Let’s face it; Cincinnati is not new to being in the national spotlight. When the city’s deep racial divisions reached a fever pitch in 2001, when a unarmed black 19 year old named Timothy Thomas was shot and killed by a police officer, I couldn’t envision this same city hosting The World Choir Games (sometimes called the Olympics of Choir). Granted it has been 11 years, but things typically don’t change in Cincinnati. To put it in perspective, those 2001 riots were the largest in the U.S. since the Los Angeles riots in 1992. Unbeknownst to most, there has been a long history of riots in Cincinnati since the city was founded in 1788.
Riots, Race and the Police
The first riot recorded in Cincinnati was in 1792. History shows there have been numerous riots in the city, with the 1884 Cincinnati Courthouse riot being one of the most destructive in American history. Fifty-six people died in the three day battle between citizens, (upset about the sentence given to a convicted murderer), and the police and firefighters.
The first recorded racial riots were in 1829, but didn’t include black people rioting in their own neighborhoods. But rather they were large groups of whites, forcing over 1000 black people out of their homes. Or, such as the case in 1841, white people firing a cannon three times into a black neighborhood.
There was a different dynamic to the race riots of the 1800’s and those of the 20th century, but they laid a foundation for white-on-black violence that has seemed to be passed down through the years within the police department.
I’ve lived in Cincinnati all my life, and it has always been conservative and the Cincinnati Police Department (CPD) has always had a good ole boys mentality. There have been many examples of police violence against black men, in this century, but after the 2001 riots, the nation took notice.
The NAACP’s Kweisi Mfume declared Cincinnati the “belly of the whale” regarding police violence against young black men. Al Sharpton called for federal oversight of the CPD. Time magazine named Cincinnati a “model of racial injustice”. A boycott by Bill Cosby was a smack in the face to the city.
There was now a very dark cloud hanging over the city, like no other in its history. It seemed as if light would never shine on it again. But if you look closely, you can see the city moving in the right direction. You can see God moving the clouds.
Genesis 1:2 ” The earth was empty, a formless mass cloaked in darkness. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface”
Mayor Mark Mallory’s determination to rebuild Cincinnati one task at a time has literally moved our city from a racially charged melting pot, to a city which is “on the move”.
The development of the Underground Railroad Freedom Center in 2004 was a great step in the right direction. What better place is there to exam slavery and race relations than in Cincinnati?
In 2008, the NAACP held its annual convention in the city, with Senator Barack Obama being the keynote speaker. And in 2011, the League of United Latin American Citizens held its convention here. Change is gradual.
Since 1912, every police chief in Cincinnati’s history had come from German Catholic neighborhoods of the West side. Several were from Catholic Elder High School or public Western Hills High school. Bottom line is that they’ve all been white.
But in 2011, James Craig became the first African American Police Chief in the city’s history. Chief Craig is the type of chief that will be seen in the poor communities, asking questions and getting involved. That definitely is a change. Cincinnati is now on a path to enlightenment that it would not have been on, without the civil unrest of 2001.
Genesis 50:20 “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives”
Let The Games Begin!
What the scripture above is saying, is sometimes God allows the devil to cause things to happen to us (and Satan can only do that if God allows it), for our own benefit. As human beings, we can only see what’s in front of us. But God can see it all. There is a spiritual warfare that is much bigger than any riot that has ever taken place. And believe it or not, God already has it won!
The 2012 World Choir Games is in Cincinnati because God wanted it here.
Only God can be behind such an amazing event. For the first time ever, the games will be held in North America and God picked Cincinnati. Not New York, Chicago or LA, but Cincinnati!
200,000 spectators are expected and 362 choirs from 64 countries, including Russia, China, and Indonesia to name a few. There will be a common understanding between many cultures within a city that commonly struggles with its own cultures. The economic effect will be huge. A local company will be supplying the gold, silver and bronze medals for the games.
This July 4th, many will be celebrating the birth of our nation, but in Cincinnati, we will be celebrating much more. It’s time for our city to let the world know that we have recovered. We are not just representing our city, but also the U.S.
So, from every citizen of the United States, to all the counties around the world; welcome to the United States of America, welcome to Cincinnati and let the games begin!