Black Girls Discover Glenville's Roots?

Anyone with history in Cleveland has a story to tell about their neighborhood. I bet, when families and old friends gather for the holidays, they discuss the house they grew up in, the street it was on, and that one neighbor who had it in for everybody!

Somewhere in our neighborhoods, there’s evidence of every generation that once occupied it - black, white, rich, poor, immigrant, citizen, welcomed and unwelcomed. I’m convinced that many of us don’t even care to look or bother to explore.

That’s what I took away from a special screening of the short documentary, From Superman to Super Fly, and Beyond! Monday (2/12/18) at the Glenville Exchanges, a series of public programs presented by Front International. Released in 2015 by Neighborhood Connections, produced and narrated by Neal Hodges, the documentary offers a peek into the history of Glenville.

 with Neal Hodges, documentary producer

with Neal Hodges, documentary producer

It was the stories, those told in the film and after, during the Q&A that made me realize I have to be more curious and interested in all of Cleveland’s neighborhoods and not just the ones we consider “cool” now. Cleveland is truly an interesting place, I’m finding out more, as I continue to explore it for Black Girl in the CLE.

For instance, I had no idea Glenville Village used to be a resort community for Cleveland’s upper echelon in the late 1800s, before it was annexed by Cleveland in 1905. Or that it was home to a horse track.  

Or that the building next to the Front Porch (venue where the screening took place) used to be a medical clinic ran by 9 black doctors who couldn’t practice down the street at Cleveland’s well known medical institutions back in the day.

Or that the iconic 1972 blaxplotation movie, Super Fly was based on the life of this flamboyant dude named Scatter, a prominent figure in Glenville’s black community, I believe in the 60s. In fact, the movie had a deep connection to Glenville, including the film’s screenwriter, Phillip Fenty and the lead role played by Ron O’Neal, both Glenville High School graduates.

(Someone in the audience mentioned the book Surrogate Suburbs: Black Upward Mobility and Neighborhood Change in Cleveland, 1900–1980 by Tom Michney. I’ve added to my 2018 reading list. Oh and check out WCPNs interview with Michney  from last fall.)

Anyone with roots in Cleveland, has a story, from their perspective, experience, era, and of course, neighborhood.

Memorable, heart-wrenching, funny, controversial, inspirational, complicated, hopeful stories.

Some of that hope is sprinkled throughout the documentary. It showcases modern-day superheroes, serving to elevate Glenville after suffering what some would call “urban decay” over the past few decades. Why “and Beyond”, pointed out during the discussion, concludes the title of the film.

 Program Director of Front International, Arlene Watson (pictured left)

Program Director of Front International, Arlene Watson (pictured left)

From Superman to Super Fly and Beyond

In case you didn’t know, the creators of Superman were from Glenville too. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, two Jewish teenagers, created the iconic Man of Steel. It’s theorized that Superman was created because one of their fathers was killed in his clothing store during the Depression in the 1930s. Read the story here

Watch the documentary for yourself and know that it’s only touching the surface of exposing the legacy of one of Cleveland’s oldest neighborhoods. Think of how many other neighborhoods in our beloved city have stories that some of us know nothing about let alone care about.

Learn more about Front International and Neighborhood Connections and how they’ve been creating space for these important exchanges.  


Do you have any memorable, heart-wrenching, funny, controversial, inspirational, complicated, or hopeful stories about a Cleveland neighborhood? Share them in the comments. We all need to know.