By Rebecca Bryson, Advocacy & Education Chair
On April 26th, members of the Junior League of Cincinnati had the opportunity to tour the Urban League of Cincinnati’s new Center for Social Justice and a new local business. We began the tour by visiting a locally owned Black business, Saturday Morning Vibes (@smvcerealbar on Instagram) and hearing from Arielle, one of the co-owners. Saturday Morning Vibes is a cereal bar that aims to bring back the magic of a childhood Saturday morning. Think cartoons, video games, and over 80 different types of cereal. Arielle spoke with us about how her idea came together, opening a business in Avondale, and the community outreach they’ve done so far. If you’re in the area, we highly recommend checking out Saturday Morning Vibes and treating yourself to a cereal shake.
The next part of the tour, led by Gina Goings of the Urban League, was focused on the new Center for Social Justice. The building is nearing completion, and the Urban League is hoping to take occupancy soon. In 2020, the Urban League created a program called the Center for Social Justice which is a regional catalyst for collaborative police reform efforts between communities and police departments in Southwestern OH. The program has been running out of the Urban League’s headquarters off Reading Road in Avondale. To understand the significance of the Center’s location, it’s important to understand Avondale. If you are familiar with Cincinnati, you may be familiar with Avondale and its reputation. What you might not know is that Avondale has been a food desert for close to twenty years. Oxford dictionary defines a food desert as “an urban area in which it is difficult to buy affordable and good-quality fresh food.” This is especially difficult for community members who rely on public transportation, which forces them to either ride the bus to get groceries (imagine trying to lug grocery bags on a bus!) or to shop at local food marts, which are often more expensive and lack fresh food options. Soon after the announcement of the new grocery store, the Urban League was approached by the operator of the grocery store to see if they were interested in taking occupancy in the other half of the building, which then began the physical location of the Center for Social Justice.
The Center will be a safe space for the community of Avondale to receive support. The current work scope for the Center for Social Justice includes policy advocacy, data collection and reporting, developing community-centered solutions, and monitoring reforms. At the new Center, the Urban League is hoping to offer technology training, personal finance training (currently offered at the existing location), and mental health services. The Urban League is specifically hoping to find Black mental health professionals so that the community can receive help from someone that looks like them. The space will also be rented out for meeting and events. This, combined with the new grocery store, will be transformational to the Avondale community. To celebrate, the Urban League is planning a grand opening (Date/Time TBD). Additionally, they will host a community event celebrating Juneteenth. We had a great time learning and touring, and hope to schedule another one soon.