The ‘Bridge that bridges' the racial divide in one local community

CLEVELAND - “It can bring people together...it is hard to be mad or angry, when you're painting," Gwen Grath, Lead Artist on the project, the ‘Bridge that Bridges.’

Unity, Justice, Togetherness are all goals of Cleveland's campus district's newest project that’s tackling the hot topic of race.

“We wanted to use this opportunity to have discussions about that, about structural racism about individual racism and create a mural I can connect the two and brings it back together," said Kaela Geschke, Community Organizer from the non-profit Campus District Inc,

Group member, Cordell Arellano knows all about racism's effects.

“Whether it affects a kid directly or indirectly, it's a challenge now," he said.

Growing up Mexican and Black, he tells me racism slapped him hard in the face when he went to prison at 18 years old.

“The security guards they were making a lot of slander, a lot of racist comments... not knowing I wasn't a black man,” said Arellano.

Now he's changed his life around; he joined the group to make a difference.

"I felt like this was the job for me," he said.

The group, made up of folks living and working on both sides of the bridge in the central neighborhood, spent weeks having difficult, yet open conversations about race and then tattooing their thoughts alongside this bridge.

“We chose this bridge because it's a dividing line between kind of downtown and the central neighborhood... and that's just one example of structural racism," said Geschke.

“In our discussions sometimes it was scary to talk about differences in how people see one another, and then when we began to draw together it's really you access not the judgement part of your brain... you're in the spirit part of you," explained Jan Thrope, another group member.

What started out as a small project, grew into a full on community activity with people passing by jumping in.

“People come pass who were in the car, getting off from work and they stopped, and they kept coming back," Garth expressed.

It's something Arellano hopes will catch on throughout our society.

“Because this bridge is here, a lot of people are becoming connected," he said.

Final touches on the bridge will be completed late this week. The group is already getting interest from other communities wanting a similar idea in their neighborhoods.

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