The Equity Task Force held its first meeting on Monday, June 12, and welcomed speakers Earline Hooper and the Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell. For each of its first few meetings, the Task Force will invite speakers to share their experiences of living in Shaker Heights through the years. Both Hooper and Campbell spoke about their own experiences of living here in the 1960s and 1970s.
Hooper, a longtime Shaker resident who worked as a teacher in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, shared her own journey to Shaker Heights by way of Alabama and Cleveland. Her grandfather moved the family north in search of better opportunities and better education. She attended Glenville High School and went on to The Ohio State University. "My husband and I came to Shaker because we wanted a better education for our children," she explained.
Her three children---Paula, Emily and son Sam---were all a part of the District's voluntary busing program and were on the front lines of integration in the schools. She remembers Paula being the only African-American girl in her Girl Scout troop at Malvern School (now Hanna Perkins School), Emily working to found the Student Group on Race Relations (SGORR) at the High School, and Sam's participation in band. Today, Paula is a professor at Northwestern University, Emily is a Director of Community Arts Engagement at The University of Chicago and Sam is a musician and songwriter who has performed nationally. "All children can learn," said Hooper. "But some need more resources."
The Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell is an ordained minister who held many top posts in religious organizations at the national level and worked to bring Martin Luther King, Jr. to Shaker Heights. In 1965, Campbell organized support for Carl Stokes' mayoral campaign and reached out to Dr. King to speak at Heights Christian Church, which was then predominantly white. "I went back to my church and announced with great pride that Dr. King had accepted my invitation to come to church and speak," she recalled. "Suffice it to say that a number of people---mostly rich and influential---said they weren't ready for it."
Campbell organized Dr. King's visit, despite its unpopularity with the congregation. When King visited, he spoke on the church steps to a crowd of thousands. "[Dr. King] was a remarkable man. I got to know him better after that day. He knew the chances that were taken by the people who wanted him there," she said. Ultimately, 14 members of the congregation left the church, the pastor's decision to let King speak remained a contentious point and Campbell's marriage ended in divorce. "It was upsetting to me at that time in my life, but it also gave me life," she said. Since then, Campbell dedicated her life to civil rights and religious activism in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and American Baptist Church, and worked alongside Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu.
Listen to recordings of Rev. Dr. Campbell's story and Earline Hooper's story.