted and had a number of warrants out for his arrest. Among them, he was wanted for driving without a seatbelt.
There are a plethora of articles on this subject that I’ve found through a simple google search or two, and none of them stand out as anything authoritative, in fact, they seem to contradict one another in a number of small ways.
One video produced by the extremely and frighteningly racistCouncil of Concervative Citizens (cofcc.org) is a
scary really fucking scary example of a big part of the problem in racial tensions in cities like Cincinnati. Sad.
Midway through my research, I decided to head down to The Taste of Cincinnati downtown. There I ran into several beached-whales of red-skinned boozy business men and their families, I met a kid working for a company that is giving away a free luxury car, I met a police woman named Stella who didn’t want to talk about the local shelters Cincinnati has to offer, and I talked at length with Anthony Merit, a homeless man living in Cincinnati his entire life.
I’ve started writing about the experience, his story, and am trying to actively weave something together for T+F. Anthony’s story is very much true, he just doesn’t have a venue withing which to tell it. Much more on this later. For now I am excited to continue to explore this area in the minimal amounts of free time we’ll have here.
I will continue to post about BPG’s time at the Cincy Fringe here. Everyone arrives today. Here we go.