ERS residents, team members screen ‘America’s Truth,’ about institutional racism in Cincinnati and America, contemplate what to do about it

ERS residents, team members screen ‘America’s Truth,’ about institutional racism in Cincinnati and America, contemplate what to do about it

ERS residents, team members screen ‘America’s Truth,’ about institutional racism in Cincinnati and America, contemplate what to do about it

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Cincinnati has a history of discriminating by using race and place

ERS is screening the documentary "America's Truth" on four dates to observe Juneteenth.

About 50 residents of Episcopal Retirement Services’ Deupree House and Marjorie P. Lee continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs), ERS team members, as well as family members and community partners gathered Wednesday for a screening of a sobering documentary, “America’s Truth,” about pervasive institutional racism in America, and Cincinnati in particular.

The documentary looks at how racially biased decisions since the mid-20th century harmed four areas of Greater Cincinnati, where mostly Black residents live. The film shows how racially biased decisions by public officials and companies harmed three neighborhoods within the city of Cincinnati – the West End, Avondale, and Kennedy Heights – plus the village of Lincoln Heights.

Stinging truths

“America’s Truth” was created by George Washington University’s Center for Community Resilience and notes that while Cincinnati is on the border between the country’s northern and southern states, it is typical of many parts of the country where government officials and others have made race-based decisions that were hugely detrimental to Black residents. Those decisions continue to have lasting impacts on such life factors as decreased lifespans, increased diseases, and lost financial opportunities.

The documentary detailed various decisions through the years that have displaced Black residents, made it more difficult for them to own their homes, and created other barriers to improved lives.

On average, white families have 10 times as much wealth as Black ones, largely because of factors such as home ownership. Within the Black community in Cincinnati, who make up 40 percent of the city's population, fewer than one-third own their homes, compared with two-thirds of white families. That significantly impacts financial success because home ownership is the primary way Americans pass along wealth to future generations and pay for things like retirement and their children's education.

Government housing policies since the mid-1900s made it more difficult for Blacks to own their homes, and in cases where they succeeded in doing so, policies also dictated less advantageous financial terms, which made it more difficult for Black families to move up the economic ladder.

It is Truths like this and many others that are shared in the documentary that make this film so powerful.

ERS screened “America’s Truth” as part of its We Can Do Better initiative, which President and CEO Laura Lamb launched in 2020 in response to the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. RELATED: We Can Do Better: A Letter from ERS President and CEO Laura Lamb.

ERS will present three more screenings as part of its observance of Juneteenth – the day the last enslaved people in the United States were freed on June 19, 1865 – almost 2½ years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

Those screenings, which are open to the public in person and via a Zoom online meeting, will be:

  • Monday (June 19), 2:30-4:30 p.m. at ERS’ St. Paul Village affordable-living campus, 5515 Madison Road, Cincinnati, OH 45227;
  • Wednesday (June 21), 2:30-4:30 p.m. at ERS’ Maple Knoll Meadows affordable-living campus, 11050 Springfield Pike, Cincinnati, OH 45246; and
  • Thursday (June 22), 10 a.m. to noon at Episcopal Church Home’s Grille 75, 7504 Westport Road, Louisville, KY 40222.
    (To attend one of the screenings virtually, contact Emily Lorentz at 513.979.2223 or for a Zoom link.)

Time of reflection

After the documentary was shown, a sense of deep reflection filled the Event Center at Deupree House, with some in the audience expressing surprise at the depth of the human tragedy they had seen, by the racist actions, and how the decisions harmed the communities in such areas as housing, education, jobs and lack of personal wealth.

Jimmy Wilson, ERS’ vice president for affordable living, led a discussion afterward and asked viewers to reflect on things they can do in response to what they saw. He also offered to speak with participants who wanted to discuss the subject later.

Wilson, after Wednesday’s gathering, said that after each of the final three screenings, he and others will evaluate input they receive from viewers to consider what response ERS, its residents, and team members might take to improve things.

“Now that we see this, now what?” Wilson said. “How do we redress this? What are we willing as a community to do to right this? Tough questions.”

Lamb encouraged people to share the online documentary with others in their families, friend groups and church groups as a way to begin conversations that can lead to societal improvements.

"We can make an impact," Lamb said. "Just by sharing the video, to start that conversation that as Jimmy said is precipitating change in our city right now. So we can be part of that."

She thanked those who attended, telling them: "I think your presence speaks volumes about your desire to help us change."

More about We Can Do Better

As part of We Can Do Better, ERS has made it a focus to help BIPOC employees (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) advance in the organization. The Lauren Brown Empowerment Fund aids BIPOC team members overcome barriers in attaining education and other steps they need to move ahead at work and in life generally. More information about the Lauren Brown Empowerment Fund can be found here.

Here is a link to the We Can Do Better Scorecard.

ERS also has created a BIPOC Affinity Group for team members to continue the work of the We Can Do Better initiative, which is to have difficult discussions about the pain racism causes and how racial bias is inflicted on people who are economically under-represented in American society and within the organization. As we do this work, we can learn and do better to improve the lives and work environment of our BIPOC team members. In addition to BIPOC team members, allies are welcome to make a difference as well. An ally is someone who is not a member of an underrepresented group and who wants to support, promote, and advance change for a marginalized group through a focus on inclusion, equity, and diversity.


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Kristin Davenport

Kristin Davenport

Kristin Davenport is the Director of Communications for Episcopal Retirement Services (ERS). Kristin leads ERS’s efforts to share stories that delight and inspire through social media, online content, annual reports, magazines, newsletters, public re... Read More >

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