One year after Cleveland City Council unanimously passed legislation to create a commission to improve the quality of life for Black women and girls, council members say they are still in the process of finalizing appointees. 

The 14-member commission, which was championed by Mayor Justin Bibb and council last June, is supposed to guide the administration on programs and legislation that would benefit Black women and families. The commission will have 12 appointed members and two elected officials or their representatives. 

The city created the panel after Cleveland was ranked one of the worst places for Black women to live by a City Lab Livable Index study. Bibb declared addressing the quality of life for Black women one of his priorities in his first 100 days in office. 

Bibb and council each get to pick six members, who are supposed to represent a variety of backgrounds and experiences.

On Monday, the mayor’s office identified its first five picks to the commission, according to a letter released to Signal Cleveland in response to a records request. It named the following people: 

Kathryn Hall – Representative from the business community

Rev. Lisa Goods – Representative from the faith community

Anastasia Elder- Representative from a college or university

Shameka Jones Taylor – Representative from pre-school, primary, and/or

secondary school

Lita-Marie Wills – Mayor’s designee

Council Member Stephanie Howse had not yet seen the mayor’s picks but said council has also selected people for the commission. She said council is still looking for a health representative to complete its list. (Council did not release the names of their appointees to Signal Cleveland because it had not yet notified the individuals of their appointments.) 

Since this commission is the first of its kind in the city, the selection process and commission doesn’t include rules or guidelines in place, which has caused strain in communication between both mayoral and council appointee committees, Howse said.

“When it comes to the commission, I want to focus on the mission of this group and how it will benefit the greater community,” Howse said. “I don’t want to focus on the political. I want us to collectively show this group and be mindful of how we present this commission to the wider community.” 

Chinenye Nkemere, co-founder of Enlightened Solutions, a social advocacy think tank that created Project Noir and a member of Bibb’s transition team, spoke about the delay in creating the commission during the public comment period of a recent City Council meeting.

“We should not have to repeatedly show up to ensure that an already passed legislation, you all passed this legislation, is actually carried through,” she said. 

This story was updated to provide the correct name of Nkemere’s organization. The organization name is Enlightened Solutions not Project Noir.

Health Reporter (she/her)
Candice, a Cleveland Documenter since 2020, has been a freelance writer whose reporting and digital media work have appeared in The Daily Beast, VICE, Cleveland Magazine and elsewhere. She has written about health, equity and social justice.