Welcome to the first article in the WCPO.com series, “Black in Cincinnati.” In this series, we invite people to write honest and personal stories of their life in the Queen City. Do you have a story about being black in Cincinnati? Let us know. You can scroll to the bottom for contact information.
Mona Harrison Morrow is a native Cincinnatian and WCPO's director of community affairs.
This is my home and I love it here. This is my story.
I grew up in Kennedy Heights with two parents and a brother in a single-family house. I had a fairytale childhood with wonderful parents who worked and took us on vacations every summer. We loved Kennedy Heights and lived in two different houses there. In fact, we just sold my parents’ home on Woodford Road a few years ago.
Kennedy Heights was a neighborhood designed in the 1960s to be a multiracial community. I attended Kennedy Elementary School, which had a diverse population of black, white and Jewish students. In elementary school, I knew I was black and it made no significant difference in my life.
'Just part of who I was'
Being black was just part of who I was. I never thought of others as better or worse than me. I didn’t understand segregation because my neighbors and school friends were diverse.
I wasn’t aware of bigotry or racism against me, but thinking back, it probably happened, I just didn’t internalize it. However, I do remember that most of the birthday parties I attended were all black.
I had a similar experience at Walnut Hills High School in the '70s, where our class was about 30 percent black. I remember fighting for the school to select a black cheerleader, but class officers and other activities were racially mixed. I received a great education and social experience at Walnut Hills and thanks to Facebook, I am still connected to many of my classmates.
'Life outside my small world'
It wasn’t until I left Cincinnati to go to college at the University of Akron that I began to understand that outside my small world of Cincinnati, Kennedy Heights and Walnut Hills High School, racism and bigotry were rampant.
It was a bit of a culture shock and made me reflect more about my life and whether I was sheltered from it or just oblivious.
I returned to Cincinnati for good in 1984 after graduate school at Miami University. I found a job in my field immediately and have been blessed to have an amazing career in my hometown.
I’ve learned a lot about being black in Cincinnati over the years. My awakening was the realization that not every black person in Cincinnati had my experience.
'I see the disparities in our communities'
I listen to people whose life, largely because they are black, is far from a fairy tale. I see the disparities in our communities and have an appreciation for those who are working hard to eliminate them.
I know that I owe a lot to the many people in Cincinnati, black and white, who paved roads so that I would have opportunities for a great education and career. Now my responsibility is to provide opportunities for the next generations of young people.
My prayer is that children grow up in Cincinnati free from bigotry and racism, and not because they are sheltered from it. It will simply be a way of life for everyone.
Everyone’s story is different. If you'd like to share yours, you can contact WCPO.com Managing Editor for Opinion and Engagement David Holthaus at firstname.lastname@example.org.