CINCINNATI — Tim'm West crisscrossed the country teaching before he ever thought about returning to his hometown. It took a couple of key moments to bring him back.
"I wanted to live somewhere where I could have an immediate impact," West said. "I came back to Cincinnati, in part, because I heard that the school board at the time had created an inclusiveness policy."
West lived and taught in places like New York City, Atlanta, Chicago, DC, Houston and the Bay Area. But he always claimed Cincinnati as home, having grown up on Race Street in Over-the-Rhine. He saw his opportunity here again.
"It's just, it's creating a space where young people don't feel like they have to leave the city in order to be who they are," he said.
West is the senior managing director for Teach for America's National Prism Alliances, its LGBTQ community initiative. He's a poet and songwriter. He serves on several boards. He's a national authority on diversity, equity and inclusion. And he co-founded Cincinnati Black Pride.
"I think the promise of Cincinnati Black Pride is that we can help create a city that becomes great," he said. "Instead of following, what if Cincinnati became a leader around inclusion? What if people came to Cincinnati and said, 'Wow, like, we want to be like them when it comes to this thing'?"
In 2021, Cincinnati Black Pride is aligning its programming around Juneteenth, the June 19 holiday celebrating the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States.
"It's not just about pushing white-led, white-dominant LGBT organizations to think about how we can be more diverse," West said. "It's also about pushing and challenging Black-led organizations like the NAACP, the Cincinnati Urban League to think, not everybody in the Black community is straight."
West's background as an educator also drives his passion for inclusion. He grew up having just one Black male teacher, and none who openly identified as LGBT.
"All of the kids deserve an opportunity to learn to be affirmed in their classroom, and you can't teach someone that doesn't feel good about themselves," he said. "Part of my motivation for teaching was being the teacher I'd never had."
Blocks from his Northside home, he's a regular at Chase Elementary to do just that — be a walking, talking example for young people. He's on the local school decision-making committee there.
"Let's make sure that Cincinnati is beautiful, not just in terms of the landscape and all that, but our character," West said. "So people just think of this as a really great place to be."
For his efforts at inclusion — starting with kids — and making Cincinnati a leader in the spacer, Tim'm West is one of the Tri-State's Points of Pride.
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