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Race and Geography Matters, Mayor Annette Blackwell
Tinika Sanders 64

Race and Geography Matters, Mayor Annette Blackwell

Mayor Annette Blackwell tells how even when you’re in the black, race and geography still matters by Felicia C. Haney

Although it does take faith, turning down the volume on naysayers and a little rebel rousing, change is tried, true and attainable. Don’t believe me? Just ask Annette M. Blackwell. If you have to ask “who?,” then you’ve got homework to do. Those who are familiar know the name rings bells as not only the first African American but also the first woman to be elected mayor of the city of Maple Heights in its 100-year history.  But what else would we expect from a Selma, Ala. Native? Making history is in her roots.  

 

So how did this business professional, with no background in politics, bust up the old boy network, snatch the torch and run with it blazing a trail like none other before her? Simple… Like all building of nations, it starts with the youth. As a mother, grandmother, celebrity godmother, former Parent Academy teacher and champion in the effort against infant mortality, Blackwell is nothing short of a youth advocate to say the least. “For me as the healer, the social worker, the mother, the minister of the city… All things that affect quality of life – spirituality, emotional wellbeing are priorities for me. They all affect my bottom line. Even though I still have to manage this budget, make sure police and fire are paid, that I have enough salt for the streets and police/community relations are good… If people aren’t healthy, their needs aren’t being met and there’s homelessness, truancy, depression, rape, robbery, my baby just died… I have to understand all of that to be the most effective, compassionate, respected and trusted leader. If not, I’m not the best I can be for the people of Maple Heights.   

 

Blackwell’s blueprint for the mayor’s office wasn’t designed to resemble a game of chess – strategically moving into multiple city government positions before being crowned mayor. Ironically, it all began with wanting to help her daughter. “I met mayor Jeffrey Lansky through my daughter when she was 9 years old,” Blackwell said. “She had been selected to go to a youth leadership program in D.C. called People to People started by Dwight Eisenhower. It was $4,000 to go. They told us we should reach out to our local elected officials to help raise the funds. I did that and got no response. So, we did a reception for her and I invited the people to come. In walks this white man holding my 9-year-old’s hand and she says, ‘mom, the mayor is here.’ I didn’t even know she knew who the mayor was!” Mayor Lansky handed Mrs. Blackwell a check and when he learned that other officials had not answered the call he in turn sent more money the next day making sure Blackwell’s daughter would represent Maple Heights. 

 

Little did Blackwell know, this would also mark the beginning of her endorsement to represent Maple as well. A few years later, fate would bring them back together, again courtesy of Blackwell’s daughter but this time for a cause that was just as near and dear to Mayor Lansky’s heart as helping youth. 

“He was a big champion of youth, all youth, which I try to be as well,” the present mayor said. Recognizing that, once again she ended up requesting Mayor Lansky’s assistance. Her daughter was modeling in an effort to raise funds for University Hospitals Pediatric Cancer Center. Unbeknownst to Blackwell, the mayor himself was battling the disease and was gung ho to help save a life. But what he wanted in return would later change Blackwell’s life not just for the better, but forever. 

 

Some people see me as a political outsider because I did not sit on council,” said Blackwell, a business professional who worked as a senior commercial property tax analyst before letting Mayor Lansky somehow convince her to run for office after deciding he would not seek reelection. “And some people feel I haven’t paid my dues.Political aficionado or not, taking a city from $3 million in debt and a state of fiscal emergency to having several million in the bank in just a little over two years into her first term is a debt that should be considered paid in full. Representing a city that’s 68 percent African-American, instituting efforts like swearing in the first black fire chief the city has ever seen, restructuring a juvenile diversion program to look less like slave labor and more like redirection and tackling infant mortality numbers which fell from seven deaths in 2017 to two deaths in 2018 were much needed feathers in the civil servant’s hat. And this was all in addition to planning the funeral of the man with the plan to put her in office, Mayor Lansky, who would succumb to cancer shortly after she took the oath. 

 

Although Maple Heights celebrates the small victory in reducing infant mortality deaths, “our goal is 0 deaths,” said the mayor. “The challenges that remain are infant mortality, domestic violence, housing insecurity, avoiding our schools going into academic distress. Some of these things go hand-in-hand; these stress-causing issues are factors in infant mortality.”   

A black female who’s the product of a teenage pregnancy, born in Selma, Ala., no background in politics is not supposed to be here serving as one of only two black female mayors in the state. Her opponents thought it, the mere 32 percent of the voters she didn’t get thought it and hell, even Blackwell thought it as she stood speechless after finding out she won. But sometimes purpose is bigger than a person. 

“No matter who you are you can be anything that you want. You’re valuable and you’re special. I tell people all the time that I am a woman of great faith. I don’t carry a cross or go around saying ‘bless the child’ all the time but my faith definitely sustains me. We’re referred to as elected official, honorable, mayor but the title that’s most synonymous with me is public servant. You cannot perform public service without realizing it’s a ministry. If you don’t relate to the ministry part, then it’s social work I had a very nice job at an international firm, but I was at a point in my life where I wanted to do things with purpose. Ministry and social work don’t pay like corporate America; I took a pay cut to come here. But when you work for God, you’re not complaining. 

Although it does take faith, turning down the volume on naysayers and a little rebel rousing, change is tried, true and attainable. Don’t believe me? Just ask Annette M. Blackwell. If you have to ask “who?,” then you’ve got homework to do. Those who are familiar know the name rings bells as not only the first African American but also the first woman to be elected mayor of the city of Maple Heights in its 100-year history.  But what else would we expect from a Selma, Ala. Native? Making history is in her roots.  

 

So how did this business professional, with no background in politics, bust up the old boy network, snatch the torch and run with it blazing a trail like none other before her? Simple… Like all building of nations, it starts with the youth. As a mother, grandmother, celebrity godmother, former Parent Academy teacher and champion in the effort against infant mortality, Blackwell is nothing short of a youth advocate to say the least. “For me as the healer, the social worker, the mother, the minister of the city… All things that affect quality of life – spirituality, emotional wellbeing are priorities for me. They all affect my bottom line. Even though I still have to manage this budget, make sure police and fire are paid, that I have enough salt for the streets and police/community relations are good… If people aren’t healthy, their needs aren’t being met and there’s homelessness, truancy, depression, rape, robbery, my baby just died… I have to understand all of that to be the most effective, compassionate, respected and trusted leader. If not, I’m not the best I can be for the people of Maple Heights.   

 

Blackwell’s blueprint for the mayor’s office wasn’t designed to resemble a game of chess – strategically moving into multiple city government positions before being crowned mayor. Ironically, it all began with wanting to help her daughter. “I met mayor Jeffrey Lansky through my daughter when she was 9 years old,” Blackwell said. “She had been selected to go to a youth leadership program in D.C. called People to People started by Dwight Eisenhower. It was $4,000 to go. They told us we should reach out to our local elected officials to help raise the funds. I did that and got no response. So, we did a reception for her and I invited the people to come. In walks this white man holding my 9-year-old’s hand and she says, ‘mom, the mayor is here.’ I didn’t even know she knew who the mayor was!” Mayor Lansky handed Mrs. Blackwell a check and when he learned that other officials had not answered the call he in turn sent more money the next day making sure Blackwell’s daughter would represent Maple Heights. 

 

Little did Blackwell know, this would also mark the beginning of her endorsement to represent Maple as well. A few years later, fate would bring them back together, again courtesy of Blackwell’s daughter but this time for a cause that was just as near and dear to Mayor Lansky’s heart as helping youth. 

“He was a big champion of youth, all youth, which I try to be as well,” the present mayor said. Recognizing that, once again she ended up requesting Mayor Lansky’s assistance. Her daughter was modeling in an effort to raise funds for University Hospitals Pediatric Cancer Center. Unbeknownst to Blackwell, the mayor himself was battling the disease and was gung ho to help save a life. But what he wanted in return would later change Blackwell’s life not just for the better, but forever. 

 

Some people see me as a political outsider because I did not sit on council,” said Blackwell, a business professional who worked as a senior commercial property tax analyst before letting Mayor Lansky somehow convince her to run for office after deciding he would not seek reelection. “And some people feel I haven’t paid my dues.Political aficionado or not, taking a city from $3 million in debt and a state of fiscal emergency to having several million in the bank in just a little over two years into her first term is a debt that should be considered paid in full. Representing a city that’s 68 percent African-American, instituting efforts like swearing in the first black fire chief the city has ever seen, restructuring a juvenile diversion program to look less like slave labor and more like redirection and tackling infant mortality numbers which fell from seven deaths in 2017 to two deaths in 2018 were much needed feathers in the civil servant’s hat. And this was all in addition to planning the funeral of the man with the plan to put her in office, Mayor Lansky, who would succumb to cancer shortly after she took the oath. 

 

Although Maple Heights celebrates the small victory in reducing infant mortality deaths, “our goal is 0 deaths,” said the mayor. “The challenges that remain are infant mortality, domestic violence, housing insecurity, avoiding our schools going into academic distress. Some of these things go hand-in-hand; these stress-causing issues are factors in infant mortality.”   

Although it does take faith, turning down the volume on naysayers and a little rebel rousing, change is tried, true and attainable. Don’t believe me? Just ask Annette M. Blackwell. If you have to ask “who?,” then you’ve got homework to do. Those who are familiar know the name rings bells as not only the first African American but also the first woman to be elected mayor of the city of Maple Heights in its 100-year history.  But what else would we expect from a Selma, Ala. Native? Making history is in her roots. 
 
So how did this business professional, with no background in politics, bust up the old boy network, snatch the torch and run with it blazing a trail like none other before her? Simple… Like all building of nations, it starts with the youth. As a mother, grandmother, celebrity godmother, former Parent Academy teacher and champion in the effort against infant mortality, Blackwell is nothing short of a youth advocate to say the least. “For me as the healer, the social worker, the mother, the minister of the city… All things that affect quality of life – spirituality, emotional wellbeing are priorities for me. They all affect my bottom line. Even though I still have to manage this budget, make sure police and fire are paid, that I have enough salt for the streets and police/community relations are good… If people aren’t healthy, their needs aren’t being met and there’s homelessness, truancy, depression, rape, robbery, ‘my baby just died…’ I have to understand all of that to be the most effective, compassionate, respected and trusted leader. If not, I’m not the best I can be for the people of Maple Heights.  
 
Blackwell’s blueprint for the mayor’s office wasn’t designed to resemble a game of chess – strategically moving into multiple city government positions before being crowned mayor. Ironically, it all began with wanting to help her daughter. “I met mayor Jeffrey Lansky through my daughter when she was 9 years old,” Blackwell said. “She had been selected to go to a youth leadership program in D.C. called People to People started by Dwight Eisenhower. It was $4,000 to go. They told us we should reach out to our local elected officials to help raise the funds. I did that and got no response. So, we did a reception for her and I invited the people to come. In walks this white man holding my 9-year-old’s hand and she says, ‘mom, the mayor is here.’ I didn’t even know she knew who the mayor was!” Mayor Lansky handed Mrs. Blackwell a check and when he learned that other officials had not answered the call he in turn sent more money the next day making sure Blackwell’s daughter would represent Maple Heights.
 
Little did Blackwell know, this would also mark the beginning of her endorsement to represent Maple as well. A few years later, fate would bring them back together, again courtesy of Blackwell’s daughter but this time for a cause that was just as near and dear to Mayor Lansky’s heart as helping youth.
“He was a big champion of youth, all youth, which I try to be as well,” the present mayor said. Recognizing that, once again she ended up requesting Mayor Lansky’s assistance. Her daughter was modeling in an effort to raise funds for University Hospitals Pediatric Cancer Center. Unbeknownst to Blackwell, the mayor himself was battling the disease and was gung ho to help save a life. But what he wanted in return would later change Blackwell’s life not just for the better, but forever.
 
“Some people see me as a political outsider because I did not sit on council,” said Blackwell, a business professional who worked as a senior commercial property tax analyst before letting Mayor Lansky somehow convince her to run for office after deciding he would not seek reelection. “And some people feel I haven’t paid my dues.” Political aficionado or not, taking a city from $3 million in debt and a state of fiscal emergency to having several million in the bank in just a little over two years into her first term is a debt that should be considered paid in full. Representing a city that’s 68 percent African-American, instituting efforts like swearing in the first black fire chief the city has ever seen, restructuring a juvenile diversion program to look less like slave labor and more like redirection and tackling infant mortality numbers which fell from seven deaths in 2017 to two deaths in 2018 were much needed feathers in the civil servant’s hat. And this was all in addition to planning the funeral of the man with the plan to put her in office, Mayor Lansky, who would succumb to cancer shortly after she took the oath.
 
Although Maple Heights celebrates the small victory in reducing infant mortality deaths, “our goal is 0 deaths,” said the mayor. “The challenges that remain are infant mortality, domestic violence, housing insecurity, avoiding our schools going into academic distress. Some of these things go hand-in-hand; these stress-causing issues are factors in infant mortality.”  
A black female who’s the product of a teenage pregnancy, born in Selma, Ala., no background in politics is not supposed to be here serving as one of only two black female mayors in the state. Her opponents thought it, the mere 32 percent of the voters she didn’t get thought it and hell, even Blackwell thought it as she stood speechless after finding out she won. But sometimes purpose is bigger than a person.
“No matter who you are you can be anything that you want. You’re valuable and you’re special. I tell people all the time that I am a woman of great faith. I don’t carry a cross or go around saying ‘bless the child’ all the time but my faith definitely sustains me. We’re referred to as elected official, honorable, mayor but the title that’s most synonymous with me is public servant. You cannot perform public service without realizing it’s a ministry. If you don’t relate to the ministry part, then it’s social work… I had a very nice job at an international firm, but I was at a point in my life where I wanted to do things with purpose. Ministry and social work don’t pay like corporate America; I took a pay cut to come here. But when you work for God, you’re not complaining.”

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Tinika Sanders

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First Year Cleveland Pregnancy and Infant Loss (PAIL) Committee Grief Support Group #1

First Year Cleveland Pregnancy and Infant Loss (PAIL) Committee Grief Support Group #1

Registration for this group has expired, updated information will be available soon.  Any questions, please contact Beverly Johnson of the YWCA (216) 881-6878.

Have you or someone you know experienced infant loss, including miscarriage, still birth, and death of the child before he or she reaches the age of 12 months? If you answered yes, the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Committee can provide the support and resources you need. 

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First Year Cleveland Pregnancy and Infant Loss (PAIL) Committee Grief Support Group #2

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Registration for this group has expired, updated information will be available soon.  Any questions, please contact Beverly Johnson of the YWCA (216) 881-6878.

Have you or someone you know experienced infant loss, including miscarriage, still birth, and death of the child before he or she reaches the age of 12 months? If you answered yes, the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Committee can provide the support and resources you need. 

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First Year Cleveland Pregnancy and Infant Loss (PAIL) Committee Grief Support Group #1

First Year Cleveland Pregnancy and Infant Loss (PAIL) Committee Grief Support Group #1

Registration for this group has expired, updated information will be available soon.  Any questions, please contact Beverly Johnson of the YWCA (216) 881-6878.

Have you or someone you know experienced infant loss, including miscarriage, still birth, and death of the child before he or she reaches the age of 12 months? If you answered yes, the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Committee can provide the support and resources you need. 

Read more
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First Year Cleveland Pregnancy and Infant Loss (PAIL) Committee Grief Support Group #2

First Year Cleveland Pregnancy and Infant Loss (PAIL) Committee Grief Support Group #2

Registration for this group has expired, updated information will be available soon.  Any questions, please contact Beverly Johnson of the YWCA (216) 881-6878.

Have you or someone you know experienced infant loss, including miscarriage, still birth, and death of the child before he or she reaches the age of 12 months? If you answered yes, the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Committee can provide the support and resources you need. 

Read more
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First Year Cleveland Pregnancy and Infant Loss (PAIL) Committee Grief Support Group #1

First Year Cleveland Pregnancy and Infant Loss (PAIL) Committee Grief Support Group #1

Registration for this group has expired, updated information will be available soon.  Any questions, please contact Beverly Johnson of the YWCA (216) 881-6878.

Have you or someone you know experienced infant loss, including miscarriage, still birth, and death of the child before he or she reaches the age of 12 months? If you answered yes, the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Committee can provide the support and resources you need. 

Read more
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First Year Cleveland Pregnancy and Infant Loss (PAIL) Committee Grief Support Group #2

First Year Cleveland Pregnancy and Infant Loss (PAIL) Committee Grief Support Group #2

Registration for this group has expired, updated information will be available soon.  Any questions, please contact Beverly Johnson of the YWCA (216) 881-6878.

Have you or someone you know experienced infant loss, including miscarriage, still birth, and death of the child before he or she reaches the age of 12 months? If you answered yes, the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Committee can provide the support and resources you need. 

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First Year Cleveland Pregnancy and Infant Loss (PAIL) Committee Grief Support Group #1

First Year Cleveland Pregnancy and Infant Loss (PAIL) Committee Grief Support Group #1

Registration for this group has expired, updated information will be available soon.  Any questions, please contact Beverly Johnson of the YWCA (216) 881-6878.

Have you or someone you know experienced infant loss, including miscarriage, still birth, and death of the child before he or she reaches the age of 12 months? If you answered yes, the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Committee can provide the support and resources you need. 

Read more
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First Year Cleveland Pregnancy and Infant Loss (PAIL) Committee Grief Support Group #2

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Registration for this group has expired, updated information will be available soon.  Any questions, please contact Beverly Johnson of the YWCA (216) 881-6878.

Have you or someone you know experienced infant loss, including miscarriage, still birth, and death of the child before he or she reaches the age of 12 months? If you answered yes, the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Committee can provide the support and resources you need. 

Read more
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First Year Cleveland Pregnancy and Infant Loss (PAIL) Committee Grief Support Group #1

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Registration for this group has expired, updated information will be available soon.  Any questions, please contact Beverly Johnson of the YWCA (216) 881-6878.

Have you or someone you know experienced infant loss, including miscarriage, still birth, and death of the child before he or she reaches the age of 12 months? If you answered yes, the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Committee can provide the support and resources you need. 

Read more
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First Year Cleveland Pregnancy and Infant Loss (PAIL) Committee Grief Support Group #2

First Year Cleveland Pregnancy and Infant Loss (PAIL) Committee Grief Support Group #2

Registration for this group has expired, updated information will be available soon.  Any questions, please contact Beverly Johnson of the YWCA (216) 881-6878.

Have you or someone you know experienced infant loss, including miscarriage, still birth, and death of the child before he or she reaches the age of 12 months? If you answered yes, the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Committee can provide the support and resources you need. 

Read more
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