History Repeats Itself
By Katelyn Lusher
A few months ago, you may have read that I am creating a digital archive for Streetvibes. Since I started archiving the back issues (dating as far back as 1997), I have discovered so many great and fascinating things about the Cincinnati community. I have seen how people will come together in a moment of crisis to stand up for what is right, just like we did last week for the Housing Now! March. I have read about the rise of activists who didn’t know that they would become activists until they were called to stand up. I have seen people lifted up and given a platform to share their story when everyone else turned a deaf ear. I have seen so, so many strong relationships forged within the pages of Streetvibes. The people who were involved in the paper early on still tell stories about each other and refer me to others who can help me build the archive. It’s truly amazing how deep these roots go in the activist community.
But on the darker side, I see the same tragic things repeated far too often. One reason why community advocates become so close and know each other for so long is because they are continuously fighting the same hard, uphill battle against oppression and greed. Time and time again, I see stories reporting the mistreatment of people experiencing homelessness, the displacement of an entire neighborhood, or the complete lack of affordable housing in the city. The story repeats itself and the same people are always on the front lines fighting back against big businesses and government entities who are very selective about who they consider “worthy” of a decent place to live. As Bonnie Neumeier said in her speech at City Hall last week, she attended the first Housing Now! March back in 1989. Thirty years later, we are still marching for the same reason.
Similar protests for better affordable housing options are littered throughout Streetvibes’ timeline. In November 2009, the front page headline reads, “Metropole Tenants Tell 3CDC: Hell No, We Won’t Go.” In July 2004, citizens mobilized to protest “the war on the poor” in Washington Park in honor of the late Rev. Maurice McCrackin. The previous year, in August 2003, people fought against the city sweeping away a tent city by the Bailey Bridge (not unlike a similar eviction that happened in August 2018). People organized to protest the city bulldozing public housing projects for redevelopment in June 1999. The list goes on and on, and it’s appalling that this is still a fight that needs to be fought not just in Cincinnati, but all across the country.
This is the kind of history that people conveniently forget. The struggles of others do not stop just because it isn’t reported or is given minimal coverage in mainstream media. In many ways, Streetvibes purposely runs counter to what we expect to read when we pick up something that looks like a newspaper. What I’ve come to understand about Streetvibes is that it’s not just a run of the mill newspaper (which many of you who already know if you’ve followed Streetvibes for a while) and it’s not supposed to be. What Streetvibes represents, in my mind, is a common place. It is a place to discover what other activists and community advocates are doing in Cincinnati, in the U.S., and around the world to improve the lives of people. It is also a place to share a story, voice an opinion, or talk back to injustice. It is a place where people can see themselves represented.
With that being said, I am happy to announce that I am now at the point where I can show everyone the website’s progress and start gathering community feedback and contributions. If you go to svarchive.omeka.net, you will see what I have added to the archive so far. At the moment, I have only added the 1997 and some of the 1998 issues, but it will gradually expand to catch up to the present. All of the issues can be downloaded as PDFs and they are all searchable. In the future, I plan to add profiles of people who frequently appear in Streetvibes and add interview audio and video with them.
However, I am also welcoming contributions from any community members who are currently or were formerly involved with Streetvibes in some form. If you click on “Contribute an Item” in the left sidebar of the website, you can pick your content choice (story, image, or profile) and contribute your voice and memories to the archive. If you have any questions or suggestions for the archive, please fill out the contact form on the website or come by the Homeless Coalition on Thursdays at 3:30 and I will be glad to talk to you! Streetvibes exists because of community and the archive should reflect its roots.