Richardson: The Midwest MeccaWritten by Rachel Richardson | | firstname.lastname@example.org
If not for art and activism, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself in Toledo. Good thing the city is so rich with each that I don’t need to go looking for ways to spend my time. In varied ways, I am able to participate in both. Sometimes I’m an artist. Sometimes I’m an activist. Sometimes I’m a promoter and enthusiast of other people’s art and activism.
Recently, I traveled to Colorado to see the mountains and spent two days in Denver (quite the art town in its own right) meeting and talking to all kinds of people about what we’ve got going on around here. I worked into every conversation with my new friends that “Toledo is a Midwest Mecca for change and creativity.” I invited everyone to come and visit and see all the action in Toledo. And when I came home, I saw nothing but the heart, potential and hard work being tirelessly done in this magical city that I had been talking about.
True, we have a few holes to fill in yet. But, we are well on our way to peak vibrancy. I brought several ideas home with me from my trip for art programs to add to the development of UpTown and Downtown and got to work on them straight away. Not surprisingly, I was able to make immediate measurable progress with every encounter (planned or otherwise) that had to do with these initiatives.
Everyone I talked to was excited about the prospects and each in their own way said, “Yes.” Either they added input I would have never considered, or they offered help, or they led me to the next person to say “yes.”
Again, I was not surprised by this because every time I try to make improvements to my community through art, the people and systems who could potentially make it difficult to do so by naysaying or putting up roadblocks simply do not — they see how crucial it is that we love and invest in this place. If we don’t, everyone is going to leave.
So, luckily, all is well on the art front. Juxtapose that with the activism front and it’s a really good thing I have both. For my own sanity’s sake, I need to see that at least one of my careers is actually making a difference. If you’ve been keeping up with the state of domestic violence in Toledo, you may know that Independent Advocates released a Domestic Violence Courtwatch Report in June. You can find it at www.iatoledo.org. You may also know that in 2010, in Toledo Municipal Court, where the vast majority of domestic violence criminal cases are handled, there is an 82 percent rate of dismissal. Historically, the reason given by the court for this statistic is victim failure to appear.
If you talk to the actual people who are living in the violence that brings their lives into the courthouse, and beyond that, the people who do appear in court for upwards of six hearings on a case that eventually results in increased personal danger and minimal consequences for their abusers, you will hear them say, “I understand why people don’t come to court.”
Other communities have faced these same challenges and have seen drastic improvements with the implementation of dedicated domestic violence dockets. Three-hundred jurisdictions around the country have created domestic violence dockets and have seen increased victim participation as well as reduced rates of repeat offenses.
The Courtwatch Report details funding opportunities that are available for a dedicated docket as well as an Ohio Supreme Court program that will assist Toledo Municipal Court in the implementation of it. And yet, the court continues to say, “No.” In 1987, a housing court was established to streamline cases and to be presided over by one judge elected to the position. We are told that similar plans are being considered for a veterans court.
Why not a domestic violence court? If you’re as curious as I, why not ask them? Activism is often as easy as making a phone call or writing a letter. It’s practically your responsibility as a Toledoan living in this city of art and activism.
Rachel Richardson is an activist, musician, co-founder and co-director of Independent Advocates, and a product of Toledo, Ohio. Email her at email@example.com.