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Judge Joan Synenberg Leads gun violence forum

Judge Joan Synenberg

Judge Joan Synenberg led a forum attended by more than 300 a community forum on Ending Gun Violence and Criminal Justice Reform last Thursday July 7 at Greater Abyssinia Baptist Church.

The participants engaged in a passionate conversation with a five-person panel that addressed the persistent nature of gun violence and steps toward ending the violence.

Moderated by Pastor Aaron Phillips, the panel included Coach Ted Ginn Sr., Cleveland Chief of Police Calvin Williams, Common Pleas Judge Synenberg, Rev. Dr. C Jay Matthews and local attorney Sherrie Miday.

Ted Ginn Sr. set the stage with an impassioned plea to change the culture of guns. Coach Ginn was able to boast about the high graduation rate and model for excellence that Ginn Academy holds in our community. Yet, Mr. Ginn also chose to address the murders of recent graduates and his own nephew.

Cleveland Chief of Police Calvin Williams implored the audience to look inward and to hold each other and be accountable while pledging to continue working on improvements to the police force. Chief Williams reminded the audience there have been 120 shootings in Cleveland residents this year and none of these shootings were committed by the Cleveland Police Department. Chief Williams implored the audience to take greater responsibility for our neighborhoods, “the Police can’t solve this problem without the local community.”

Judge Synenberg spoke about her long crusade to look for the inherent good in people and her believing in second chances. Judge Joan informed the audience that she has the only Supreme Court Certified Recovery Court in the State of Ohio. Judge Joan’s Recovery Court is choosing to help people who commit non-violent crimes and who suffer from drug addiction and metal disabilities by sentencing them to treatment and programming instead of prison. Judge Joan stated “we must give people a Second Chance. Sometimes that means multiple chances at a Second Chance.”

Attorney Miday spoke about her passion to keep children safe in our homes. Educating children about gun safety is important. Parents must take responsibility to educate their children on the danger of guns safely stored in the home. Attorney Miday reminded the audience that violence is never the solution. Attorney Miday stated “The Civil Rights Movement was marked by Non-Violent Peaceful Demonstrations; she is committed to changing our gun culture society by using the principals of non-violent civil rights movement.”

Rev. Dr. C. Jay Matthews, Pastor Mt. Sinai Baptist Church and Friendship Baptist Church, highlighted the need for investment beyond the downtown area. “You can’t change the streets until you change the street,” he remarked. Rev. Matthews called for a community investment strategy guided by three initiatives: police accountability; local investment; and voter registration.”

Representing Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, former Chief of Staff John Hairston and current Chief of Staff Rev. Kevin McDaniel spoke about the congresswoman’s work in convening a youth advisory council on violence. The council is a byproduct of the high school forum attended by more than 400 students held last year on violence. The youth advisory council will report out to the clergy and others on recommendations to stop the violence.

Rev. Dr. E. T. Caviness, of Greater Abyssinia, said, “During these critical times the Clergy, parishioners, community leaders and community activists must unite and partner with Law Enforcement, Judges and Elected Officials to End the Violence that plagues our Community.”

Also in attendance was Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Democratic Candidate, Michael C. O’Malley. Mr. O’Malley recently won a historic election, unseating Democrat Incumbent Mr. Timothy McGinty. Mr. O’Malley victory was largely contributed by garnering an overwhelming majority of the African-American vote which was led by the African-American Clergy of Greater Cleveland. This was the first time an incumbent prosecutor lost in Cuyahoga County.

The Forum was supported by many Community Leaders and Community Activist. One of the key Community Leaders that made this event a success was Mr. Mike Nelson from the Glenville area. Mr. Nelson is a protégée of Ms. Fannie Lewis and continues to follow her tradition of staying focused on improving our neighborhoods. The Cleveland PeaceMakers Alliance also participated in this forum. After introducing each member, President Sharyn Cloud spoke about their unwavering and courageous work to take back the streets.

The forum concluded with a group picture representing workers committed to making a difference. Pastor Phillips stated that the Clergy Coalition is channeling the energy into its first major initiative which is a voter registration drive. The drive will focus on Voters who were recently removed from the Voter Rolls by the current Secretary of State. The Clergy Coalition is putting 150 canvassers to go door to door to confirm registration and re-register voters for the November Election.

In addition The Clergy Coalition will continue to host community forums to address issues facing our community. The next Community Forum will specifically engage African-American Young Adults. The forum will be “Guns Down and Votes Up Summit!” in August. For further information contact Pastor Aaron L. Phillips, (216) 889-7844.

In attendance were the following pastors: Rev. Dr. E.T. Caviness, Pastor Aaron Phillips, Pastor C.V. Berry, Bishop Eugene Ward, Rev. Dr. C Jay Matthews, Rev. Dr. Hilton Smith, Rev. Dr. L.T. King, Rev. T.J. Caviness, Rev. Dr. Leon Thompson, Rev. Lorenzo Norris, Minister Mary Davis, Rev. Anthony Smalls, Rev. Dr. Larry Wayne Howard, Rev. Nate Simpson, Rev. Dan Smith, Elder Theodore Shelton III, Rev. DaVaughn Sims, Rev. Donald Newsome, Rev. George Stewart, Rev. Rebecca Stitt, Rev. Ben Gholstin, Rev. Steven D. Sullivan, Rev. Bobbie Laster, Rev. Leonard Knight, Rev. Dr. David Hunter, Rev. McDougall, Pastor Grady Stevenson, Khalid Smad, Rev. Raymond Collins, Rev. Jeff Jemison, Rev. Eric Howard, Rev. Leonard Killings, Rev. Edward Walton, Rev. Robert Vaughn, Rev. Anthony Sweeney, Rev. Wendell Nix, Rev. P. Lee Robinson.

The Clergy Coalition includes: Baptist Ministers Conference, Rev. Dr. L.T. King President, and United Pastors in Mission, Bishop Larry Macon President, Baptist Pastor Council, Rev. Dr. H Gater, Mt. Pleasant Clergy Alliance, Rev. Dr. Larry Harris President, East Cleveland Concerned Pastors, Pastor Shawn Braxton President, and Federation of Churches President Rev. Dr. Andrew Clark.

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