The Devil Strip, April 2020 - Akron Together

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April 2020 · Vol 6 · Issue #4 ·


On The Cover: Color, doodle and decorate our front & back covers freely. Then hang the spread in your window for your neighbors to see.

Art lives in every one of us. Born into the world canvas by canvas, song by song, photo by photo, word by word.



Highland Square 867 W. Market St. Akron, OH 44303

Given a soul, a home, by the artist. Then the door opens to us on the outside; beauty reigns even in fear. We see to hope and brave the waiting. JOIN US AT

#SACreativeCommUNITY to brave the waiting; share resources, new art and advice; feel supported; be a warrior advocate; create camaraderie; and wield the power of numbers.


Summit Artspace 140 East Market Street Akron, Ohio 44308 Board of Directors: Philathia Bolton, April Couch, Emily Dressler, Sharetta Howze, Rita Kelly Madick, Dominic Moore-Dunson, Bhakta Rizal, Hillary Stewart, Audrey Worthington

In This Issue




Publisher: Chris Horne


Editor-in-Chief: Rosalie Murphy Senior Reporter: Noor Hindi Business Development Director: Jessica Goldbourn


Community Outreach Director: Floco Torres Art Director: Chris Harvey

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Distribution Manager: Derek Kreider Digital Manager: Sonia Potter Advertising and Client Support: Anna Adelman, Derek Kreider, Allyson Smith, Matt Mino Copy Editors: Megan Combs, Dave Daly, Emily Dressler, Shannon Wasie Freelance Contributors: Debra Calhoun, Trvaughn Clayton, Kyle Cochrun, H.L. Comeriato, Skylar Cole, Amber Cullen, Lauren Dangel, Zaïré Talon Daniels, Nic deCourville, Ace Epps, Ken Evans, Charlotte Gintert, Colleen Hanke, Aja Hannah, Charlee Harris, Matthew Hogan, Jillian Holness, Tyron Hoisten, Jamie Keaton, Ted Lehr, Marissa Marangoni, Sandy Maxwell, Brandon Meola, Vanessa Michelle, Yoly Miller, Brittany Nader, Ilenia Pezzaniti, Arrye Rosser, Mark Schweitzer, Marc Lee Shannon, Karla Tipton, Paul Treen, Steve Van Auken, Pat Worden. Want to help make The Devil Strip? Write to


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Our Mission: The Devil Strip connects Akronites to their neighbors, our city and a stronger sense of purpose by sharing stories about the people who make this place unique.

Find us online: @akrondevilstrip @thedevilstrip

Akron Music, Art & Culture


The Devil Strip is published monthly by Random Family LLC. Distribution: The Devil Strip is available free of charge, limited to one copy per reader. Copyright: The entire contents of The Devil Strip are copyright 2020 by Random Family LLC. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission of the publisher is prohibited. Publisher does not assume liability for unsolicited manuscripts, materials or other content. All editorial, advertising and business correspondence should be sent to the addresses listed above.

April 2020 · Vol 6 · Issue #4

The Devil Strip |



Hi! We’re The Devil Strip.


s Akron’s monthly arts and culture magazine, we tell stories about our city’s creative people, spaces, business owners and institutions large and small. These are the things that make life fun. We push readers to get outside and connect to one another and a greater sense of civic purpose. Of course, that’s a difficult thing to do as the COVID-19 pandemic upends our lives. Many of the people we write about — and many of the people who write and take photographs for us and the businesses who distribute our magazine — have had their lives and incomes

What we believe:


STORIES MATTER. We believe the most important stories are the ones we tell ourselves about ourselves, and that this is as true for cities as it is for individuals. For better or worse, every city’s chief storyteller is its media. We take responsibility for our work because we know it shapes the way Akronites see each other, and the way we see each other influences how we treat one another.

OUR WORK IS FOR AKRON. This is our reason for existing, not merely our editorial angle for stories. We are advocates for the city of Akron and allies to its people, so we may be cheerleaders, but that won’t keep us from challenging the city’s flaws. What’s the point of being part of the community if we can’t help make it a better place to live? OUR WORK SHOULD BE DONE WITH AKRON. We would rather build trust through cooperation and collaboration than authority. Our place in the community is alongside it, not standing outside looking in or standing above it looking down. WE CARE ABOUT YOU, NOT JUST YOUR EYEBALLS. Sometimes, we love a good fight with the status quo. But conflict and antagonism will never be a way of life for us, especially not to boost clicks, views, comments, shares and “eyeballs.” We are watchdogs to hold our leaders accountable, not to keep the neighbors up all night with our barking. WE LOVE OUR NEIGHBORS. Our stories humanize the people in our city. We not only want to counter sensationalized and alarmist reporting but to eventually render it obsolete. We advocate for justice, freedom and equality because

dramatically disrupted. We don’t know how long this will last or what state we’ll be in when we get to the other side. So here we are: In a bizarre, chaotic, liminal space, waiting for something we don’t fully understand. But we’re trying to take solace in the fact that we are here together. In this issue of the magazine, you’ll find plenty of information about navigating the coming months. But we’ve made space for stories about local history, art, sports and food. You’ll also find fiction, poetry and artwork scattered throughout this issue — and even a few things for you to color, draw or write yourself. Stay healthy and well, and we’ll see you soon. — Rosalie Murphy

those qualities make this city, and our lives, better. JOURNALISM SHOULD LIVE BEYOND THE PAGE. Information without context or connection is inert. We believe journalism can connect people to each other, our city and even a sense of purpose. Though our work begins on the page, both printed and web, we promote and plan events so people can meet faceto-face where real life still happens. PEOPLE OVER PROFITS. The local businesses, nonprofits and civic organizations who support The Devil Strip are part of our community and are as vital to our culture as our artists and musicians. That’s why we don’t accept ads for national chains, things in large metros outside Summit County or businesses that profit from the exploitation of women. We are not a coat hanger for advertising. WE GET ONE SHOT AT LIFE, SO LET’S HAVE FUN. We want our readers to fall in love with Akron (again and again and again), to buck the temptation to only live vicariously through the people they follow online. One thing that makes art, dance, theatre, music, film, food, civic engagement, biking, hiking, and public space so great is that all these things can bring us together, helping us find new friends and have fun with the ones we already have. That makes us all a little happier. That’s what it’s all about.

What is a devil strip? The “devil strip” is the strip of grass between the sidewalk and the street. The precise origins of the term are unknown, but it’s only used in Akron. Today, the devil strip is what connects residents to the city — its public space, its people and its challenges. The Devil Strip seeks to do the same thing.

Special Section: The COVID-19 Pandemic


From Essentials, a photo series by Autumn Bland Akron Music, Art & Culture

April 2020 · Vol 6 · Issue #4

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Special Section: The COVID-19 Pandemic


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Through these two collections of photographs, I’m capturing what the new “normal” means in our community during the coronavirus pandemic. With the Stay-at-Home order put in place by Gov. Mike DeWine, life has changed drastically for many people. Only the Essential businesses remain open, while others are forced to close up shop. While many people are bound to their homes and restructuring their lives, there is a whole workforce out there working to combat this pandemic and serve the community however they are able. — Autumn Bland

April 2020 · Vol 6 · Issue #4

Special Section: The COVID-19 Pandemic


Akron Music, Art & Culture


April 2020 · Vol 6 · Issue #4

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Special Section: The COVID-19 Pandemic

I’m senior class president. I miss going to school. interview by Rosalie Murphy


hirrell White is president of the Class of 2020 at Firestone High School. At the beginning of March, she was starting to practice for her senior track season and planning a fundraiser for after-prom. At the end of the month, she was picking up extra hours at Krispy Kreme on Maple Street. The last two months of senior year are looking less and less like a celebration. When Akron Public Schools announced that students would get an “extended spring break” to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, “At first, a lot of us were just like, ‘Oh yeah, we get an extralong vacation,’” Shirrell says. “But once the week actually started, we started missing friends and worrying about our schoolwork. I’m one of those people who enjoys going to school, so I’m a little shook up right now.

I have rare diseases. Social distancing is nothing new for me. by Alicia Hopkins


magine a world where for lengthy periods of time, you can’t go out.

That’s me. I have Common Variable Immunodeficiency. My life before COVID-19 included a lot of time at home. It’s a full-time job trying to manage my five rare diseases. Sometimes I have three or four medical appointments a week, only see my aides and have limited opportunities to be in community. What little time I have is devoted to art, advocacy and finding resources for others in need. Six years ago, when I got sick, I formed the National Resources and Network Facebook group. My friend Jessica from Alabama helps me admin this group. We share resources, from where to find food to how to get a discount on a new computer to how to find transportation to the doctor to how to get prescription assistance. Sometimes people notice that I am gone. There are times people don’t — like last

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“The seniors were going to have a lot of stuff coming up, like our senior action that we use as a fundraiser for our afterprom. Spring dances, concerts, a lot of different plays — mostly everything that was going to go on through school has been canceled or postponed. The biggest thing that everyone is worried about is prom and graduation,” Shirrell says. Both are less than two months away. Personally, “I was just excited to be able to run [track] my last year. Our first meet was a week from the day they decided to take us on a three-week break, so that was pretty devastating. I also have to miss my senior night that I waited so long for. It was just devastating because we had gotten comfortable with our new team, and just like that, we weren’t able to go to practice anymore,” Shirrell says.

year, when I left the arts scene for four months while trying to do the application for the Undiagnosed Diseases Program, a National Institutes of Health program in which doctors give people with rare diseases tests and consultations in hopes of diagnosing and possibly treating their illness. I was so sick that I couldn’t be around people. I eventually shared my struggle with a friend who encouraged me to keep pressing on. It wasn’t easy to share the struggle of how hard it was to get out in the community despite all I had going on, but I did. The reality of my life behind a closed door is not about me as much as it is about finding ways to help others. I have learned over the years that my disability may be debilitating at times, but there is still much I can do in the world to help others. I love information. I have a photographic memory. There are days I feel like a human card catalog or mobile Pinterest on wheels. And there are always people in need. So during this crisis, I have had even more than my normal flux of requests. Two weeks ago, I reached out to folks in a Missouri Facebook group to help coordinate a food delivery to a friend with a disability who lives there. I started a peer support group at the start of the COVID-19 crisis, and last week, coordinated items to be delivered to various members of the group, including

In late March, online classes began. Shirrell says students complete work through Google Classroom and occasionally have video lectures. Teachers are available to help via video chat, but Shirrell says it isn’t the same. “For my major classes, like math and English, it’s a little challenging just because it’s better for a lot of students to learn in person. If you don’t understand something, it’s a lot harder to ask [teachers], rather than you usually being able to ask them face-to-face, in person.” In hindsight, Shirrell can already see that her senior year is “going to be so much [more] different than what everybody else has experienced their high school years. I just hope that I can take it as a lesson, of taking advantage of the moments that

I do have during school, and just being able to process everything that happened so quickly. I just hope that it doesn’t take a large toll on me — a lot of us think it will, with everything that’s supposed to be coming up. But I think it’ll just be a way for me cherishing the moment that I did have, the final days of school that we did have together.” She adds: “Look out for one another, and if there’s a senior that you know, just try to uplift them because a lot of us are going through it right now... Cherish the moments in school that you do have, and don’t take it for granted because it could get snatched away from you in the blink of an eye.” // Rosalie Murphy is Editor-in-Chief of The Devil Strip.

15 people across Ohio. I even gave up the possibility of buying an iPad — gift cards I had saved up instead went to shipping items to people in need. It really isn’t about me, it’s about helping others. I specifically focused on people with disabilities. I coordinated food deliveries to several people with disabilities who don’t drive and can’t go out in large crowds. Even a couple of people with disabilities offered to help. I gave advice on my Facebook page to all beginners who are under quarantine. My life before the COVID-19 crisis involved the reality of the four walls of my house. I learned to adapt long ago to social distancing, and no one asked me if I needed help or toilet paper or someone to go to the store for me. People in the disability community feel left behind in emergency preparedness planning because we have been behind. When COVID-19 cases began arriving in the U.S., it wasn’t the political leaders or even average citizens creating mutual aid pages. It was people in the disability community, who were in panic — and had every right to be. The supplies they rely on every day to keep their care providers working, like masks, gloves and hand sanitizer, were gone from the shelves because of hoarders. This made me see I had to start something in my own state for peer support. My own people not only needed supplies, but they

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needed support as well. This COVID-19 situation hasn’t changed what I do for my community. But it has changed how I see my community. It’s opened my eyes to how emergency preparedness planning doesn’t include people like me. There are no backup providers for many adult day care programs. The lack of caregivers was already a national crisis; several of my friends have already had caregiving agencies tell them no one was available to provide the care they need, even though they can’t be on their own for longer than a certain period of time. There’s lots of work to be done. But it assures me I can keep on doing what I do every day: Sharing information and resources. Being stuck at home doesn’t mean I can’t be of service to my community. (continued on next page)

Special Section: The COVID-19 Pandemic

Supporting local restaurants: Order takeout or delivery and tip generously by Rosalie Murphy and Allyson Smith


n March 15, Gov. Mike DeWine ordered that all restaurants and bars close dine-in options. However, carry-out and delivery options are still available.

limited. I have been practicing ‘noncontact delivery, ’ which means I set the food down outside the customer’s door, knock, and then take a few steps back so we will not be too close physically when they answer. As always, at no point do I touch the food itself. It is also worth noting that restaurants are taking extra precautions,” he says.

HOW TO ORDER TAKEOUT Many restaurants already have takeout options available or are switching to a take-out format. Square Scullery’s brick-and-mortar operation, which was designed last year as a “ghost restaurant,” shared on social media: “Our current kitchen and back end of business was literally built entirely for delivery and carry out operations purely in mind, we will keep calm and carry out.” Restaurants are not the only businesses switching to take-out formats. Some bars have liquor licenses that also allow them to sell alcohol to go. For example, lots of local breweries are offering growlers and crowlers for pickup, which can be ordered online in advance. Annabell’s Bar & Lounge is offering beer and Jameson to go. Also, the City of Akron has temporarily allowed free on-street parking at metered spots to encourage takeout from local restaurants and bars. If you normally eat in at your favorite restaurant, give them a call to see if they’re offering a carry-out option. HOW TO ORDER DELIVERY Justin Phillips, who delivers food for DoorDash and occasionally UberEATS, shares: “I keep a canister of disinfecting wipes in my car, and I wipe all of the contact points down every hour or so. I have a bottle of hand sanitizer I use every time I touch something outside of the car. I wash my hands whenever possible, although opportunities can be somewhat

(continued from previous page) We all need each other. We also need to think about people who were excluded from the general sector of help before the COVID-19 crisis — and who may be again after it ends. That is folks under 59 living

Akron Music, Art & Culture

Justin estimates that about 40% of the orders he fulfills in Akron are from local businesses and the remainder from large chains. (His favorite restaurant is Sweet Mary’s Bakery, but he loves many others.) He suggests calling locally owned restaurants to find out if they have a preferred delivery app. Restaurants have to pay a cut of delivery fees on DoorDash, UberEATS, GrubHub and Postmates. Asking them for a preference gives them more control over where those funds go. “Now obviously, I want to make a living, so I wouldn’t be telling you this if I didn’t love our local establishments as much as I do,” Justin says. “This is going to be a hard time for everyone, and I want them to make it out the other side.” Also, he adds, “Consider buying gift cards, since that essentially acts as a loan that they can pay off when the world makes a little more sense.” Both UberEATS and DoorDash are offering drivers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are diagnosed with or ordered to self-quarantine because of COVID-19, Justin says. HOW TO SUPPORT SERVICE STAFF Dining rooms may be closed, but takeout orders are still filled by workers, servers and bartenders who relied on tips to make up their income prior to the pandemic. Their incomes are severely impacted by this change.

normally tip for counter service, such as in a coffee shop or while getting takeout, budget enough that you can tip generously. If you order delivery, note that both DoorDash and UberEATS give drivers 100% of tips that customers make through the apps, Justin says.


“Tips, of course, are always welcome, and in general they make up a significant portion of our income,” he says. “When choosing how much to tip, try to be mindful of the fact that your driver is literally risking life, limb and lungs to make sure you get food. That’s the long way of saying to tip as generously as you can reasonably afford.” Also, take care to wash your hands, and keep yourself healthy and protected prior to interacting with service staff. // Allyson Smith is a server and writer for The Devil Strip. Rosalie Murphy is the magazine’s editor-inchief.


Photos: Heather and Matt Ulichney of Square Scullery (Photo: Ilenia Pezzaniti); Erica Banks and Kameron Alexander of Social 8 (Photo: Charlee

Tipping was important before, but now it is more important than ever to tip the people who are packaging and delivering your food. Even if you wouldn’t

Harris); Jacobe Austin, Jonas

with disabilities. The services we have are what we have, and we don’t have people calling us up just to hang out or ask if we need a ride to the store.

// Alicia Hopkins is an artist and community advocate. She is the founder of the All Abilities Art Expo.

Birch and David McConville of A Walk in the Park Cafe (Photo: Ilenia Pezzaniti).

Maybe this crisis will change that.

April 2020 · Vol 6 · Issue #4


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Special Section: The COVID-19 Pandemic

If You Need Food:

Six Feet is a photojournalism project by Ilenia Pezzaniti. All photos are taken and interviews conducted at a minimum distance of six feet between Ilenia and the person pictured.

School lunches: Student meals are available at Akron Public Schools Monday through Thursday from 9:30-11:30 am. Students can receive to-go bags for breakfast and lunch every day, and on Thursday, they can receive extra meals to cover breakfast and lunch Fridays. Students do not need to be present for parents to pick up meals. Meals are available at all neighborhood schools except Ott, Essex, Steward, Early College, NIHF STEM, STEM HS, I Promise and Miller-South. Students at those schools can pick up meals at any other school.

Food available daily: Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank Monday-Friday 8 am-4 pm 350 Opportunity Pkwy., Akron, 44307 330-535-6900 Salvation Army - Summit Lake Monday-Friday 11:30 am-12:30 pm 380 W. Crosier St., Akron, 44311 330-762-8481 Salvation Army - West Hill Monday-Friday 12-1 pm 190 S. Maple St., Akron, 44302 330-762-8481 Open M Monday-Thursday 11:30 am-2 pm 941 Princeton St., Akron, 44311 330-376-4850

Food weekly or monthly: First Congregational Church Tuesday 9:30-11:30 am Second/Fourth Tuesday 6:30-7:30 pm 292 East Market St., Akron, 44308 330-253-5109 The Church on the Boulevard First/Third Monday 10 am-12 pm Second/Fourth Monday 5:30-7:30 pm 754 Kenmore Blvd., Akron, 44314 330-745-8634 North Hill Community House Third Thursday 3:30-5:30 pm 526 N. Howard St., Akron, 44310 330-375-5065

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SIX FEET: Tiffany Roper


iffany Roper, 36, is waiting to pick up food outside of Upper Crust Pizza in Highland Square.

“Today is the first day we’ve been out in about 10 days,” she says. “I work for a government agency and right now we’re on administrative leave, so I’ve been at home for about a week and a half. I have two kids. They’re both in school and they’re off of school, so we’re just trying to right now find a new normal, and a new normal is staying indoors,” she says. Though they have four rooms in the

home, she says it’s still difficult to have enough space during this quarantine, given the limited areas they can go. “We’re just trying to find a balance between being close to one another but also needing our personal space. So it’s been a challenge, because everyone kind of itches to get away from one another and it’s just really difficult when you only have four walls,” she says. The family takes a lot of naps, hangs out outside, and Tiffany still does work from home. Though it can be challenging to be at home with their small children all day, Tiffany is grateful to get to be

April 2020 · Vol 6 · Issue #4

part of their education, teaching them things they might not necessarily learn in school. “We’re really grateful and fortunate to have what we do have, but it is challenging when you have a life that is very social,” she says. Life as an isolating extrovert is proving difficult for Tiffany, who has a birthday coming up. “It is going to be a challenge for me because I love to celebrate life. I love having parties. I love getting together. And to know that we’re going to have to celebrate not only my birthday, but my friends’ birthdays, and different milestones for people apart and getting creative with virtual meetings — getting

Special Section: The COVID-19 Pandemic “This series is intended to be as indiscriminate as the COVID-19 virus itself. On March 29, the Akron Beacon Journal reported that 40% to 60% of Ohio residents may eventually be infected. Even those not directly exposed to the virus will suffer, and are suffering, indirect consequences of our lifetime’s

first pandemic. This series is a response to the affect on the community, and a commentary on the resiliency of its people. COVID is exposing many of the holes we still have left to patch as a society, and is a reminder of our shared common ground. Everyone’s voice matters. — Ilena Pezzaniti

SIX FEET: Robin Allison


don’t want to have contact. I want to be able to be just as safe as the people who are at home in quarantine and I don’t get that option. I think people need to understand that not everyone who’s working right now really wants to be there.” Robin Allison, 44, is a postal worker in Akron struggling with anxiety as an essential employee. She wanted to be clear that these are her personal opinions, not those of her employer. “I do a lot of praying and I just have to really try to stay positive, because I’ve caught myself a few times being angry, like, ‘Why are you [customers] here? Is it important?’” Because of the pandemic, Robin’s been pushing for more safety in the office where she works. “This counter is of six feet, so that’s why I always sit back. I begged for the Xs on the floor, and then they finally did it three days later. I begged for a sign — I wrote a sign — and they were like, ‘that’s not good,’ and then two days later they wrote their own.” To further reduce potential infection, Robin thinks there should be a slimming down of actual person-to-person contact. “I told them the other day, I may need to go speak to EAP. I told my supervisor, ‘You don’t get the opportunity to tell me how to feel, because I’m the one on the front line.’ I even deal with more people than the carriers. They say, ‘Well we touch 800 mailboxes,’ and I say, ‘Yeah, but I’d rather right now be touching mailboxes than handling people and face-toface contact.’” Though Robin has a mask, gloves, disinfectant and is already a heavy cleaner, she’s not convinced of her safety or the safety of others. “The fact that we don’t know enough scares me. We don’t know how long it lives on surfaces, for real. We hear a lot of things. We don’t know how long it lives on packages, from anywhere in the country or in the world.”

together virtually is now more important than ever,” she says. Because Tiffany’s on administrative leave, she is still receiving an income, but finds herself thinking of those who aren’t so lucky. “We are fortunate enough that we’re still paid, but to see other people be laid off, and to see other people struggle with being unemployed, it’s tough to see. And we’re wondering, you know, how long is this going to last for us not knowing how we’re going to move forward with work. I work for a grantfunded program, so are they going to end the grant? And then I will be out of a job. It’s just challenging to know what to do next. We don’t really know where any

Akron Music, Art & Culture

of us are going once this is over, where the economy is going. So there’s a lot of unknowns,” she says. Though tensions are thick and news outlets are reporting higher rates in violence, Tiffany hasn’t been exposed to any of the negativity. “I think, in my experience, people have been really kind to each other. The one time I did have to go to the grocery store to kind of stock up, everybody was just so polite and courteous, and I know that’s not always the case but it’s so nice to see America just be all Americans at the end of the day. We need to come together, and I hope that continues outside of this crisis,” she says.

Like many of us, the invisibility of the virus makes Robin anxious. “Just thinking — all the activity I deal with, it won’t show up for weeks in me, or may not show up at all. But that one elderly lady who needs her two stamps — she could get it from me. And I just wish people would stay home, if it’s not important or dire or essential. The tensions are high. I kept thinking, ‘OK, am I being paranoid, ‘cause I have a headache,’ and I think it’s my own psychosomatic process of dealing with it. The fear of thinking that you feel a tickle, the fear of coughing just to clear your throat, is what people deal with now that we didn’t before. I think that paranoia is beating us up. I don’t know how you deal with it.” To help herself and her kids, Robin’s stocked the house with more vitamins and has been saving money. She knows a lot of businesses aren’t going to be able to survive this, so she and her fiancé have been ordering their meals out. “I order out my food every day. I didn’t used to, but I do it now, because I feel like I’m helping someone.” Robin says her fiancé has been very positive, but she’s realistic. “Being positive and being sincere about how you feel are two different things. So I can be positive and smile and try to encourage the people around me and customers to be safe, but in my mind there’s a part of me that is saying, ‘This is scary. This is some real stuff. And you don’t want to walk in fear, live in fear, but this can be the turning point for us as Americans. And maybe I’m thinking, like, ‘OK, what if this is our new norm? What if this becomes a thing that you have to stay conscious of?’ I think it’s a wake-up call for us as a country.”

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Special Section: The COVID-19 Pandemic Left: Annabell’s, a longtime music venue in Highland Square, usually announces upcoming acts on its West Market Street sign. Right: The Highland Theatre normally boasts its current films. Both pictured on March 19. (Photos: Ilenia Pezzaniti.)

“clubhouse” and the folks in the Akron scene that have offered to lend a hand to rebuild when all this is back to what we hope someday maybe near normal again.


by Marc Lee Shannon


ittle did I know when I walked off the stage at the end of the sold-out Michael Stanley show at the Akron Civic Theatre on March 7 how different my life, my business and my future would look less than two weeks later. COVID-19 has changed everything. At this point, my business as a solo artist, songwriter, guitarist for hire and music instructor is on life support. The first casualty was a two-date warm-up mini-tour set to begin on March 11 with JD Eicher in support of his new EP release. The Illinois show — the gig that was the biggest moneymaker — was the first to cancel. That meant the economic sensibility of the short swing was drastically changed. The full band outfit would now be faced with traveling to Appleton, Wisc., nine hours each way, for a 40-minute set and opening act pay. In the end, he made the wise choice to just do the show as a duo and try to break even. I was packed, ready to go and rehearsed. All the time learning and charting tunes, practicing and prepping, gear-readying, washing jeans and shirts were done. In the end, all this meant was tens of dollars in a QuickBooks SelfEmployed entry online. JD was generous to offer anything on what was a totally losing proposition for him. It got worse. More gigs started to cancel.

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The following Monday, I touched base with one of the teaching studios in the area where I conduct private lessons. Falls Music and Green Music school co-owner Mike Lowden said that up to the tipping point when public schools closed, his biggest challenge was simply facilitating everything, as opinions about what to do were all over the place. There were some cancellations and inquiries into online lessons, but when restaurants closed, it was all over. Mike is working with his teachers to develop online lessons and hoping that the school can open again soon. I thought for a long time and then suspended in-person lessons. It’s the right choice, as I am high risk due to my age. I will now try to sort out the online thing and hope that I can deliver an experience that is worthy of the diligence that my students show me every single week. This was a third of my income destabilized. Poof… gone. I am not alone in this massive shift for creative types. I reached out to others in the community for some views on what is happening right now — in their business, their lives and in their heads. I spoke to Jill Bacon Madden, owner of Jilly’s Music room, about the way this all rolled out for her. She had felt she was ahead of the game. Last week, she saw

her crowds starting to dwindle and band members starting to call wondering if they should play at all. Concerns about health issues and potential exposure were the spray-painted writing on the wall for her musicians and customers, and she made the decision to get in front of it all. She put together a strategy to shut it down, but still care for her long-term employees in the best way she could. On March 13, before Gov. Mike DeWine ordered restaurants to close, she cleaned out the coolers, gave away the produce, cleaned up the store and called it a day. Jill initially said she was not going to continue offering take-out; it was a nice little supplement but never a big part of the business. But her patrons, friends and musicians changed her perspective. She is in a unique position with a menu that is 100% gluten-free, and there are people out there who might have a hard time finding this food. Because this will help serve the community in a way that others may not be able to, she decided to get in and go on. Nearly in tears, Jill described to me the bonding of the music community and the support she had received in the form of calls and emails from so many wonderful people worried about her livelihood. Offers of free shows from musicians — some of them old friends, others she has barely met — have been plentiful, which has been moving and uplifting to her. She is more than grateful to the community

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Nearby, but in a completely different musical village, is Jenn Kidd at Musica. She realized that when SXSW was canceled, and then the NBA season was terminated, that it was all over. Two weeks earlier, we’d had a great visit, where we talked about how booked my calendar was and how things at the venue had really turned around. Then on March 7 — I think the last normal night for us all — she got up on stage in a gesture of gratitude and musical solidarity at the Akron Music Awards and rattled off all the great venues that this scene supports. Little did she know it would all be shut down in a few short days. So many devastating changes have happened since that night that we agreed that it might as well have been last summer. So much may never be the same. The changes are so rapid, Jenn said on the phone. “It’s almost hour by hour.” Many of the people that she works with have dual responsibilities in the arts and the service industry. This is a double body slam to those who now face a total loss of income for an undetermined amount of time. Unemployment? Forget it, if you are a musician or a 1099 contractor. Jen Mauer from Mo Mojo spent the day on the phone with various agencies only to find out that some of us are “invisible” and “not part of the conversation.” Unemployment benefits are funded by employer taxes, so independent contractors or “gig” employees are excluded. Trade associations, unions or guilds may offer suggestions, but the private sector is the only hope for those of us that fall between the cracks. Jen’s despair was for her friends and for herself to try to “hobble together” some sort of aid package that can keep performing musicians fed, not to mention helping them make rent. She is sick of hearing people telling her “go get unemployment” and not understanding that the gift of music that means so much to so many now means so little in the form of financial relief. Jen is at the front of the line of a distinguished collection of desperate artists with little hope in the

Special Section: The COVID-19 Pandemic short term. For JD Eicher, the cancellation of his U.S. tour dates and an upcoming European tour will cost many thousands of dollars in lost revenue. Not to mention the amount of investment in a new record that he has been crafting since around this time last year. For him now, “It’s about looking ahead and doing the math…. how to stay afloat. You try hard not to think about all the work that has gone into this record, this tour.” Agents are suggesting that musicians postpone whatever they can. Don’t cancel if possible. Keep the carrot on the stick to maintain interest in you, your product and your brand. JD says he was just not aware of how much work it is to dismantle a tour. Trying to rearrange and salvage any revenue-generating dates is much more work than he has ever imagined,

and communication with all the parties in that chain is full of questions and complications on an enormous scale. All of the artists that I spoke with had similar challenges and exhales of frustrations. My friend Brent Kirby, a songwriter who works as much as anyone in the Northeast Ohio club and concert scene, has a unique perspective: “It’s really odd to be unemployed after I have worked so hard to have work. For all of it to just disappear is a very weird feeling.” Still, Brent highlighted the things that he has had to turn to and focus on to keep sane. He said that this is not just happening to musicians — it is happening to all of us. Spending time with his family, pondering where to go from here, what to do, what will the change mean to all of us after we are out of this. What opportunities are out there that can represent a new model for us to make

a living? What will we be shown here that can change the mindset of creative people that create new opportunities? Where will all this lead? I don’t know. On March 1, I had 120+ shows on the books for the remainder of 2020. They are falling like dominoes now and I am not sure how I will pay for my life. I guess my real heart feelings are summed up by Jenn Kidd’s post on Musica’s Facebook page, which she has given me permission to use here: Dear friends. There aren’t any words to express our feelings on what is happening right now. We recognize the critical importance of the decision and we are heartbroken knowing the devastation this is causing our entire industry. Bartenders, servers, musicians and artists, sound techs, booking agents, restaurants, and venues, literally everyone

in our community. We don’t know what this looks like two months from now or even two days from now, but what we do know is that we need to support each other always, and ESPECIALLY during this uncertain time. We hope to be dancing, drinking, rocking out together soon. Until then, take care of each other … we love you and will hang out soon. I don’t know what is next for me or my friends. I do know we will all be in this together. Please stay tuned — we will need all the help we can find. // Marc Lee Shannon has been a working musician for more than 30 years. Hear his music at

Facing lost income, artists and makers scramble to take shows online by Derek Kreider Full disclosure: I’m personal friends with most of the people mentioned here


eramicists, painters, printmakers and other visual artists are dependent on in-person markets for much of their livelihoods. But as spaces for exhibitions, concerts and markets close, the artists who enrich our lives on a regular basis need our support in new ways. “The big problem right now is the uncertainty factor: we don’t know when the gathering bans will be lifted or loosened, so shows scheduled in the next two months have almost all canceled or made plans to postpone,” says Shannon Okey, the showrunner of Cleveland Bazaar. That’s why her organization has teamed up with the leadership of other craft markets to create the Rustbelt Creative Coalition, a group of show organizers “working to bring together resources and form a cooperative task force to tackle problems — everything from keeping the problems artists and small business owners are having in the media to developing virtual shopping opportunities, new funding possibilities, [and] plain old support mechanisms.” The coalition includes organizers from the Youngstown Flea, Wildroots Modern Market, Crafty Mart, Cleveland Bazaar, Mayday Underground (Rochester), Handmade Toledo, Wildflowers Armory (a multi-vendor market in Syracuse), 720 Market, Downtown Canton Flea, and the

Akron Music, Art & Culture

I Made It! Market (Pittsburgh). Starting in spring and continuing through Christmas, the craft show season can be a lucrative time for artists. Marissa McClellan, executive director at Crafty Mart, hopes that the cooperative can create an online alternative to inperson markets during the outbreak. “We’re hoping we can put something together like a really big virtual market, with really great pictures and really easy access for people,” Marissa said. Taking any of these steps will be helpful to the artists who so often shine a light into our lives during our darkest days. Their work is as much a business as any other means of traditional employment. These are legitimate jobs, serving a legitimate need in the population. As craft and maker show organizers search for digital substitutes, I reached out to a number of makers from different disciplines and asked how best to support the arts in the age of social distancing. Each one gave slightly different answers based on what their preferred medium is, but there was one common thread among all of them: social media engagement. “Right now, myself and other artists I have spoken to are focused on our metrics. If we can increase our engagement, our follower counts and interactions, we can organically spread our reach so that when the world starts turning again, we will be seen and ready,” says Alexander Draven,

owner of the ExCB, a business dedicated to handcrafted jewelry, watches and art. For appointment-based artists, it’s important to let them know that they still have customers. “The best thing people can do for their tattooer and beauty salonworking friends is book appointments ahead so they know they have work to come back to,” says J.D. Attenborough, a tattoo artist at Odd Fellows Tattoo in Akron. While many physical point-of-sale locations are closed, artists do still have their work available to buy. ”Most artists like me tend to sell a lot of their artwork on Instagram, or will have links on their profile to direct people to their online stores,” says Yami Rotten, a tattoo artist at Black Sheep Tattoo in Kent. Michelle Zeit, esthetician and makeup artist at VIVO Beauty Bar, summed up the situation: “Big box stores will survive this... small businesses need support now more than ever. Our entire livelihood depends on people walking in our doors.”

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If you’re an artist affected by COVID-19 closures, a list of resources is available at covid19freelanceartistresource. // Derek Kreider is a writer and sometimes musician, as well as The Devil Strip’s distribution manager. Reach him at

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Special Section: The COVID-19 Pandemic



kron, we have been here before. While none of us have lived through a pandemic, this type of event is nothing new in our city’s history. A look into the past may provide a little guidance and a little hope for dealing with this difficult time. Akron’s first bout with mass infection was in the summer of 1827. The town was just 2 years old. At the time, the plague was called “black tongue fever,” but it was probably typhus. The disease swept through the canal worker camps, Akron, the town of Middlebury next door and all the way north to the Village of Boston in the Cuyahoga Valley. In order to supply water for the Ohio & Erie Canal, Summit Lake had been lowered 8 feet. This killed nearly all the wetland plants that had surrounded the lake, and the terrible smell was blamed for the disease sweeping through the area. More than likely, however, it was brought by the canal workers. The living conditions in the canal camps were appalling and perfect for breeding and harboring disease. While historic records do not provide specific numbers, they do indicate that because so many people died so quickly, the majority of Akron’s remaining population fled the area. Stores and taverns closed and the local economy stalled to a halt. Medical care during the early 1800s was a far cry from the modern medicine of today. It is likely that many passings were hastened by the treatments of the frontier doctors. Some of those included covering patients with blankets to make them sweat, prescribing medications that induced vomiting and withholding water.

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Akron’s population wouldn’t recover until the fall of 1828. Of course, the 1918 Spanish flu is the pandemic being referenced the most in comparison to COVID-19. This strain of influenza is called the Spanish flu not because it originated in Spain, but because Spain was the only country giving full media coverage of the epidemic when it began to surface in Europe. (The rest of European media was censored during this time because of World War I. Spain had been neutral during the conflict.) Unlike COVID-19, the Spanish flu was more likely to kill young people than the elderly. The average age range of victims was 20 to 40 years old. The fatality rate was 2.5%. It began creeping into Ohio from the east coast in September. The situation was managed much differently than it had been nearly 91 years prior. Dr. Charles T. Nesbitt, head of the Akron health department, took immediate action in October, before the first cases were reported in the city. He said in a statement on Oct. 3, “The control of this disease is almost exclusively a matter of individual conduct.” He advised that people avoid crowds and individuals who appeared to be sick. He said the biggest risk was coming into contact with individuals who were infected, but did not yet show symptoms. He also stressed the importance of covering one’s mouth and nose during a sneeze or cough. The first cases of the Spanish flu in Akron were reported on Oct. 5. Nesbitt, in a move similar to the actions of Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, banned mass gatherings, closed schools, clubs, churches, and theaters on Oct. 12. All organized

sporting events were canceled. Many of these actions had been adopted by other communities nationwide and their data showed that the sooner the closings happened, the less the disease could spread and kill. According to an Akron Beacon Journal article on Oct. 12, Akron’s first death from the Spanish flu took place in the Kelly Avenue home of Donald Smith. The paper reported the victim was his sister. Nesbitt required that all city doctors report every case to his office so he could stay up to date on how the virus was spreading in the region. Above: A headline in the Oct. 12, 1918 Akron Evening

More than 200 people died within the first month. The Akron Armory, which had been completed earlier that year as a training site for the Ohio National Guard, was transformed into a makeshift hospital due to the shortage of beds in the city’s three other hospitals. Olive E. Beason, director of public health nursing, and her staff were in charge of care at the armory.

Times outlines Dr. Nesbitt’s order of social distancing to

The total number of deaths in Akron would reach approximately 630. More than 7,000 people would contract the disease. The ban on gatherings was lifted in mid-November and the infections and deaths began to taper locally toward the end of the year.

Also, like today, there was a palpable feeling of dread and fear. There were definitely instances of panic buying and falling prey to miracle cures — an ad in the Akron Evening Times, for example, touts “a sure cure for what ails you” and “baths of all kinds” at a doctor’s office on South Main Street. However, one can take comfort in the fact that for the most part, Akron held it together. There were no reports of chaos in the streets or a spike in crime. Neighbors came together to care for each other. Akron came out the other side of the Spanish flu wounded, but not defeated.

The Spanish flu pandemic ended globally in the summer of 1919. Looking back at these two events in Akron, we can thankfully say COVID-19 has little in common with the typhus epidemic of 1827. We have the advantage of modern medicine and an understanding of the importance of personal hygiene. But there are many similarities between our current experience and that of the 1918 Spanish flu. As they are today, authorities looked to experts for advice and quickly enacted policies intended to slow the rate of Left: The Akron Armory served as a makeshift hospital during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918.

combat the Spanish flu. (Photo:

spread. Also, researchers from across the country shared their findings and collaborated. Without these actions, the death toll, though high, would have been much higher.

While medical care has certainly advanced beyond that of 1918 standards, many of these methods are tried and true. Following the guidance of health experts and civic leaders is vital, as is social distancing and helping those in need. If our history is anything to go by, the Akron of 2020 will make it out the other side of COVID-19 too.

(Photo: Below: Local papers of 1918 were full of ads for tablets, tonics and other miracle cures. (Photo:

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// Charlotte Gintert is an archaeologist and a photographer. Akron’s past is kinda her thing. You can check out her photos at www. capturedglimpses. com and follow her on Instagram at @capturedglimpses.

Special Section: The COVID-19 Pandemic


From Stay At Home, a photo series by Autumn Bland


Through these two collections of photographs, I’m capturing what the new “normal” means in our community during the coronavirus pandemic. With the Stay-at-Home order put in place by Gov. Mike DeWine, life has changed drastically for many people. Only the Essential businesses remain open, while others are forced to close up shop. While many people are bound to their homes and restructuring their lives, there is a whole workforce out there working to combat this pandemic and serve the community however they are able. — Autumn Bland

Akron Music, Art & Culture

April 2020 · Vol 6 · Issue #4

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Are playdates safe? How do we see Grandma? Coronavirus parenting questions answered by Megan Combs


nless you’re an essential worker (and if you are, thank you!), you’re likely dealing with the reality of having your kids at home 24/7 because of the coronavirus pandemic. These are scary times, and it’s hard to know what’s safe and what you can do with your little ones out in the world. First, a few facts about the coronavirus and children. The novel coronavirus, aka COVID-19, has a relatively long incubation period (1-14 days, but most commonly five days), during which a person can be infected and transmit the virus while not showing symptoms. For reference, the incubation period for the flu is two days and less than a day for the common cold. Although children seem to experience a more mild illness on average than older adults, they are just as capable of carrying and transmitting the virus to others. There is also evidence that people can be entirely asymptomatic and still spread infection. That’s why it’s so important to squirrel yourself away from the rest of the world, which — we know — is easier said than done… especially with kids who have an endless supply of energy and who are used to a daily routine with school or daycare. We spoke to a medical expert about parenting during the coronavirus outbreak to get answers to some of your questions. Dr. Caleb Stokes is a fellow in pediatric infectious diseases at Seattle Children’s Hospital and the University of Washington. Megan Combs: Can my kids have playdates? What if it’s just playing catch in the yard? Dr. Caleb Stokes: Avoid in-person playdates. As the virus spreads rapidly across the country, it is likely being transmitted primarily by people who are not yet aware they are sick. While there are differing opinions regarding the level of social distancing that is necessary to limit this spread, I think there is good evidence that less contact means less transmission. We should be modeling the social distancing recommended by the CDC and WHO and enforcing this in our children as much as possible. This advice makes sense for toddlers

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who are likely to stick everything they see in their mouths, but it should extend through teens (who are among the most difficult groups to convince of the importance of social distancing). I think it’s good practice to talk these questions out with potential playdates or teens who want to go see their friends. How can we know we’re not transmitting the virus? How would we feel if our child developed symptoms of COVID-19 the same day she spent playing with a family friend, especially if that family friend had an elderly grandparent at home? MC: Are playgrounds safe? (Note: Gov. Mike DeWine has ordered the closure of Ohio’s playgrounds.) DCS: Transmission of the virus is probably more likely in the droplets directly generated by a cough or a sneeze, but we know that it can live on surfaces for at least several hours. This makes it entirely impossible to be sure that a playground is virus-free, especially in areas where there is active spread of COVID-19 (which includes all urban areas in the country at this time). If the playground is the only option, consider games that involve less use of the hands (like kicking a soccer ball), and practice careful hand-cleaning before and after using any shared equipment. MC: How do we visit grandma or grandpa (or other relatives) if they don’t have the ability to FaceTime? DCS: This is probably the hardest part of the social distancing process for most families. It’s important to know that the majority of transmission of the virus occurs within households. While we recognize how important it is to limit our physical contact with people who are at higher risk of contracting severe disease, it is also often these same people who have less ability to connect through digital devices. My first words of advice would be to go back to old-fashioned ways of feeling connected. Maybe your kids would be willing to make a card, write a letter, or even assemble a care package for their grandparents. A phone call can provide a strong connection even without video, and two ideas I’ve heard for keeping this interesting are to read a story over the phone or to use speaker mode to have a relative on the line during family

time, like during a meal. Finally, never underestimate the motivation of a grandparent: This may be just the push they were needing to get out the iPad you bought them last year. MC: Should I feel bad about extra screen time when I have to also work at home? DCS: Nope. This is a stressful time for all of us, and it’s important to call that out and to share what we can do to help everyone in the family adjust to this temporary change in our lives. I think one of the best pieces of advice I’ve seen offered is to establish a schedule, with time built in for work/school, meals, and play/family time. It’s also important to try and ensure that screen time makes use of high-quality programming, and this can include online coursework or self-guided learning. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has guidelines for screen time based on recent research showing that children less than 5 years old, and especially those less than 2 years old, are at the highest risk of harm from too much screen time. Each family will have to decide how to balance the risks of screen time with the necessities of working from home and mentally surviving the social distancing process. I think it’s an important thing to reassure everyone that this is temporary. We are altering our behaviors now to try and limit the consequences of COVID, and we will get through this together. MC: How do we explain coronavirus and the changes it’s brought to our kids? DCS: I’ve listed a few resources below and would encourage parents to browse these a little. One resource I particularly liked is the website from the National

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THE MARKS FAMILY CUYAHOGA FALLS Association of School Psychologists (NASP). I think some key points for talking to children about COVID-19 include: answer questions honestly, be willing to look up facts (e.g. on the CDC or WHO website), provide reassurance that they will be cared for, and give them opportunities to feel in control (washing their hands, practicing good social distancing). MC: What’s the best way to protect our kids and families? DCS: I think two important features of the COVID-19 illness help explain the practices we think are most important for protecting our families. First, like influenza or the common cold virus, it can be stopped by washing hands with soap and water and polite practices like covering our coughs and sneezes. Second, because it can be spread by people who don’t have symptoms, changing our behavior and limiting our close physical interactions is an important part of protecting vulnerable individuals and to limiting the impact of infections on the healthcare system. Finally, we have to remember that

Special Section: The COVID-19 Pandemic

contained in a shopping cart? Are the seats at your kitchen table suddenly filled with new little bodies? Yes? Well, me too. This whole coronavirus event has been one hell of a ride so far. It’s one I would like to get off immediately. In fact, I’m screaming and pushing the emergency button, but the carnie just keeps smiling and increasing the speed. Though it seems like the world is on fire around us and we’re forced to keep working as if we can’t smell the smoke, there are some people out there working to contain that fire and give us a little breathing room. Breathing room comes in different forms, and the list below is breathing room catered specifically toward those caring for children during this crisis. It isn’t just your adult world that has been turned upside down; your little people are right there with you trying their best to adjust to the huge changes thrown at them as well.

LIAM, LORENA & BENJAMIN COPLEY children look to us and model our behaviors, so it’s critical that we recognize the risks and take these steps to minimize them. And remember that this too shall pass. // Megan wonders where teachers and daycare workers get their endless supply of patience. My hats are off to you. Thank you!

Resources for entertaining and educating kids from home

Thank the heavens and Al Gore for the internet. While Hulafrog isn’t actually an activity, it provides a comprehensive collection of local, family-friendly activities updated weekly. Currently, Hulafrog is working to put together a list of the different locallyrun virtual activity options out there for children. There are some great ideas here for indoor activities and boredom busters right now.

by Marissa Marangoni


o you find yourself suddenly working from home with a child in the house? Are you a stay-at-homer who can no longer escape to Target for an aimless stroll with your kid safely

Akron Music, Art & Culture Raising Dragons is an organization dedicated to STEAM-based learning activities and crafts for kids. The activities can be searched by subject, age group and season, and they are simple and easy

to do. I am just about the least prepared person on the planet for... everything... and I have managed to successfully prepare these activities with the random junk I’ve found around my house. The real bonus here is that my son has enjoyed every one of the activities we’ve done from this site. OR ClevelandInnerCityBallet Does your kid need to move? Cleveland Inner City Ballet is offering virtual ballet classes every Wednesday at noon. You have to sign up through the parent portal on their website, but the classes are free, and every Monday, you gain access to video tutorials with more dance content! Why don’t you take your kid to a concert? The Berliner Philharmoniker Digital Concert Hall will play concerts just for them if you redeem the voucher on their site. You can see concerts live streamed or pick from pre-recorded shows to listen to an orchestra, see the work behind the music, or sing along with a classical soloist. museums-galleries/museums-withvirtual-tours Virtual museum tours anyone? Travel and Leisure put together a great list of museums around the world that you can access at any time. Check out some mummies in London, investigate special collections in the Louvre, or marvel over some of Van Gogh’s best work in Amsterdam all from a very safe social distance. The library is one of my son’s favorite places to go. Mine too! Until we can get back in there, the Akron-Summit County Public Library system has an incredible collection of digital resources that you can use for free. And this doesn’t just include books — you can listen to stories and watch movies and more through a variety of apps that your library card number gives you access to just for being an ASCPL patron. If you have a kindergartener through second grader in your presence, then this one is for you. Fluency and Fitness offer reading and math skills review through movement. This is free for 30 days, so don’t forget to cancel if you don’t want to keep paying. CosmicKidsYoga I have a child who has close to no chill, so I never thought it would be possible for him to even attempt yoga, but he loves

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this series of videos on YouTube. Cosmic Kids Yoga makes yoga accessible to most age groups of children, incorporating fun visuals and stories while teaching children basic yoga movements. The bonus here is that it might even help those no-chill kids chill. A little. Maybe. I actually don’t know a whole lot about this site, but I have only ever heard good things about it — and I know several parents who happily pay for it. ABC Mouse offers an entire curriculum for kids from 2 through 8 years old. It looks pretty fun, too. Right now, you can get a membership with the first 30 days free — and don’t say I told you this — but if you search around Facebook and the internet, there are plenty of posts with codes that provide free access to the programming for a much longer period. The regular membership runs $10/month, but I have seen them run specials here and there throughout the year for much less. ArtistAtHeartPaintParty Have some kids that love their art? Denyse Lipka Carbonel, a Cleveland art educator and artist, is offering free virtual art classes. Check her events list on Facebook for more details. Do you have an aspiring chef? Spatulatta has some great content for kid cooks. The recipes are simple and fun, and they are often accompanied by an instructional video of kids actually making the food. Kids and cooking can be stressful, but if nothing else, maybe this could be the thing to get your kid to handle their own snacks, since, you know, snacks. I’m so over snacks. The Akron Zoo is closed, but If your kids are missing the animals, they’re in luck — the zoo is running a program called Lunch and Learns every day at noon on their Facebook page. How cool is that? Need more animals? The Cleveland Zoo has a virtual classroom. If the schedule they’ve had so far continues, you’ll be able to get a little time to yourself at 11 am and 1 pm daily with this one. And, hey, if you add in the Akron Zoo Lunch and Learn, then you’re basically ALONE for three hours! Need to get out of the gosh-darned house? There’s really nowhere to go now except outside, so don’t forget the parks. Avoid playgrounds and other people, but trails through the woods are free to (continued on page 19)

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Special Section: The COVID-19 Pandemic

How to stay connected While social distancing by Rosalie Murphy


any of us will spend the next weeks or months holed up in our homes, leaving only for essentials. Those of us who are still working won’t be able to spend time in person with people other than our coworkers and family members or roommates. It may be relaxing to watch Netflix or do puzzles for a few days, but after a while, we’re going to have to get creative — and stay productive and healthy to boot. I asked Akronites to share their tips, tricks and resources for self-care during the coming weeks. Here’s what they suggested. HOW TO STAY PRODUCTIVE WHILE WORKING FROM HOME Changes to office policies and school schedules are forcing many office workers to develop work-from-home routines for the first time. I asked Lindsey Jo Scott, an artist and entrepreneur who works from home, to share some advice about developing a routine. “Routines help, but more than that, it’s really good to set proper expectations around your productivity. In an office environment, your day would be a mix of interactions with coworkers, working on projects, not working on projects, having meetings, eating lunch, and whatever else you’d do in a day. When you work at home, all those natural breaks disappear, so it’s important to give yourself breaks,” Lindsey Jo says. “I’ve found, on a typical day, I get about a good three hours’ total worth of work done, and that seems a reasonable expectation for me. I work best when I make myself take at least one break every hour, during which I’ll get up to make tea or snuggle a cat or check social media or read a blog. The main thing during a break is to stop what you’re doing and then come back after 15 minutes or so.” She adds: “Also, as often as you can, do not eat lunch while working. Get up, stretch, and eat real food and give yourself a real lunch break. The rest is

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truly just as important as the work. It’s the only way to make working from home (or anywhere for that matter!) sustainable.” Lindsey Jo recommends starting the day with a routine focused on self-care. For her, that means getting dressed, eating breakfast, and adhering to a morning writing practice. She recommends Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages, where you write three stream-of-consciousness pages in a notebook to “free up your brain from all the chatter,” and The Future Self Journal questions from The Holistic Psychologist on Instagram. When it’s time to begin the day, it can be helpful to create designated work space in your home. “I think it’s important to have a designated space at home where you ‘go to work,’ to help establish some rhythms and balance. I imagine the walk upstairs to my office as my “commute” and mentally, I feel like I’m turning on the work switch in my brain. If you don’t have a space you can designate as an office at home, perhaps you could consider your kitchen table, or another quiet spot away from the TV,” Lindsey Jo says. “I have friends with kids who work on the bathroom floor with the overhead fan turned on for white noise, so you really can get creative here. I mostly work without music, but if I’m working on more mundane tasks or meditative work that doesn’t require my full attention, I’ll listen to a podcast or even turn on a TV show in the background. This not only makes the work more enjoyable, but also helps it feels less isolating.” Lindsey Jo acknowledges that her productivity drops on days when she isn’t feeling well, and encourages new remote workers to acknowledge that that’s normal. It’s OK to take a break and try again in a few hours. Finally, “At the end of the work day, it’s really helpful to signal to your brain and body that you’re done working. This usually happens naturally when you leave work for the day and travel home,” Lindsey Jo says. “For me, this looks like putting my computer to sleep, tidying my desk a bit, and walking downstairs…

ZACH & JAMIE CUYAHOGA FALLS I often change my clothes when I come downstairs from working into workout clothes to do a quick workout or comfy clothes if I’m going to be resting for the evening.” HOW TO KEEP YOUR MIND OCCUPIED Branches of the Akron-Summit County Public Library are closed to the public. However, if you have a library card, you have access to a wide variety of free digital resources, including audiobooks, e-books, TV shows and movies for streaming, comic books and more. If you do not yet have a library card, visit

April 2020 · Vol 6 · Issue #4 to sign up for an online card. Itching to stay creative? VIBE Collective, a group of local artists from a variety of disciplines, is developing a plan for digital artist meet-ups. Keep up with them on Facebook or email vibecollectiveneo@ Download the Netflix Party extension for Google Chrome to watch Netflix with your friends. The extension allows you to chat while watching TV shows and movies simultaneously.

Special Section: The COVID-19 Pandemic

HOW TO CONNECT WITH MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES Alcoholics Anonymous and other recovery support groups are built around in-person meetings. In mid-March, however, the General Service Office of Alcoholics Anonymous encouraged individual meeting groups to make their own plans for how meetings will continue: “Our collected experience suggests that groups that are unable to meet at their usual meeting places have begun to meet digitally; doing so in a sensible and helpful manner to allow the group to continue keeping the focus on our common welfare and primary purpose,” the office said in a statement. “Many groups have also made contingency plans in case the group is temporarily unable to meet in person… Contingency plans have included: creating contact lists and keeping in touch by phone, email or social media; meeting by phone or online. “If a group isn’t holding its regular meetings, they may want to communicate this to local A.A. resources, such as the district, area and intergroup or central office. Many local A.A. entities have added information to their websites about how to change a meeting format from “in-person” to online. Some groups have shared that they are utilizing digital platforms such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, or a conference call.” AA Intergroup offers multiple daily online meetings as well as phone meetings, which you can learn more about at Many non-A.A. sober support groups have sprung up online, too. For talk therapy, Betterhelp offers a free trial period with a licensed therapist. Afterward, costs range from $40 to $70 per week. If you already see a therapist, email or call their office to ask about remote visit options.

MELISSA, BMO & CORY MERRIMAN HILLS HOW TO STAY PHYSICALLY ACTIVE If you want to stay active but your gym is closed, get outside. Trails at the Summit Metro Parks and Cuyahoga Valley National Park remain open, although visitors centers and shelters are closed. Park officials have encouraged younger hikers and runners to wait until later in the day to visit the parks, so that older residents who are at higher risk from COVID-19 can have exclusive access to trails in the early morning hours. Make sure to maintain at least 6 feet of space between yourself and your fellow

Akron Music, Art & Culture


walkers. Several local yoga studios are streaming classes on Facebook, Instagram Live, or YouTube, including Yoga Squared, HARVEST Yoga + Wellness, Yoga with Mary Mullane and Yoga Bliss Akron For more high-intensity workouts, Lindsey Jo recommends FitOn, a free app with a wide variety of workout videos. There are also a wealth of options on YouTube, including the popular and free FitnessBlender and Yoga with Adrienne.

To stay in touch and share resources with disabled Ohioans, Alicia Hopkins invites you to join the Facebook group “Ohio Disabled Unite: Peer Support During Covid 19!” Neighborhood apps like Nextdoor can help you learn about your neighbors and keep up to date with information about local businesses and community members. Some neighborhoods are participating in no-touch Easter egg hunts to encourage getting outside for families with kids. Most religious communities have canceled

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weekly services to prevent large groups of people from gathering. Many have begun streaming sermons, devotions and meditations online instead. “The most important thing we can do is encourage each other,” says Michael Howard, a minister in the United Church of Christ. “You don’t have to attend a service in person to worship. In fact, from my perspective as a Christian leader, protecting our neighbors by doing all we can to slow the spread of the coronavirus is the most faithful thing we can do in this moment.” Michael encourages Akronites, both those who practice a faith and those who don’t, to support “direct service ministries” like food pantries, soup kitchens and clothing drives. He also encourages people to provide “spiritual care” to their communities — connecting people to services they need, talking with or praying with them, or otherwise. “In these times, we begin to see our faith organizations as community networks of mutual care, and that is the best thing of all,” Michael says. “In many ways, we are rediscovering why the work of community building is so important. My hope is that this pandemic helps us rediscover the role our faith organizations play in building and caring for the well-being of the people in our communities, and we should be taking the lead. From what I have seen so far, I am encouraged.” // Rosalie Murphy is Editor-in-Chief of The Devil Strip. Reach her at rosalie@

Parenting (continued from page 17) foot traffic and help exhaust that everabundant child energy. You know what my favorite thing to do at parks is? Tell my kid I’m going to race him to a random tree in the distance, count to three, and then let him run real far while I don’t. You can do this a whole lot of times at any of our lovely local Summit Metro Parks. There’s more out there to entertain and educate your kids right now, friends, but hopefully, this list will give you some ideas of how to put in your workday while caring for the children in your life and provide you with ways to entertain these small people while physically isolating yourself from most of humanity. // Marissa Marangoni has been one of Akron’s unofficial Public Restroom Executives since 2015, but is now treading in the unknown territory of the coronavirus crisis. Her child is watching entirely too much TV already.

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The Rest Of The Book

Akron Arts, Music & Culture

Just Go With It!



lever retorts, belly-laughing exchanges and ingenious characterization are just a taste of what to expect from the incredible world of improv. For those not familiar, improv is a form of live theater where the story, characters and scenes are all created and performed on the spot. Made famous by the critically acclaimed television show “Whose Line is it Anyway?,” improv is a remarkable form of artistic expression that relies on trust, quick-thinking and creativity. Founded by a talented group with varying theatrical backgrounds, Just Go With It Improv (JGWI) brings a one-of-a-kind entertainment experience to Kenmore. Bonded by a shared love of the craft, current castmates Brian Fox, Marissa Leonino Lange, Ruben Ryan, Ryan Dyke and John Zido bring a tour de force of comedy and drama to the charming Rialto Theatre stage. JGWI was founded in 2015 by Marissa and her colleagues Matt Dolan and Dean Coutris. The current lineup, which features performers who cut their teeth in cities like Chicago and Washington, D.C., comes from a variety of backgrounds. “I was originally approached by Matt and Dean, who were really interested in getting a longform improv group together,” said Marissa. “I was so excited! When I decided to move to Akron from D.C. I thought it was ‘goodbye, longform,’ but I guess not.” Improv, like many art forms, is compiled

Akron Music, Art & Culture

from different disciplines, each with its own structure and purpose. JGWI specializes in and performs longform improv. “I will be literal about it: Longform improv is longer,” Ruben jokes. “In all seriousness, your typical shortform show is made up of segments. It is something you would see on ‘Whose Line is it Anyway?’ where you have games and short bits. Longform improv is going to run you 15-30 minutes per scene.”

intimate in all the right ways, featuring nearly a dozen tables and chairs, a full stage and a fully stocked bar. It was cozy and perfect for a night of comedy.

“[With] longform, you can be really pure to improv. You can let the scene breathe and really connect one on one with your partner,” Brian adds.

Samantha kicked off the evening by playing songs from her first EP. Upbeat melodies partnered with deep, emotional lyrics helped set the mood for what was going to be a fantastic show. Following her performance, JGWI brought audience members to the stage to participate in the cast’s improv exercises.

“It requires a level of trust that you don’t get with shortform,” Ryan says. “You go out there and it’s all out there on the table, and I think people really like to see that.” Unlike classic theater, where actors rehearse and have a script, improv requires actors to develop a story on the spot, which takes a lot of practice. “It’s like practicing for a baseball game. You aren’t rehearsing a scene where you read line a, b, c. It’s more like practice because you need to just keep trying over and over again until it clicks,” Ryan says. After watching the group perform at the Rialto on Feb. 20, it’s clear to see that JGWI’s hard work and dedication to the craft is vindicated. The doors opened at 7 pm to allow guests to take in the atmosphere and mingle with fellow attendees and the JGWI actors. The Rialto is charming and

Owing to the nature of improv, each JGWI show is different. The show I attended featured a local musician, Samantha Archual, and a visiting improv troupe from Cleveland, Hopscotch Improv.

Several guests joined in and began acting through some simple scenes. Plenty of laughs ensued throughout, but one particular exercise stood out: It featured two people acting out a scene while the others on stage swapped in and out at any time to add on to the story while maintaining the same pose as the previous two actors. A hysterical scenario involving a mind-controlled puppet changed in an instant to an artist painting a muse. It was impossible to hold back the roar of laughter produced by the creativity of everyone on stage. Following the group activity, Hopscotch Improv took to the stage. Then Samantha took the stage one more time to play covers of classic songs from Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan.

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After she finished her set, the main event began. Brian, Marissa, Ryan and Ruben took to the stage and transported the audience back to a 1940s-era radio drama. Their performance featured three different storylines: a pair of fishers from Michigan who catch the final fish in Lake Michigan and realize that they’ve reached their peak, a wealthy mother and son who hilariously fail to off their annoying grandparents, and finally a young man who brings someone he says is his fiancé home to meet his parents. Each storyline featured fantastic dialogue.

The final portion of their act followed the story of two inmates that attempt to start a gang and a prison guard who had been kicked out of the British Royal Guard. The phenomenal storytelling abilities and quick-thinking wit of each cast member led to scenes that had the audience nearly laugh-crying. Whether you’ve never seen an improv show or you’re a longtime fan, consider a visit to the Rialto for a night filled to the brim with entertainment, laughter and thrills. Newbies and veterans alike can appreciate the welcoming atmosphere and passionate acting that help us learn, together, how to just go with it. To keep up with Just Go With It Improv and find out when their next performance will be, visit their Facebook page at www.facebook. com/justgowithitimprov.

// Matthew Hogan is a PR professional, community activist and local theatre actor.

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Above poem, published by the University of Akron Press: Leslie Harrison is the author of The Book of Endings and Displacement. She was born in Germany and raised mostly in New Hampshire. She holds graduate degrees from Johns Hopkins University and the University of California, Irvine. Her poems have appeared in journals including Poetry, The New Republic, The Kenyon Review, FIELD, Subtropics, Pleiades, Orion and elsewhere. She teaches at Towson University.

Above: “Taking Up My Own Space” by Monica Pirie. Follow Monica on Instagram at @monicapiriestudio or see more of her work at

“Hey Alexa” by Alomar Hey Alexa, will you be the one to end my anxiety? I don’t wanna leave my apartment, yeah, I just want to sleep I can’t distinguish today from any other day of the week And I tremble when I have to interact with anyone but you Hey Alexa, can you take away the pain I’ve been feeling? I’m a mess, I don’t feel blessed like the radio says to me Excitement these days feels so forced that I have more fun in my dreams But at least I have technology to keep me company But, hey Alexa, I have you and you have me You take away the stress, you know what’s best when I need that recipe But, hey Alexa, you’re fully charged and I need to hear that song I wrote in 2009 for the 200th time

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Hey Alexa, can you play The College Dropout on repeat? Bring me some weed and talk to me about some cures for being lonely Hey Alexa, now has come the time where I must fall asleep If I don’t wake up will you please play this song back to me? But, hey Alexa, I have you and you have me You take away the stress, you know what’s best when I need that recipe But, hey Alexa, you’re fully charged and I need to hear that song I wrote in 2009 for the 200th time Hey Alexa, I love you. I do.

April 2020 · Vol 6 · Issue #4



or most Akronites, asking about cabochons would likely inspire confusion or a quick glance at Google. However, for Courtney Cable, 2020 vice president of the Summit Lapidary Club and Guy Kotch, Gemboree Chair and President of Akron Mineral Society, “cabochon” is everyday terminology. Guy describes a cabochon as “a [stone that is] domed to show off its best colors and shine.” Learning how to create these domes is a critical skill to master for those interested in lapidary, or “the art of stone-cutting,” as Courtney defines it. The Summit Lapidary Club offers an environment to learn and develop those skills, or just stare at beautiful treasures. Founded in 1946 as the Falls Gem Club, the Summit Lapidary Club took its current form in 1974. Operating out of a clubhouse in Cuyahoga Falls, the Lapidary Club shares the space with The Akron Mineral Society, which focuses on specimens and collecting rather than on creating art. As Guy puts it, Mineral Society members believe that “you can’t improve on what God already did.” Inside the clubhouse, visitors will find cut stones, mineral specimens and the tools needed to shape and polish gemstones. One of the goals of the club is to spread out the cost of doing lapidary. Much of the needed equipment is big, messy and expensive, so annual membership fees help members share that cost. “There is always another tool you need for another process you want to learn how to do,” Courtney says. Sharing information among members is an important aspect of the club. When

Akron Music, Art & Culture

you start as a member of the Lapidary Club, you are trained on the equipment, and once you can use the machine reliably, they give you a key so you can come into work on projects whenever you like. Members also teach each other classes, including “beginning wire wrap, polymer clay, pearl stringing, [and] beaded cage,” Guy says. In Courtney’s experience, help comes from more than just formal instruction. She can ask any member to help with a project or share their experience. “It’s so much nicer for me to learn with the hands-on [help] as opposed to, oh, you are going to make me read it somewhere, it’s going to take me years,” Courtney says. “I think it’s really important also, me being one of the younger members, to learn from the people who have been doing this for so long. Because there really are a lot of different things you can learn, different styles of creating the same thing.” The Lapidary Club organizes regular field trips to different areas to collect gemstones or just to explore. Members have traveled all around the world, but one of their favorite spots is right here in the Flint Ridge area of Ohio. Ohio flint is known for its high quality, and people have traveled to Flint Ridge for thousands of years to collect it. This unique resource prompted Ohio to make flint its official state gemstone in 1965. Courtney says the Nethers Farms Quarry in Flint Ridge has particularly beautiful flint. “That mine is known for the reds, then lighting bolts [streaks of white or blue] going through their stones. And when the earth shifts and there is a crack in the stone, the earth heals itself with [quartz] crystals.”

But you don’t need gem-quality stones to do something nice, Courtney says. “There are actually a lot of great stones found in quarry pits, or in gravel pits, or in driveways. You really don’t recognize how old this stone is, or that it’s actually garnet, or it’s something that you can polish up!” Both the Lapidary Club and Mineral Society love to collect, Courtney explains, and a common joke among members is how many tons of rock they have collected. “Whenever I first started, people were like, ‘we got one ton of rock in our basement…’ and then somebody else popped in, ‘I got three!’ They’re not joking, they really have a lot of rock they have collected.” “I have half a ton in the back of my truck right now,” Guy chimes in. Even with all their unbridled enthusiasm, both Guy and Courtney stress the friendly nature of the group. While there are a number of professionals in the club who make their living through lapidary, including one member that actually worked on Elizabeth Taylor’s diamonds, novices and hobbyists are welcome as well. The group even has a “geo-juniors” group for interested kids and teenagers. To help raise money for both organizations, the Summit Lapidary Club and Akron Mineral society put on a biannual “Gemboree,” which Courtney proudly points out is a name trademarked in the state of Ohio. Guy says the event

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usually draws more than 1,500 visitors and features a number of educational and artistic displays including 30-plus vendors selling jewelry components, gemstones, collectible minerals and fossils. Gemboree is also meant to appeal to children through a number of activities such as creating gem-trees and sifting for stones in a play gem mine. Adults too can enjoy the hunt for rare gems by purchasing a geode that the club will help break open in a vice. The April Gemboree was canceled due to current restrictions on large gatherings. However, the next Gemboree is scheduled for Oct. 24 and 25. Courtney stressed that even though the clubs can not meet in person currently, members have not stopped being active, “there is still enthusiasm online via the Facebook page, where members and others with rock and gem appreciation exchange digital interactions. So the members are alive and well ... and many of them enjoy posting what they are working on or post fun images of amazing rock and mineral finds around the globe.” To learn more about the Summit Lapidary Club, search for the Summit Lapidary Club Facebook group. // Ken Evans finds himself leaping from life to life, putting things right that once went wrong and hoping each time that his next leap will be the leap home.

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THE WAY WE GET BY Chris Drabick is a former rock music journalist whose fiction has appeared in Cease, Cow and After the Pause, and non-fiction in BULL and Stoneboat, among others. He is a graduate of the NEOMFA, the northeast Ohio consortium program. His debut novel The Way We Get By was published by Unsolicited Press in March 2020. He teaches English and Creative Writing at the University of Akron. The following is an excerpt from The Way We Get By, which is on sale now.


n 1943, when Ray was a teenager, riots engulfed parts of Detroit for three terrible days, blacks and whites battling each other in various spots around the city. The neighborhood of Paradise Valley sustained most of the damage, but Ray’s neighborhood was several miles away and felt far removed from the fighting. Although he wasn’t old enough to have developed a sense of irony, the fact that the war industry was responsible for the influx of AfricanAmerican job seekers from the South struck the young Ray as confusing. America was supposed to be united to defeat the Axis, but here were citizens murdering each other in anger in his own city, burning down businesses and attacking police officers. When asked how this could be happening, Ray’s father was taciturn. He shook his head and muttered, “Nobody’s no good.” Ellsworth didn’t know about the ’43 riots. Ray told him what he remembered.

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As they finished their chicken lunch, wiping the grease on the fresh, clean bar rags that hadn’t been used in two days, he seemed as confused as the teenage Ray had been nearly a quarter-century before. Ellsworth spoke with a mouthful of potato salad. “Blacks hate the whites; whites hate the blacks. Cops hate the blacks; blacks don’t trust the cops. How’s anything supposed to change?” Ray shrugged. “I suppose little has.” “But shouldn’t they have learned something from before?” Ellsworth fished in his pack of cigarettes, pulled one out and lit it. “Those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.” Ray took a sip from his beer. “There’s no justice. There are still over a dozen unsolved murders from the earlier riots. How would you feel if one of those was a family member?”

Ellsworth shook his head. “Let’s wait a minute.” Ray felt real fear for the first time since the trouble started. He’d seen and been involved in his share of mild violence as a bar owner, but there was something unbridled about a riot that truly frightened him. Anything could happen when mob mentality took hold. They watched for another several minutes but nothing else happened. No people were even visible from the door. It stayed quiet; no sirens wail followed and both the men calmed down. Ellsworth headed back to his bar stool. “I’ll tell you what, my heart plum stopped for what must’ve been a minute there.” Ray started to question the wisdom of letting Ellsworth stay at the bar without him for any length of time. “Maybe we ought to both head home.”

Ellsworth shook his head. “I seen it firsthand, Ray. You think my mixed cousins get treated the same as me? Hell no they don’t. My Aunt Sue’s boy Robert, he’s been trying for years to get hired on the line at Fisher. He’s a good kid, big and strong. They’ve had him cleaning toilets for years.” He took a drag from his cigarette. “And it ain’t just black and white. I learned real quick to drop the twang if I wanted anyone to think I was something other than stupid.”

“I’ll be alright, Boss.”

Ray nodded. “This girl Mary Jo McKenna asked me to a Sadie Hawkins dance in High School. She had just moved here with her folks from Arkansas. I took so much ribbing after I said yes that I had to beg off. I still feel terrible about that.”

This made Ray even more nervous. “That’s a terrible idea, Ell. I won’t put you in a position where you’d need to decide between someone else’s life and your own.” Ray didn’t mention a shotgun would be little help against a firebomb anyway. “Let’s go. We’ll meet up again tomorrow.” Ray began to gather up their lunch trash. “I need to go over to Ruby’s and see why she hasn’t been answering her phone.”

Ellsworth smiled. “Was she stacked?” “That’s hardly the point, Ell.” He laughed loudly. “You say that, but I’ll bet if she was stacked, you’d have taken her to that dance no matter what your friends said.” Ray shook his head and chuckled a little. Before he could answer, there were a series of loud bangs outside. Ray and Ellsworth met each other’s glance with wide eyes. They ran to the glass windowed door to look, but nothing was visible. Ray pointed out of the door. “It wasn’t our cars.” Several area fire bombings had been of unmanned vehicles. “That sounded like a damn cannon.” “Should we go out to see?”

“I’d feel better if you left.” Ellsworth waved his hand in the air. “I got ol’ Bessie if need be.” “Old Bessie?” “My sawed-off. Some looter hears that pump action, they’ll move down the block.”

Ray hadn’t wanted to make too much of it, but he was getting increasingly worried about Ruby. It wasn’t like her to not follow through with plans as she had the night before, or to at least check in if something changed. He’d rung her number a few times from the bar, but there was still no answer.

“Insurance?” Ellsworth tossed a couple of beer bottles in the trashcan with a clang. “That would cover this place being destroyed in a riot?” Before Ray could answer, there was a tap at the side door. They looked over to see Pat Maloney. Ray walked over and unlocked the deadbolt to let him in. “You’re not thinking about opening, are you Schmitty?” Ray shook his head. “Ellsworth and I were just finishing some lunch, checking up on things.” He looked over at Ellsworth with no expression. “That’s good.” He reached for a pack of cigarettes in his shirt pocket, took one out and lit it. “You two hear anything recently?” “We did. Sounded like some sort of explosions. We didn’t see anything, but it sounded like it came from that way.” He pointed in the vicinity of where he thought the sound had originated. Maloney nodded. “We got a few calls, but haven’t found anything.” He inhaled his cigarette. “Could be nothing, but you two should think about heading out of here. There’s been a few skirmishes over the last few hours. Nothing major, but I wouldn’t be around here if I didn’t have to.” Ellsworth threw away the rest of their trash. “We were just about to leave when you got here.” Maloney looked at Ellsworth as though he’d been sassed. Neither spoke. Ray felt the tension. “We’ll be out the door in five minutes, Paddy. Can I get you anything before we leave?” He didn’t take his eyes from Ellsworth. “No, thanks.” “No, thank you for looking out for us.” Ray smiled. “Be careful out there.” Maloney smirked at Ray. It was probably as close to a smile as they’d get. “Eye’s in the back of my head, Schmitty.”

Ellsworth looked dejected, but helped Ray clean their mess. “I wish you’d reconsider.” “Not a chance.” Ray dumped the chicken bones in the paper bag that delivered the meal. “It’s not worth it. I’ve got insurance. There’s no sense in anyone dying over this place.”

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THE GOODYEAR CORPORATE RESEARCH BUILDING words and photos by Charlotte Gintert


aul W. Litchfield is one of the superstars of Akron’s tire history. Originally from Boston, he moved to Akron in 1900 to fill the superintendent position at the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, beginning a 56-year career there. Litchfield is remembered for many contributions to Goodyear’s success in the industry, including creating an aeronautics division. That’s right, Akronites — we have our beloved blimps thanks to Litchfield. One of his most important contributions to the rubber industry was the founding of Goodyear Corporate Research in 1908. In fact, if you’re looking for Litchfield, that’s where you’ll find him: At the corner of Goodyear Boulevard and Kelly Avenue, in bronze statue form. The Goodyear Corporate Research building is located at 142 Goodyear Blvd. Originally, the research “division” was located in a small brick structure further to the west, but World War II created new challenges that the old laboratory space could no longer meet. During the war, supplies of natural rubber from Asia were not accessible, so it became necessary to develop alternatives. By then, Litchfield was Goodyear’s president. He determined that the solution to this problem was creating a state-of-the-art facility for rubber

Akron Music, Art & Culture

research. The Goodyear Corporate Research building was opened to occupancy on April 6, 1943, one day after a tornado passed through town and blew out several windows. It cost $1.3 million dollars to build and housed 250 chemists, engineers, physicists and technicians. Goodyear’s was the first dedicated research building in the rubber industry. During the opening ceremony, Litchfield said, “We have come far in this world — far enough to know there are great other worlds of knowledge yet to explore. We have only begun to learn. The best is yet to come.” He was right. Goodyear did help to solve the synthetic rubber problem, with research led by Paul Flory, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1974. The division has been granted thousands of patents, and new breakthroughs in polymer and rubber development happen every decade. Most recently, Goodyear Corporate Research made headlines with zero-gravity silica testing on the International Space Station. All these breakthroughs have taken place in an unassuming building down the street from the bustling East End district, which includes Goodyear’s original headquarters and Goodyear Hall. The research building was built the way a laboratory should be: Solid

and functional. A closer look, however, reveals that medallions inscribed with strange symbols line the upper courses of the building. These are alchemical symbols, including images that represent iron, earth, fire, copper and air. A large clock sits above the front entrance, a “modern” 1940s take on the company’s other clock towers. During the 1990s, Goodyear added an expansion that doubled the size of the building, ensuring that it could continue to serve its vital function. The Goodyear Corporate Research building was declared a National Historic Chemical Landmark for its significance in synthetic rubber development. While the majority of Goodyear operations have moved to Innovation Way, much of the company’s innovating still takes place where it always has for the last 77 years. According to Chris Helsel, Goodyear’s senior vice president and chief technology officer, “We are proud to carry on the legacy of Paul W. Litchfield by continuing to conduct some of Goodyear’s most innovative scientific research & technology development within the walls of this historic building.” // Charlotte Gintert is an archaeologist and a photographer. Akron’s past is kinda her thing. You can check out her photos at and follow her on Instagram at @capturedglimpses.

April 2020 · Vol 6 · Issue #4

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Sharon Connor

votes. For a lot of people, these losses may have been enough to push them out of local politics. But if you know Sharon Connor today, you know she recently won the Ward 10 council seat. When we meet eight weeks after she’s won her election, she tells me she feels “spectacular.” Her face is pure joy. She’s waited 20 years to get to this moment. “I can finally do the work I’ve always wanted to do,” she says. “And it’s so fun. I feel the fun every time I talk about it.” Her optimism is unparalleled and even surprising at points. When I ask her to tell me what she most enjoys about being a councilwoman, she talks about explaining how tax dollars are allocated to residents, helping make decisions, and activating local spaces in ways that best benefit neighbors. Beyond that, it’s about helping local residents feel more invested in their city’s future and getting them to see their councilmembers as more than just “Casper the ghost downtown who makes decisions.” “I’ve always wanted to change my little corner of the world for the better, and I think that’s what I’ve always tried to do for a long, long time,” Sharon says. Then there’s always the excitement around local politics, as well as the personal connections. As someone who’s lost races over 10 or 20 votes, one of the first things Sharon will tell you is that every vote matters, and every hand you shake could either make or break your election. On a local level, politics are a microcosm of the larger American democratic process. “Once you get a feel for local politics, I think you either really love it or really hate it,” she says. “For me, I loved it. I loved it because at a local level, at a ward seat level, your one vote counts the very most. It has the most weight that it will ever have of any vote you cast.

words by Noor Hindi photos by Ilenia Pezzaniti


he year is 1975. Sharon Connor is 17 years old and waiting on student council votes to get tallied. Weeks ago, she threw in her name to become the first female student council president at Widener Memorial High School in Philadelphia. For weeks, she’s been canvassing and garnering the votes of her classmates and friends. Even at a

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young age, she knows that if you become a leader, you can change things for the better. Sharon loses her bid to become president by 15 votes. “I graduated in ‘76,” she says. “Girls just weren’t presidents back then. I hope

they can be president now. I believe that. Whether you can get the whole country to believe that, we haven’t quite seen that yet. But we’re close.” Flash forward 20 years later. She runs for city council, this time to become Ward 10 councilwoman. She loses by 42 votes, then again in 1997 by more than 100

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“When you get a feel for that and when you can help determine the direction and course of your neighborhood based on that [small] amount of people, it’s changing. It alters the whole thing. And for me that’s exciting. That’s grassroots at its roots. And I felt that when I lost both times,” she continues. Sharon’s tenacity stems from her mother, Katherine, who taught her that “if you want something, go get it. Figure it out.” Growing up in Philadelphia, Sharon remembers a childhood filled with family. Her mother, one of 10, had a large family, and Sharon spent most of her time with

her “million cousins” who lived within walking distance. Thanksgivings were packed with 40 to 50 people. All of the Monopoly tokens were used during games, and there was always something to do. One of four kids, Sharon was closest to her dad, whom she describes as the smartest man she’s ever known. Because of her spina bifida, there were a lot of activities she couldn’t participate in. Instead, she enjoyed evenings with her dad playing Scrabble, watching Jeopardy! and reading the newspaper. Sharon wasn’t particularly close to her mom, but she says her mom taught her to go after anything she wanted. “She would tell me all the time, ‘You’re smart. Figure it out. And I’ve lived with that for all of my life,” says Sharon. “There are people who look at you and they don’t expect much, but I expect everybody to do something. Because we all can. You just have to figure out what it is.” The first in her family to go to college, Sharon dropped out a week after beginning the semester. At the time, she was using crutches, and her dorm was on the seventh floor of the building. She felt like she was navigating a world where she “didn’t know any of the right questions.” “The elevator broke in the building,” she says. “And I’m walking up and down 14 flights of stairs just to get to my room with crutches and with books. I was about an hour and a half from my parent’s house trying to live at school. I was in a dorm room with a roommate who had friends over every night when I’d sleep. It was a whole lot.” Sharon got married to Paul shortly after leaving school. They’ve been married for 30 years, and they moved to Akron in 1984. After the move, she spent her first year recovering from back surgery, so there wasn’t a lot of exploring done. At that time, Sharon spent the better part of 15 years working as a school librarian and secretary and exploring Akron for fun activities for her two daughters. Still, she admits it wasn’t until 1995 that she became deeply involved in local politics. At that time, she was driving around Akron, intentionally getting lost, “discovering how fun it was.” “Akron was, when you compared it to other rust belt cities, it was hanging in there. It wasn’t falling apart at the seams like people wanted you to think,” she says. In 1995, then Ward 10 Councilman Jeff

Akron Music, Art & Culture

Fusco asked Sharon to run as councilwoman to replace him as he ran for an at-large seat. Sharon was competing against councilman Bruce Kilby, and convincing neighbors to vote for her was harder than ever. “I would knock on people’s doors and I would get, ‘Oh, honey, I really like you, but I vote the way my husband tells me,’” she recalls. “All the middle-aged people, when Goodyear did the layoffs, left. So, you either have really young people that are busy chasing their kids and raising a family, or really old people who vote the way their husbands tell them. And you have nobody in the middle.” After losing her second election, Sharon decided to “wait until those people in their 30s are now people in their 40s and 50s.” She also says people didn’t recognize her abilities at the time, and she wanted to wait until she could retire from Akron Public Schools. “I fell through the cracks in both races because people didn’t know my abilities. They only knew my disability,” she says. Between 1997 and 2020, Sharon spent the time getting to know her neighbors, volunteering at community events, writing grants and “making personal connections.” She founded the R.I.G.H.T Committee (Residents Improving Goodyear Heights Together), which was able to install 10 little free libraries all over Goodyear Heights. Most recently, the R.I.G.H.T Committee won the Akron Parks Challenge, securing $100,000 in funding for Reservoir Park. The funding was used to install a walking path, a new playground and an outdoor entertainment space. When I ask her why she felt it was so important to become councilwoman despite already doing so much work for the neighborhood, she says she felt she’d gone “as far as I could go on a neighborhood level, and the next step was to go to city council.” “Part of it was the stubbornness of, ‘I’ll show you. I’ll win this one day.’ And part of it was I was still doing good things in my neighborhood,” she says. “Once you start that path of doing good things in your neighborhood, you want to do more good things.” Right now, Sharon is only a few months into her term in office and is more excited

than ever. She’s currently working on increasing connections between neighbors through regular ward meetings and promoting local events on social media. She’s also working on finding creative ways to bring in money to restore and upgrade the neighborhood. For Akron as a whole, Sharon says she’s hoping to continue pushing for more conversations surrounding equity. Her biggest disappointment at the moment is a divide between the eastern and western sides of the city. “You see that most of the people that show up and most of the people that are moving and shaking are all from the west side,” she says. “I find that interesting. And maybe it’s just a perception, but it’s still a perception that a lot of people have. Being a person from the east side, I have always championed that both sides of the city have a lot to offer. All sides of the city have a lot to offer.” Outside of the community, Sharon enjoys reading and spending time at home. It doesn’t take long to get her talking about her love of children’s books, most notably pop-up books. At home, Sharon has a huge collection of pop-up books and a bookshelf of games and toys for kids. One of her favorite children’s books includes “Fortunately, Unfortunately” by Michael Foreman, as well as “Caps for Sale” by Esphyr Slobodkina. One of Sharon’s favorite things to do is share books with kids. She even has a little free library in front of her home.

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“I can talk about books all day,” she says. “I love books. Even in this era of e-readers, which have their place, there’s something really cool about having a book in your hands.” In 10 years, Sharon sees Akron continuing to grow, both in population and opportunities for local businesses and artists. She also hoped for a more equitable playing field. “I see a more level playing field rather than [the divisions between the] have/ have nots, young/old and east/west,” she says. “I think as we continue to share experiences and ideas, we break those barriers that have been entrenched in our neighborhoods. Piece by piece, those walls are coming down, and we will all be better for it.” Contact Sharon via akroncitycouncil. org/council-members/sharon-connor. Meet Sharon at one of her online board meetings, which are held on the second Tuesday of every month at 6 pm. All council meetings will be held virtually during COVID-19 pandemic. For more information, go to // Noor Hindi is The Devil Strip’s Senior Reporter. Email her at

The Devil Strip |


Russ Neal

honesty. In interviews, he’s quick to differentiate between politics and the political process, and even quicker at distancing himself from the word “politician.”

“Now that I’m on council, I realize there’s a table even before council,” he says. “Decisions are made before they even come to us. But that’s what made me run for council. I wanted my community to have true representation.”

“That’s a dirty word,” he says. “The political process is beautiful. It’s how we bring all of our issues to the table and how we come to a solution. But when you bring politics into it, politics deals with ego, self-interest, and that’s what corrupts it.”

Though Russ is optimistic about the changes he’s been able to implement, like bringing summer concerts by the Northeast Ohio Jazz Orchestra to Ward 3, as well as helping bring about the wellness circle concept Project Ujima, which was implemented to help battle infant mortality rates in the Black community.

Russ graduated from Buchtel High School, then attended Ohio University and graduated with degrees in business management and marketing. He returned to Akron in 1987. When he came back, he bought a four-unit apartment on Edgewood Avenue to supplement his income while he jumped into community advocacy work, working with the Akron African Festival and Parade.

As a councilman, truth and transparency are some of the most important qualities a leader can have, though Russ admits that his drive for transparency can sometimes get him in trouble.

Something that brought Russ back to Akron was his community of friends from Buchtel High School, who he says shaped a lot of his character. He remembers being part of National Honor Society and learning how to raise money as a teenager while fundraising for a senior trip to Europe.

words by Noor Hindi photos by Ilenia Pezzaniti


t’s 1970 and an 8-year-old Russel Neal sits at his family’s custard stand in Akron. The walls at Eskimo Joe’s are painted red and white. It’s July and he can feel the summer breeze wafting through the windows. As Russ eats his favorite ice cream, chocolate-vanilla swirl, he overhears conversations surrounding civil rights. It’s seven years after the March on Washington and two years after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, one of the events that sparked Akron’s Wooster Avenue riots. Today, the smell of ice cream sundaes and Coney dogs still bring a bittersweet sense of nostalgia for Russ, who is now 58 years old. He remembers his time at Eskimo Joe’s, and the conversations engulfing much of his childhood, as the foundation of his interests in civil rights and community advocacy. “I don’t have to read a history book.

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“One person told me one of the concerns that my colleagues have with me is that I tell the truth. That I’m too transparent,” Russ says. Right now, he says much of his frustration around Akron is the inequities Black residents face, and the United States’ failure to address its original sin: Racism. “I would dishonor my elders and my ancestors if I tiptoe around that issue,” he says. “One of the challenges I find is we have people shaping policy and they’re totally ignorant of the history behind it.” Russ has been on council for 10 years, and one of the things he consistently works on is establishing a better sense of community in Ward 4. When he was

“When I came back, I came with the intention of being engaged and involved, but it was on the grassroots level,”

I lived it,” Russ says. “I saw it in my grandfather’s eyes. My greatgrandmother, when she passed away, she was 109. Almost 110. My grandmother, when she passed away a few years ago, was 102. I didn’t have to read a history book. All I had to do was sit down and talk to my family.” As the representative for Ward 4 on Akron City Council, many know Russ as dynamic and forceful, often being one of the first people to call out injustices. In our first interview, he was quick to tell me, “I’m the only Black man on council. We have issues with Black men in our city.” This style of delivering information isn’t unlike Russ, who is quick to get to the heart of the matter without coddling audiences. On council, his style can sometimes be seen as controversial or divisive, but community members in Ward 4 love his

Russ says. Russ decided to run for council in 2007, then again in 2009 after losing the first time. At the time, he was frustrated with the city’s allocation of money for Buchtel High School, Firestone High School and East High School. He argues it was unfair that the city cut $15 million in funding for Buchtel, then allocated $89 million for Firestone. When the City of Akron asked for community input, Russ felt that giving input was futile because “decisions were made before they even came to the community.” Russ felt frustrated and hopeful that if he ran and won, he would be able to bring his community’s voice to the table. Today, Russ feels more realistic about his ambitions.

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growing up, he remembers a time when a “sense of love permeated throughout the community,” where anyone could discipline your children and where he had a large extended family of relatives who weren’t blood. He remembers one of his neighbors, Mr. Kerns, teaching Russ and his brother how to fish. “Mr. Kerns had four children of his own and he was white… He would take us fishing in the morning. We knew when Mr. Kerns got home. Sometimes we’d even be sitting on the curb waiting. And it wasn’t until I got older that I realized the sacrifice that he did because Mr. Kerns worked third shift. So, when he got home, that was his time to decompress before he went back to work, but he would take us fishing with him.” It’s this kind of love and belonging Russ misses and tries to create in Ward 4 through events like the community concerts and neighborhood movie nights. But accessing this type of community can be challenging, especially considering how value systems have changed, as people no longer attend the same church, go to the same schools, or believe in the same things. When I ask him what drives him to continue leading and serving the community, he takes me back to the 1960s. His father was an activist and working with the Zulu Motorcycle Club. It was founded in 1969 and it’s one of the first Black one percenter motorcycle clubs in the Midwest, which is a motorcycle subculture that celebrates nonconformity.

He also remembers the civil rights movement at the time, specifically the large Life Magazine covers featuring Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr. and John F. Kennedy.

How to vote in the Ohio primary and keep up with local government during the COVID-19 pandemic

“I think it’s because of the period that I was born,” Russ says. “When I was born, I was young enough to be able to comprehend what was happening in the city and this nation. I was born in ‘62. I remember the discussions about the civil rights movement. I remember the discussions within my home, within my church, within the community. So those things resonated with me and helped shape the calling that’s my life.”


Though Russ says he hasn’t been able to accomplish everything he’s wanted on council, he’s excited about the future.

1. If you didn’t vote early before the March 17 primary election, absentee voting is available until April 28.

There’s a time when you cannot shirk the responsibility,” Russ says. “We all have the liberties and the freedoms we have now because people paid the price. And I sincerely believe I owe it to all those who came before me, before us, to give us this opportunity to run my leg of the race.”

Before voting, you must be registered. The deadline to register to vote is always 30 days prior to an election. Registration has not been extended for the primary election, which was initially scheduled for March 17. Find out whether you’re registered to vote by going to Click on “Am I Registered?” Type in your first and last name. If your name appears, you’re registered.

Contact Russ via akroncitycouncil. org/council-members/russel-c-nealjr. Ward 4 meetings take place on the first Tuesday of the month at 6:30 pm. All council meetings will be held virtually during COVID-19 pandemic. For more information, go to // Noor Hindi is The Devil Strip’s Senior Reporter. Email her at

oting in the Ohio primary has been extended until April 27 amid the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With all the confusion, here’s what you need to know to continue participating in democracy:

Now you have to go through the absentee voting process, which has two steps: Requesting an absentee ballot, and then actually filling out that ballot and submitting it to the Board of Elections. REQUESTING YOUR BALLOT: Visit to download an absentee ballot request form and print it out. If you do not have a printer, call the Summit County Board of Elections at 330-643-5200 to have an absentee ballot request form mailed to you. When you receive your absentee ballot request form, fill it out. Mail it to the Summit County Board of Elections at 470 Grant St, Akron, OH 44311. You can also drop it off at the Board of Elections in person. CASTING YOUR BALLOT: Once the Board of Elections receives your request form, they will mail you your ballot and a self-addressed, stamped envelope. After receiving your ballot, fill it out, then mail it back. You can also drop off your ballot in person at the BOE. 2. Keep up with local politics by finding your neighborhood councilmember. Quick links: • Find your ward by going to

Akron Music, Art & Culture

April 2020 · Vol 6 · Issue #4

Once you know your ward, find your councilmember by going to Click on your councilmember’s page, learn about them, connect with them using email or social media, then attend your neighborhood ward meetings. To find out when your local ward meetings are, go to

Right now, councilmembers are working on adjusting their council meetings given the current circumstances. On March 19, Gov. Mike DeWine “urged all local public bodies to hold their meetings remotely,” according to a City of Akron press release. Ward 1 councilman Richard Swirsky says the council has been busy thinking about how to relocate city council meetings to Zoom, and they’re looking at moving ward meetings to Zoom as well. Ward 10 councilmember Sharon Connor will be using social media, newsletters, phone calls and emails, as well as Zoom, to keep in touch with her constituents. Ward 8 councilman Shammas Malik has already scheduled an Zoom ward meeting. “It’s going to be a menu of options and we’re going to have to choose all of the above. There’s a lot of folks who come to ward meetings who are older adults who aren’t necessarily the folks who are going to live streaming,” Malik says. 3. Livestream Akron City Council meetings from home using YouTube. City council meetings take place every Monday from 7-9 pm at City Hall in downtown Akron. Livestream all of their meetings by following Akron City Council on YouTube. To give public comments during remote city council meetings, email Keep up with election news by visiting or following the Summit County Board of Elections on Facebook. — Senior Reporter Noor Hindi

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Above poem, published by the University of Akron Press: Emily Corwin is a graduate of the MFA program at Indiana University-Bloomington and the former Poetry Editor for Indiana Review. Her writing has appeared in Black Warrior Review, Ninth Letter, New South, Yemassee, THRUSH, and elsewhere. She published two chapbooks, My Tall Handsome (Brain Mill Press) and darkling (Platypus Press), in 2016. Her first book, tenderling, was released in 2018 from Stalking Horse Press. She lives and teaches in Michigan.

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Above: Two untitled pieces by Maria Uhase. Follow Maria on Instagram at @muhase72 or see more of her work at Left: “Too Foreign For Home, Too Foreign For Here, Never Enough For Both” by Kalia Horner. Follow Kalia on Instagram at @kaliaartss.

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“The Black Card Project” explores identity through dance by Jamie Keaton


udre Lorde once said: “If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.” I recently went to see “The Black Card Project,” a show created by Akronbased dancer Dominic Moore-Dunson in collaboration with Kevin Parker. At first look, I didn’t know what I was walking into, because there is a lot of cultural significance to the idea of having and earning your Black card as a Black person. I came in with curiosity. As I bought my ticket and sat in the Akron Civic Theatre, I waited anxiously to see what the fuss was. When this show started, so many thoughts and feelings came to my head. For example, during the first scene, when I saw Artie Alvin Beatty III, I saw myself — a Black kid with no cares in the world, an imagination and an inner space that I made my own. The synopsis of the show goes like this: Artie Alvin Beatty III is a home-schooled kid living in his own world. But his mother feels he lacks awareness of his Blackness, so she sends him to Booker T. Malcolm Luther Parks Academy of Absolute Blackness, which will supposedly teach him about his cultural identity so that he can earn his “Black Card.” As a Black person, mine was a similar journey: I had to figure out my cultural identity and my place in the Black community. As the show continues, Artie is taken through different cultural identities that

Akron Music, Art & Culture

exist within the community. For example, Artie’s first visit is to Dr. Moore, who listens to his heartbeat and finds a lack of rhythm. So he takes Artie through the traditions of popular Black music — from Marvin Gaye and Aretha Franklin to LL Cool J and NWA to Tupac and Biggie — looking at the heart of our culture via our music. Another cultural identity in the production is C. T. Payne, the figure that represents “thug life,” showcasing us as the victims of our circumstances and coming out of it victorious. In the scene, Artie is tormented by C. T. Payne until he eventually fights back. In these two examples, I saw my experience. My Black identity was wrapped in music, and it became something that I resonated with and celebrated. The feeling of being a victim of one’s circumstances also resonated with me, whether through being in impoverished neighborhoods of people that looked like me or going places where “thug” was synonymous to black skin and identity. This production also shows us the pain of our history, the generational trauma that has shaped us to this day. One scene shows Artie reading a textbook and looking at the horrors of slavery, the Jim Crow era, lynchings, the fight for civil rights and present-day police brutality. Artie goes to sleep and these horrors invade his dreams. This was powerful because, in learning our history, these horrors are something that will always be in the forefront of our dreams — and when we wake up, we do feel alone in

Photos: Dominic Moore-Dunson and Kevin Parker perform a scene from “The Black Card Project” at Signal Tree Festival in August 2018. (Photos: Nathan Rogers)

the trauma of our community. “The Black Card Project” highlights the realities of Blackness and the many facets within it. This has made me laugh, cry and celebrate all at the same time. This is what our Blackness looks like: It takes many forms, and you can be one form or all, because Blackness is not a monolith. Blackness is something that has been beautifully created, is tragic in many ways, and is celebrated to this day — but this is exactly what “The Black Card Project” showcases. Marcus Garvey once said: “The Black skin is not a badge of shame, but rather a glorious symbol of national greatness.” “The Black Card Project” is available for bookings, especially in educational settings. For more information, visit // “My momma used to say, if you can’t find something to live for, you best find something to die for” – Tupac Shakur. Jamie Keaton is a spoken word poet, activist, musician, actor and much more Editor’s Note: Dominic Moore-Dunson, creator of “The Black Card Project,” is a co-owner of The Devil Strip and a member of our Board of Directors. The writer pitched this story independently of Dominic’s appointment to the board, and Dominic did not see the story before publication.

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The Akron Aviators soar in semi-pro basketball by Jillian Holness The sound of shoes squeaking against the hardwood floor and basketballs bouncing almost to the beat of hip-hop music fills the Helen Arnold Community Learning Center’s gymnasium. Local basketball fans congregate in the school’s hallway and grab snacks from the concession table before the game. The popcorn machine spits out freshly popped kernels as young volunteers fill movie theater-style bags with popcorn and line them up on the table. The snack table also has a line up of pizza, bottles of pop and water and boxes of candy. A jar labeled “donations” sits at the head of the line. Back inside the gym, the Shizuoka Gym Rats from Japan practice doing layups on one side of the court. On the other side of the court are the Akron Aviators. Some of the players take three-point shots and watch the ball swoosh into the net before passing it to another teammate. Others practice free throws and layups. Brian Collins is wearing a pink buttonup shirt, a black hat that leaves his curly dark hair sticking out, and a pair of red and black sneakers. As he talks to one of the referees, the 33-year-old’s eyes dart from the referee to his players to the growing crowd in the bleachers. Finally, the buzzer rings and the teams step off the court and huddle together.

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The American Basketball Association was started in 1967 as a competing league with the National Basketball Association. The New Jersey Nets, San Antonio Spurs, Indiana Pacers and the Denver Nuggets were a part of the ABA until the ABA merged with the NBA in 1976. The ABA is now a kind of minor league. Quite a few celebrities have been involved in the ABA, including Kobe Bryant’s father, Joe Bryant; rapper and actor Percy Robert Miller aka Master P aka Lil Romeo’s father; and retired player Julius Erving aka Dr. J, who was known for his acrobatic dunks Collins started working for the ABA after he graduated from Webster University in Missouri with a bachelor’s degree in audio engineering. He formed the Akron Aviators in May 2017, while he was hosting after-parties and concerts for other ABA teams. As a student, Collins studied abroad in Thailand and played basketball over there. Collins’ friend Chris told him about a cash basketball tournament there, and they put together a team. Collins coached the team, designed the uniforms, got the school in Thailand to sponsor the team and bus students to and from the games. He also promoted the team online. Collins says the experience of playing overseas unintentionally groomed him to become the owner of a basketball team. “It was like a mini course on what I ended up doing with the Aviators,” Collins says. “It was an amazing experience.”

Collins’ experience in promotion has helped him land a job with the ABA. He runs a marketing company called Royal Heir Entertainment which specializes in music marketing and distribution. “I have a platinum plaque from Drake’s 2016 album Views,” Collins says. “Platinum level certifies one million sales.” Collins also says that one of the nice perks of working in the music industry is meeting celebrities. “I was on stage with Beyoncé. That was fun,” Collins says nonchalantly. Collins also remembers meeting Jay-Z, Chance the Rapper and Big Sean. He’s even ran into a famous actress. “I met Jessica Alba on the stairs on the way to meet my lawyer in L.A.,” Collins laughs. Collins started working for the American Basketball Association in 2016, as the director of marketing. After working there for one year, the ABA offered Collins his own basketball team. He still had to come up with the money to run and operate the team, but he was given first dibs. “They had some other people interested in these markets,” Collins says. “They offered me the chance to do one here before they opened it up to the general public.” Collins says at the time, there were no semi pro-basketball teams in Ohio. Now, The Aviators have sparked a renaissance in Ohio for semi-pro basketball and have inspired others to start their own teams, including as the Ohio Kings, the Dayton Sharks and the Columbus Condors. Collins, a native of Stow, decided to headquarter the team in Akron because he saw talent everywhere — from committed athletes training in the gym to everyday guys playing at the rec center. He also wanted to have the team be based in a city that was accessible to players from neighboring towns but was also away from the Cleveland Cavaliers’ turf.

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“I wanted to keep it away from the Cavs. I didn’t want to be in their market,” Collins says. “I also wanted to be closer to places like Canton and Youngstown, you know, give [other people] opportunities as well.” Before the Aviators and the Gym Rats face off, the announcer introduces the starters. One of them is 27-year-old Malik Billingsley, a point guard and the captain of the Akron Aviators. Billingsley joined the Aviators three years ago after learning about the new team on social media. “I decided to join the Aviators because I was fresh out of college and wanted to still play basketball and keep pursuing my dream,” Billingsley says. During the day, Billingsley works as a security guard at Nordonia High School. He is also a father to an 8-month-year-old baby boy named Zari. “On an average day, I wake up at 5:15 am and get myself and my son [ready], and then I head out to the school,” Billingsley says. After school, Billingsley coaches freshman basketball at Nordonia. At the end of the day, he tries to make time to go to the gym and stay fit for not only the Aviators but also the American Basketball Association as a whole. Billingsley describes his experience in the ABA as awesome.

“The level of competition is so broad. You run into a lot of solid colleges or even some G league [the NBA’s official minor league] guys,” Billingsley says. Billingsley’s experience in the ABA has been great, he says. “This league isn’t about the money. It’s about the experience and the travel and the networking,” Billingsley says. Last year, Billingsley was selected as an ABA all star and averaged 29 points per game. In the future, he plans to continue playing in the ABA and see where it takes him. “I want to raise my son and have him see me play,” Billingsley says. “So, if I get anything overseas it’ll be tough for me to take it, but I don’t mind playing in the States. “ Billingsley says the best part about being an Akron Aviator is the love and dedication from the staff. “They put so much time and effort into this organization,” Billingsley says. “Also, being able to travel and see new places

Left: “Look Me in The Eyes” by McKenna Carder. Follow McKenna on Instagram at @mcarderstudio.

for free is amazing, can’t even lie.” The buzzer sounds and the Gym Rats and the Aviators circle together at the midcourt line and prepare for the jump ball. The Gym Rats end up getting the ball first and develop a steady lead in the beginning of the first quarter. Collins watches as the Aviators start to pick up more momentum. He says what makes the Aviators different from other teams is their vision to find community in Akron but also move onto bigger opportunities. “We’ve had seven players who’ve been able to move on to different leagues,” Collins says. “I structured this to be a stepping stone for people who want to move forward in their career, but I also want this to be a home for people.” Collins vision for the Aviators also includes having the Akron Aviators be an option for international players. “I get a lot of emails from players in other countries who want to come here,” Collins says. “I had a dad from Germany email me and ask me to draft his son to play for our team and get the American experience.” The buzzer in the last quarter blares and a few fans start to clap. The Aviators end up flying to victory with a final score of 126-116.

The Aviators and the Gym Rats conclude n the game with a group picture. The Gym Rats hold a banner with their team’s logo, which is reminiscent of a temple shrine and a small cartoon rat dribbling a basketball. All of the players worked cohesively with each other and a few of them impressed the audience with their slam dunks. Billingsley wants spectators to take semipro basketball just as seriously as probasketball. “People should know that this is just as much as a pro-league as any other league, and should treat it as such,” Billingsley says. Keep up with the Akron Aviators at or on Instagram @AkronAviators to find out about their future games. // Jillian Holness is a graduate of the Kent State University School of Journalism. Photo: The Aviators practice at Shaw Jewish Community Center in late February. (Used with permission from the Akron Aviators.)

Akron Music, Art & Culture

Sandy Sips


mischievous rabbit with lightning in its ears. A logo that appears to be flipping you off. The insinuation that #mcbcisacult. I couldn’t ignore the emergence of Magic City Brewing Company once these themes started appearing on the local beer scene. To say this aesthetic appeals to me is an understatement. In 2019, they moved from the original Barberton location to Akron. After visiting them at 2727 Manchester Rd., I’m now displeased with myself for not investigating sooner. Historically, the word “cult” has negative connotations, alluding to small groups of people with secretive or sinister religious practices. Now, the term “cult favorite” refers to a product or phenomenon that causes unequivocal fanaticism. My belief is that MCBC exists somewhere between these definitions. Not to say there is anything negative or sinister about this brewery, but there is a distinct feeling that a covert operation is going on, and I’d prefer to be among those in the know. At 4 pm on a Wednesday afternoon, I was welcomed inside by the strains of Tool’s “Lateralus” playing over the speakers. The soundtrack continued with Gojra, Mastodon and Alice In Chains, which meant this metal fan was definitely settling in to stay awhile. The after-work crowd started piling in right around 5 o’clock, but there was more than enough space in the beer hall for everyone. Large cafeteria-style tables and a self-serve water tap with a Miller Lite tap handle

MAGIC CITY BREWING COMPANY contributed to a comfortable and playful mood. I briefly contemplated calling this the “Sandy Sips Stouts and Sours’’ edition, as I feel that’s what they do best. Or maybe it’s the fact that the tap list felt heavy on these styles. Your Vanity is Showing is a delicious berry smoothie of a beer, potent, creamy and tart but not overly sour. Mockingbird is a mouthwatering herbal gose with the coriander spice providing a nice contrast to the fruit presence. Everblack is a boozy 10% ABV stout that really packs in the vanilla, reminding me of a white Russian cocktail minus the cream. (I hear they made a salted caramel version, which — much like the white rabbit — catch it if you can!) The pastry stout Dark Empress was reminiscent of chewing a dense chocolate donut for breakfast and washing it down with good coffee. However, I was most impressed by the hazy Imperial IPA Prison Mike. While they definitely hooked me with the The Office reference, the hop profile in this beer reminded me of a childhood favorite dessert. The taste is a mandarin/ marshmallow/coconut explosion of ambrosia, all at once sweet, nutty and vegetal. What an absolutely fantastic brew.

April 2020 · Vol 6 · Issue #4

Cult Kitchen operates inside Magic City, and their menu is fun and eclectic. Fried cauliflower was crispy and complimented well by a kicky peach barbecue sauce. Bar staples like loaded fries are revitalized with the addition of carnitas and a ton of fresh cilantro. My taste buds were in overdrive and I was in heaven. After a flight, a pint and some thrilling bites, I had to take a spin on the Iron Maiden pinball machine to truly complete my experience. Everything about Magic City Brewing is unconventional, from the beer to the atmosphere. Looks like they’ve acquired yet another fan(atic). As of March 31: Magic City Brewing Company 2727 Manchester Rd., Akron Open for to-go sales of crowlers Wednesday-Friday 4-8 pm and Saturday-Sunday 12-4 pm // Sandy Maxwell is the bar manager at Pavona’s Pizza in Northwest Akron. She loves beer, whiskey, kayaking and pretentiously complicated progressive metal.

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by ________________________

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April 2020 · Vol 6 · Issue #4

The Back of the Book If a caller asks you for any personally identifiable information, do not give it to them. This includes your name, your date of birth, your email address, your Social Security number and any of your passwords. Assume any call from someone you don’t know asking for any identifiable information is a scam. Assume any email from someone you don’t know — or even from an address that looks like your bank, phone provider or computer company — is a fake. If in doubt, hang up, look up the number from your contacts or the company’s actual website, and call them back.



ell, here we are. Many of us will be working from home, our kids will be participating in online learning and we will have to entertain ourselves. (Netflix and Chill might literally mean that now. Of course, it has for me for years.) But with that comes many cybersecurity and technology issues, including: Avoiding Scams Beware and be smart! The scams are coming in force.

If you get an email from a company, do not click on the “respond” link in the email. Instead, go to the company’s website and contact support that way. Hackers can imitate email addresses and, when we click their links, they can harvest our information. Also, don’t always click on the first match that comes up when you use a search engine. Verify the link will take you to the company or institution you’re looking for. In other words: Do not believe social media posts, emails, phone calls or hearsay. Go directly to the organizations that have the real information to verify everything you hear for the foreseeable future. Verify everything before giving any information to anyone, too.

That information is sometimes buried in a document beneath the surface. This is what is known as metadata. The information that tracks who opened a document, changed it and so on. The most basic thing you can do to keep files secure is to make use of online services such as Google Docs or Microsoft 365. If your company has not yet adopted these online file sharing tools, suggest that they do and use the highest security settings. When in doubt, err on the side of caution. Bandwith Concerns Another big concern — and you may be experiencing this already — is a lag due to bandwidth usage. Bandwidth is the amount of data that can pass through your network connection at any given time. It is measured in bits per second (bps). A bit is one small piece of data. You usually see bandwidth represented as mbps, or megabits per second. Mega means one million. That means one million ones and zeros are passing through your network every second. Most of the time, that is plenty for general email, web browsing and streaming on one or two devices. But now everyone is home, simultaneously streaming and gaming and working and chatting. This will require either scheduling of device use and usage type, or talking to your provider about increasing your bandwidth — and that will come with a cost.

Protecting Files From Home Cyber criminals are on the loose and they are taking advantage of the COVID-19 emergency. Remember that nearly all phone communication is digital now, so our phones are also cyber targets. Hackers often use predictive dialing tools and random false phone number generators to make themselves look legitimate. You will get phone calls that claim they are from a government agency — or a business, or a doctor or hospital, or a bank — and they will not be who they claim to be at all. If you see a number that you do not know, do not answer it. Let it go to voicemail. If it is a legitimate call — for example, a reminder for a doctor’s appointment — they will leave a message that identifies both themselves and you. The same goes for emails, texts and regular mail.

Akron Music, Art & Culture

Keep your anti-virus software and security updates current. If you can’t remember the last time you updated, do it right now, then finish reading this when you log back in. You may be using your personal computer for doing your work. Keep in mind that if you download a document or spreadsheet from your company, it is the property of the company and you are responsible for its safety. With new privacy laws going into effect around the world, there are stiff penalties for breaching confidentiality of personally identifiable information. That includes anything that can be linked to an individual that will identify who they are. For example, address, phone number, social security number, email address, etc — anything that can be traced to an individual.

If you have K-12 or college students in your home but do not have home internet, Charter is offering free Spectrum broadband and Wi-Fi service for 60 days, including free installation for new student households. You can call 1-844-488-8395 for more information. Consider your daily household internet usage before you figure out what your device scheduling plan and/or your internet speed should be. Light internet usage: If you only use the internet every now and then for basic activities such as checking emails and browsing the web, you’ll probably fit into this category. If this is mostly what your family and you will be doing, your current package is fine, but once the streaming and gaming increase, you might see lagging and buffering.

April 2020 · Vol 6 · Issue #4

Passing the mic to more Akron voices

Moderate internet usage: If you use social media (Facebook or Twitter, etc.), or you stream music (Pandora or Spotify) and videos (Netflix or Hulu) a lot on your computer and your study and work requires an internet connection, then you’ll probably need a device scheduling plan or more bandwidth. A broadband plan with an internet speed of 30 Mbps might not be fast enough for you, so you may want to find a plan that will give you speeds of up to 100 Mbps. Heavy internet usage: These users tend to be heavy gamers and streamers that spend a large portion of their time online. Some of us will have moved from the moderate usage category into this category during this emergency, and as this lingers on, we will be making more use of our online connections. Most internet plans currently have a speed of 100 Mbps. While that is plenty in most cases, if you experience lagging and buffering to the point where it is a problem, you may need to get more bandwidth. I recommend beginning with a light usage plan and only upgrading to more bandwidth if that does not work. One creative way of implementing a device usage plan would be to have the family all pick a movie to stream together — no other devices, just family movie time. Maybe each kid gets to pick a movie for the family to watch instead of having multiple movies streaming at once. During the day, maybe ban games and movies during school/work hours. You could even — gasp — ban all devices for an hour or two a day and have an actual conversation with your loved ones. No sacrifice is too great during these uncertain times. Be patient, be creative, and we will all pull through this. We just need to adapt our lives and internet habits until we are on the other side. If you have any concerns or questions, you can email me at // Dr. John B. Nicholas is a Professor of Computer Informations Systems and Co-Founder of the Cybersecurity Degree Track at The University of Akron. Dr. Nicholas has over 30 years experience in the technology field in both the private sector and higher education.

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Hello, Spiceologists! This month, the alphabet continues:


Mint: Of the many varieties of mint (apple, chocolate, pineapple, lemon, etc.), spearmint (mentha spicata) and peppermint (mentha piperita) are the most common and easily grown. To tame its ability to take over an area, grow in pots or border the area with bricks pushed deeply in the soil. Use for desserts, sauces, alcoholic beverages, candies. Use the exotic types in fresh salads. Mustard: As in mustard seeds, both yellow and brown varieties. Both are a base in all forms of mustard, smooth, hot, ground and in pickled/dill preserved dishes. Both types are a staple in Indian curries and dishes. Mace: Nutmeg is actually the kernel of an apricot-type fruit. Mace is the thin covering that covers the nutmeg seed. It is used in deserts, curries and stews. Use both spices in ciders, chai teas, barbecue sauces and curries. Have a light hand, as they can overpower a dish.


Nigella (seed): Used in Turkish, Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines. Toast the seeds then crush lightly. Top breads, crackers, salads, bean dishes and vegetables.

varieties. Salad dressings, paellas, poultry, and vegetable dishes benefit from its use. Pineapple: A popular tropical fruit grown in Hawaii, Costa Rica, Brazil, the Philippines and Thailand, pineapple is used for its sweet and tart qualities in desserts, salads, chutneys and smoothies. The enzyme effect of pineapple tenderizes meat proteins.


Quinoa (keen-wah): A super grain related to the amaranth family. It is not a spice, per se, but it is worth noting. It is a pseudo-cereal and contains all of the amino acids. The Inca refer to it as the “mother grain.” It is gluten- and wheatfree and is considered a superfood.


Saffron: Next to vanilla, it is the world’s most expensive spice. It is obtained from the stamens of the crocus sativus flower, producing just three stigmas per flower. It takes 14,000 stigmas to make one ounce of saffron. Used in Spanish paellas, chicken, rice dishes, carrots teas and broths. Salt: Comes in many varieties often paired with other spices and seeds, including celery, onion, chipotle, garlic, hot peppers. Himalayan, Hawaiian, Black and Sea types have trace minerals like iron and magnesium. A healthy balance must be maintained to avoid issues of hypertension. Salt is essential to pickling and curing meats and vegetables, among the oldest food preservation techniques along with drying. Salt was used as a form of currency in ancient times.



Paprika: Similar to the bell pepper, it is milder than most chili peppers. Used in Cajun and Creole cooking as well as Spanish, Hungarian and Israeli recipes. Comes in sweet, hot and smoked

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Spiceologist tip: This month’s tip is to roast your garlic heads. Take four to six whole heads and cut off the top half-inch or so. Place in a lined oven-proof bowl. Pour about ½ tsp of oil (olive, grapeseed or corn) in the center opening of each head. Sprinkle salt, pepper and ½ tsp sugar over all of the heads. Cover and roast in a 340-degree oven for about an hour. Remove from the oven and squeeze the roasted individual cloves into a container. Heat the spent heads in about ½ cup oil and pour the now-flavored oil over the roasted garlic cloves. Keep the roasted cloves refrigerated, covered with a layer of flavored oil. The cloves can be frozen also in ice-cube trays. Use this on flatbread, on pizza shells, in sauces, stews or on pasta. The taste will be rich, without the sharpness of raw garlic. Remember, If your plate is empty, cook something. Local sources for fresh tubers, leaves and spices: Morrie’s International Market 216 E. Cuyahoga Falls Ave., Akron

Turmeric: A rhizome grown in South Asia. It is a central ingredient in curries and is called Indian Saffron. Turmeric Onion: Central to the global kitchen. is used in ayurvedic medicine and has Produced as dried, roasted, toasted, been said to be helpful in reducing granulated and powdered. Rich in inflammation in the joints. Excellent flavonoids. Do not over-peel. Onions are high in polyphenols, so gently roast them when roasted with potatoes and carrots. Pairs well with rice and couscous. over low heat to maintain their health benefits. You can use shallots, red, yellow, Tarragon, thyme, tomato flakes, are other white or sweet varieties. Save the peelings spices. for stocks and simple dyes.


hand-picked, sweated and dried for six to nine months. It was Edmond Albius, a 12-year-old slave, who discovered that the plant could be hand pollinated. This discovery was the qualitative leap that pushed vanilla cultivation to worldwide impact in the 15th century, opening markets in Puerto Rico, Mexico, French Polynesia, Réunion, Dominica, Indonesia and the West Indies. Baking, desserts, teas, perfumes, ice cream and alcohol distillation all benefit from pure vanilla.

Vanilla: The most exotic of spices, second only to saffron in price. It is used in whole bean, powdered and extract forms. Vanilla is the fruit of the orchid and is grown in Mexico and Central America. The pods from the orchid are

Far East Oriental Market 738 E. Archwood Ave., Akron Asian Market 2419 State Rd., Cuyahoga Falls Indian Grocery 2619 Bailey Rd., Cuyahoga Falls Sanabel Middle East Bakery 308 E. South St., Akron


very now and again you meet someone who stands out. Everyone gravitates to him or her. This person has charisma and that “it factor.” Sometimes when you meet someone, you have no idea how they will impact you and the lives of others. While working at the Akron Urban League, I met a young emerging entrepreneur named Shante Robinson. He was all of the above and more. Shante was attending our annual job fair. He registered for a panel discussion featuring local established business owners. On the panel was Rocky Becker, the founder of Rockne’s, a local restaurant known for the crazy number of fries they give you with their popular burgers. The panel was meant to educate the participants about what owners look for when they are considering hiring a candidate and the world of entrepreneurship. During the panel, Shante commanded the attention of Rocky — and the room, for that matter. While questioning Rocky on what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur, Shante was selling himself. As a result, he walked out with a job. I never saw anyone move like that. He was confident and aware of his skills and abilities. A few months later, Shante enrolled in my entrepreneurial class at the Akron Urban League. He was a participant but quickly became an assistant for the class. He would help individuals do market research and customer discovery. It seemed like Shante was the type of person who would help anyone in need. After completing the class, he would continue to volunteer with the entrepreneur class and in 2015 would help me start the Self Advancement Center. The Self Advancement Center was a shared workspace for creative entrepreneurs. Shante’s role was to sell work space. We quickly realized that the people we would attract were other help agents and community builders, along with people who needed our help. I would see Shante helping people develop business ideas, creating websites and

// Contact Debra at or visit her on Facebook at DesignsbyDebra Calhoun.

April 2020 · Vol 6 · Issue #4


Sober Chronicles with Marc Lee Shannon



ribe: “A social division in a society consisting of families or communities linked by social, economic, religious or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect.”

Above: Ace Epps with Shante Robinson. (Photo: Used with permission from Ace Epps)

even mentoring young Black males. I realized that we weren’t making money as a business, but we were making an impact. Later that year, Shante would be selected as a BMe Leader and receive $10,000 for his efforts toward building a better Akron. With that funding, Shante started Unified Mindz LLC to assist and train clients on aspects of fathers’ rights. He also educates men on shared parenting, non-residential parenting, job readiness, entrepreneurial mindset and stress management. Shante has recently moved back to Akron after opening and operating several certified pre-owned retail Apple stores in Virginia, Colorado and Ohio. He is currently volunteering at the Bounce Innovation Hub and has become a facilitator for MORTAR at BOUNCE, a 15week accelerator that helps aspiring nontech entrepreneurs learn the nuances of business ownership. Shante’s motto is, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” So, Shante Robinson, keep doing what you do and always be you! To learn more about MORTAR at BOUNCE, visit mortar. // Ace Epps is Director of Inclusive Entrepreneurship at Bounce Innovation Hub and Host of Akron Community Voice on WAKR. Contact him at and learn more about the radio show at

Akron Music, Art & Culture

That’s the definition that Siri conjured as I make my way to my caffeine threshold this morning and begin another edition of Sober Chronicles. I use this description often, if you follow me here, to describe the recovery support community and its members who help me get by — not just in sobriety, but in my everyday commute through the cosmos and as a citizen in the great state (of mind) in and around my hometown of Akron, Ohio. My Tribe. What is that, really? Is it my family? My friends? What do I mean when I speak of someone as a tribe member? I took some time to ponder this and here is what I know: These are: the humans who show up, and who you show up for, when the words “Please, help me” are spoken or needed. My tribe consists of many amazing individuals, so I thought that it might be a useful diversion to pivot from my own personal recovery journey in this chronicle. I want to introduce you to my friend Clyde Hensley, a local singersongwriter and truth-teller. Around 10 years ago, this man was homeless in freezing temperatures and sleeping in a tent in the woods. He is a Sober Badass who works hard in the recovery community to help others selflessly and often anonymously. In his own words he describes his journey from the other side, the moment when it all changed, and how he found his sober support community: I believe that there came a time when the pain outweighed the alcoholism, and this was my rock bottom. Mid-September 2010 was just that. I was 280 pounds. My skin was yellow and my soul empty. I had burnt every bridge, was completely homeless and I had been kicked out of The Haven of Rest for being drunk and attempting to start a fight. I slept/cat-

napped at bus stops, on church steps and even behind a funeral home. At the time, my tribe was that of the occupants of “tent city” in the woods of Fountain Street in Akron. Every day I “flew a sign,” as the homeless call it, or panhandled. I needed my alcohol first thing in the morning when I awoke. I would shake so bad the first part of my 24-ounce Steele Reserve would be mostly spilled on my person and the other half made me vomit. Somehow, whatever of that can that stayed down my throat got me steadied and focused, because without the alcohol, I wanted to crawl out of my skin. Panhandling one day, an elderly lady handed me some paper money that turned out to be five $20 bills. When I snuck to the parking deck to count my day’s earnings, I couldn’t believe my luck! So, I went straight to the BP station and bought a bunch of beer. On my way back to camp, I sat on the trail by the railroad and drank three cans. Next thing I knew, I woke up to someone pulling me off the tracks as a train was coming directly at us. It was a pastor from the Salvation Army out visiting the homeless camps, Jon Soza. By an amazing stroke of luck, he had discovered me passed out on the tracks. He saved my life and we would end up forming a friendship that lasts to this very day. That day, Clyde knew he needed a new tribe. He goes on:

survivors who have inspired me to talk about my journey, and to share some of the details of my life living sober in recovery. It’s not every day I meet others like him. He has become a senior elder in my tribe because he is strong, humble and often quiet about his struggle, even though he has overcome great obstacles to turn his life around. My friend has made his way from that lost and lonely dirt road of alcohol addiction to the six-lane highway. He is now completing certification that will allow him to work as an advocate for others as they make the transition into a new life in recovery. He is a living example that you can recover from this affliction and help others. In the end, aren’t we all the same? We all need someone, sometimes, and in our hearts we know who to call when we need to be lifted and loved. I’ll bet you’re thinking about someone right now… right? Today, I ask you to think about those flowers that grow in the evergreen garden of your emotional support system. Maybe you can reach out with a call or send a note or text. Post a pic of that great time that you shared when joy was the only goal and the moments of that day still inspire a smile or a tear of gratitude. Where would we be without our tribe members? What would life look like with no human connection?

When I first started this journey, I exchanged my barstool prophets for a different tribe. Each of them brings something unique to the table. We keep each other in check. We know how to approach one and other and do what we call a “buddy check.” At the end of the day, our common goal is sobriety.

Maybe this is the meaning of a life well lived. People. It’s not the houses, the jobs, the cars, the clothes or other stuff that we struggle and focus on. It’s the relationships we foster and support that add the true meaning to our lives.

I want positive people who aren’t afraid to tell it like it is. They don’t have to sugarcoat things for me. That would be dangerous to my sobriety. My tribe is my forever family. We keep each other in line, make awesome memories, and work through the hardest of times… together and sober.


Steady on,

// Reach Marc Lee Shannon at Photo: Angelo Merendino. Used with permission from Marc Lee Shannon. Editor’s note: Marc Lee Shannon holds the trademark to “Sober Chronicles.”

My friend Clyde is just one of the

April 2020 · Vol 6 · Issue #4

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An obituary writer mourns Northeast Ohio’s lost newspapers by Russ Musarra


leveland Press city editor Louis Clifford had some good advice for a young reporter when he assigned him to write obituaries in the early 1960s: “To our readers, especially the family and friends of the deceased, these are the most important stories we publish, so don’t screw them up.” Clifford wasn’t referring to the paid death notices. He was talking about the obituaries written daily by reporters at a time when the newspapers ran more than they do today. The reporter Clifford was talking to was me, and I was initially upset at getting the assignment – my first in the newsroom after a couple of years covering police news out of an office at the old Central Police Station in Cleveland. As he suggested, I grew to consider the obits mini biographies and discovered the assignment was great training for the countless people stories I got to write during my 44-year daily news career. I was at the Press 14 years to the day – Feb. 6, 1956 to Feb. 6, 1970 – and 30 years – also to the day – Feb. 9, 1970 to Feb. 9, 2000 – at the Akron Beacon Journal. The Beacon Journal, I was fascinated to learn, had bought its building at 44 E. Exchange St. in 1938, the year I was born. It had housed the old Akron Times-Press, which was published by Scripps-Howard newspaper chain, which also published the Cleveland Press. This eased my transition from Cleveland to Akron. For the record, this isn’t a story about me. It’s an obit of sorts about the newspaper industry, one I began writing in 1960

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while still working as a police reporter. I got a phone call from Clifford who said, “Get over to the News. We just bought ’em and put ’em out of business.” He was referring to the Cleveland News, which was a short walk from the police station, so I had to enter their newsroom – AKA enemy territory – and interview competitors who had just lost their jobs to my employer. The experience was a chapter in a tale that began for me at age 12 when I started my first job, delivering the Press. Living in a city with three daily papers I could have chosen to deliver the News or Plain Dealer, but my parents subscribed to the Press and I discovered as a very young reader that three of its reporters had gone to my alma mater, John Adams High School. Determined to work there, too, I applied for a job the day before my 18th birthday, spent three years as an office messenger – AKA copy boy – and became a reporter in 1959. Enough about me, except to say the job broadened my fascination with local history. Back to the obituary. The Press published its last edition on June 17, 1982. My yellowed copy of that final edition has a giant headline, PRESS HALTS PUBLICATION. A story that ran above that banner was headlined with a quote from publisher Joseph Cole, “We Gave It Our Best.” It’s best included Louis B. Seltzer, who hired on in 1916, became city editor the same year and earned the nickname Mr. Cleveland for his community involvement as editor-in-chief from 1928 until he retired in 1966. The Press began

publishing Nov. 2, 1878. Its plant for many years was at East 9th Street and Rockwell Avenue, then it moved to a new building on Lakeside Avenue. Cleveland’s early newspapers included the Daily Herald, which began in 1839 and became a weekly for 10 years beginning in 1843; the Herald and Gazette, the city’s second newspaper, which first published Oct. 19, 1819; and the Leader, which began as the Evening News in 1868, became the News and Herald, a daily and Sunday paper, when the Herald ceased publishing in 1885, and became the Cleveland News in 1905. The Plain Dealer began as a weekly on Jan. 7, 1842, started by Joseph Grayfield, who made it an evening daily in 1845. Liberty Holden bought it in 1885 and added morning and Sunday editions. Holden also owned the Hollenden Hotel at Superior Avenue and East 6th Street, served on Cleveland’s Building Committee, played an important role in development of Wade Park, Rockefeller Park and the Cleveland Museum of Art and was mayor of Bratenahl. Good obituaries always include survivors and this one includes the Plain Dealer and Beacon Journal, but both are struggling for survival. The Plain Dealer is still published seven days a week but since April 2013 has been home delivered only three days a week. The Beacon Journal’s last in-house publication at 44 E. Exchange was Nov. 11, 2013, after which it began printing at the Canton Repository. The staff moved to the AES Building at 388 South Main St. in Akron on Oct. 27, 2019.

April 2020 · Vol 6 · Issue #4

Akron’s newspaper legacy, like Cleveland’s, is fascinating when one considers the contributions of the Knight family. The Beacon Journal began in 1897 with the merger of the Summit Beacon, which began in 1839, and the Akron Evening Journal, which debuted in 1896. Charles Landon Knight bought it in 1903 and his son, John S. Knight, inherited the paper in 1933 and went on to create the Knight-Ridder Newspapers. What has happened since June 2006, when the McClatchy Company bought the Beacon from Knight-Ridder, demonstrates the crisis in the local daily news business’ struggle to carry on the legacy we so long enjoyed. McClatchy sold the paper to Black Press in August 2006. Black Press sold it to GateHouse Media in 2018, a year before that group merged with the Gannett Company. Obituaries often concluded with details of where friends may call. Perhaps this one should suggest we all call to subscribe before the newspapers cease publication. // Russ Musarra is a freelancer who retired in 2000 after 30 years of writing and editing for the Akron Beacon Journal and 14 years before that with the old Cleveland Press. Among his assignments were covering theater and the social scene in Akron and writing a monthly feature about walks in the community, which he did in partnership with artist Chuck Ayers for more than 25 years.



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