Comments made at the Dedication/Ribbon Cutting for Kennedy Heights Cultural Campus

Friday, August 28, 2015

by Mike Harmon, Kennedy Heights Development Corporation & Past President Kennedy Heights Community Council

(My family and I moved here to Kennedy Heights 40 years ago, in 1975. We were drawn to this neighborhood by friends, including Teresa’s father, Bob. The community council had published ads in national publications alerting persons who might be moving to Cincinnati to consider taking residence in Kennedy Heights if they wanted to be in a diverse, welcoming neighborhood. Back then, Kennedy School, which some persons here today attended, sat on this site. Our family participated in an annual Christmas caroling party at the school. Our children’s friendships growing up with neighborhood kids play an important role in the kind of persons they are today. My heart still swells when I recall our daughter and Teresa in the early 1980s, when they were pre-teens, co-presenting readings at an annual Martin Luther King Day liturgical celebration at a church in Bond Hill.)

Kennedy Heights is many things. It is not primarily a place. Rather, a state of mind. A way of looking at and thinking about ourselves and other people. Kennedy Heights can be described as people, a neighborhood, a unifier, a community, an idea, a choice, an intention, a dream, a reality, a shaper of the future, a promise of a better future, but, for me, it is primarily an attitude. Not just a place. To we who live here and experience our lives as neighbors, “Kennedy Heights” signifies a frame of mind, a reference point reminding us that we are all members of the same family, all welcome, all with a place at the table.

A people -- whose history and future come together at this place and time where today we stand together as one.

A neighborhood -- which encompasses more than a limited space within Cincinnati, Hamilton County, the Tri-State, more than a location between Pleasant Ridge, Silverton, Amberly, Oakley. Rather, a unifying community which brings all those areas together, to this Cultural Campus where we stand today.

A community -- of all origins and backgrounds, all faiths and identities. United and strengthened and beautified by diversity, mutual respect, mutual reliance, and mutual trust. A community such as we gathered here now together.

An idea -- that citizen initiative and involvement are keys to vibrant neighborhoods and communities. As proof of this idea, let us look back through our history.

Back 220 years, to 1795, the original settlement of this area, where we now stand together.

Back 173 years, to 1842, when residents banded together to build a one-room schoolhouse, near where we now stand together.

Back 140 years, to 1875, when Lewis Kennedy, grandson of a Pleasant Ridge farmer, built the mansion which is now home to the Kennedy Heights Arts Center, a block from where we now stand together.

Back a half century, fifty or so years ago, when residents started two institutions within the same time-frame as their response to issues raised by the civil rights movement. In 1963, neighbors black and white founded the Kennedy Heights Community Council to deal with housing segregation and block busting. In 1965, local families founded our Parents Cooperative Montessori School to deal with segregated education and racial prejudice at an early age by bringing impressionable pre-school black and white children together in a nurturing environment with quality education and active participation of parents. Members of those families are standing here together with us today.

Back three and a half decades ago, when local residents founded the non-profit Kennedy Heights Neighborhood Development Corporation, which has played an integral role in realizing our dream of this our new cultural campus. Members of our development corporation today stand together with us.

Back a decade ago, when families from Kennedy Heights and Pleasant Ridge joined hands and pocketbooks to prevent demolition of that historic Kennedy mansion and to found the Kennedy Heights Arts Center (attended by two of my children so much better because of it) now bursting at the seams and expanding into our cultural campus. Members of those families are standing with us here today.

Back eight years ago, when the Pleasant Ridge Community Council and the Kennedy Heights Community Council pledged to work together to engender and promote our common District A, our arts district connecting our twin neighborhoods along Montgomery Road and anchored by this Cultural Campus where we stand now stand together as one.

Kennedy Heights is an intention. A thrust of peoples' imagination into action. An intentional community whose members choose diversity. A group of dreamers who act out their dreams. A people who get deep inner satisfaction from passing on better possibilities for being fully human, by means of education, art, and culture, to their children and their neighbors' children.

Kennedy Heights is a promise. A promise, made and kept by many here today, to tackle a big empty building and a weedy lot and turn them into a model of community building. Kennedy Heights is also a promise in the sense of looking ahead to a bright future, not a future of blight.

Kennedy Heights is the reality of this building and campus, where all of us, and all of those before us, and all of those to come here after us, are gathered now together as one.

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