By Cecil Lipscomb, executive director, United Black Fund of Greater Cleveland
“We the people” … three words with so much depth.
At its core, the phrase is collaborative, creates anticipation, implies power and acknowledges humanity. As we settle into Northeast Ohio’s crisp February weather, let us also settle into the significance of February being Black History Month; and in that context, “We the people.”
This is a month set apart to acknowledge the richness of African and African-American citizens shaping the United States of America and Canada. America’s true beauty is present in its diversity of season, landscape, culture and people. It is in this spirit that we would like to acknowledge the 30-plus years of collective work between United Way of Greater Cleveland and the United Black Fund of Greater Cleveland (UBF) to improve the quality of life for African Americans in Greater Cleveland.
What is the United Black Fund of Greater Cleveland
Established in 1981, the UBF was created by the late Judge George White and a host of concerned community leaders to assist and empower Clevelanders in some of our most challenged communities. He modeled the organization after Dr. Calvin Rolark’s United Black Fund of America in Washington, DC.
Within a few years, Judge White and UBF’s staff were working collaboratively with United Way of Greater Cleveland to address issues of poverty and began breaking down barriers to success in the African American community. Ruby Terry, UBF’s longtime Executive Director, chaired United Way committees, worked with other United Way Federated Partners and coordinated joint community work.
Since 1984, United Way has provided an estimated $19 million that has benefitted African American-led and governed organizations doing exceptional work in Northeast Ohio’s diverse communities. This powerful effort, with the strong support of United Way, has helped ensure resources are provided to thousands of qualified nonprofits, influencing tens of thousands of people in our region.
Making an impact in our community
In this new era of social service delivery and philanthropic impact models, both United Way and the United Black Fund maintain an unwavering commitment to our collaborative work in Cleveland’s African American community.
For example, investing in workforce development efforts is a necessary beginning at the school level. Thanks to a host of partners, including United Way of Greater Cleveland, PNC, and the Ohio Department of Education, UBF initiated a computer-coding curriculum at Richmond Heights Schools for grades 5 – 12. This program makes use of mentors and enables students to learn not only the basics of coding, but robotics, project management and life development skills. We are mentoring with the purpose of preparing our children for next generation-level careers.
“We the people” … as we celebrate Black History Month in Cleveland, let us not only reflect on the contributions made by generations of African Americans throughout history, but let us also applaud the milestones that continue to be made due to the great work of our many nonprofits and sponsors throughout Greater Cleveland. They are the people and organizations who ensure that we continue to fight the disparities, inequalities and injustices that still linger.
About Cecil Lipscomb
Cecil Lipscomb is the Executive Director of the United Black Fund of Greater Cleveland, Inc. (UBF). Founded in 1981, United Black Fund of Greater Cleveland (UBF) is a charitable organization that provides financial (grants) and technical support to neighborhood-based organizations offering a full range of health and human service programs for the residents of Cleveland’s African American and lower-income communities. Prior to this, Mr. Lipscomb was Senior Director of Institutes at Cleveland Clinic and worked as Director of Fundraising for Case Western Reserve University’s School of Engineering. Before 2004, he worked in commercial and government sales, management, and marketing in the telecommunications sector for 10 years with two Fortune 100 companies who eventually merged to create Verizon.
He currently serves as 2nd Vice Chair, Board of Directors at Eliza Bryant Village. Eliza Bryant Village is the oldest continually operating African American long-term care facility in the United States. He also serves on the Friends of Breakthrough Schools Board, which is the highest-performing network of free, public charter schools in Ohio.
Mr. Lipscomb received his undergraduate degree from Ursuline College, his MBA from Weatherhead School of Management, and certificate of nonprofit management from Mandel Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Case Western Reserve University.