Front of Cincinnati City Hall. Photo by John Alexander Reese

By Anthony B. Johnson

Herald Contributor

During both the Thursday, February 18, meeting and the Wednesday, February 24, meeting of City Council, members unanimously passed Councilmember Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney’s resolutions to publicly recognize five community leaders and one organization that have made a tremendous impact on Cincinnati. 

The six Black History Month 2021 honorees are Renee Mahaffey Harris, Pastor Damon Lynch III, Joe Mallory, Dr. O’dell Moreno Owens, Iris Roley, and the University of Cincinnati Black Round Table. Each has worked to better the livelihood of residents by advocating for justice and equity in regard to public health, police reform and economic empowerment, Kearney said.

Renee Mahaffey Harris:

●   As President and CEO of the Center for Closing the Health Gap, Harris fights to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in public health through intentional and impactful programming and community outreach.

●   Organizes the annual Health Expo by Center for Closing the Health Gap, which serves more than 14,000 people each year.

●   Launched the Black Women’s Health Movement whose purpose is to empower and improve the health outcomes of Black women in Cincinnati.

●   Serves as a member of Ohio Gov. Mike Dewine’s COVID-19 Minority Strike Force.

●   Member of the National Council of Black Health Ohio Statewide Health Disparities Collaborative and the Greater Cincinnati Oral Health Coalition.

●   Notable Awards: UC Health MLK Humanitarian Award, Cincinnati Herald Nefertiti Award, Ebony Magazine’s 50 Leaders of the Future.

“The work of Renee Mahaffey Harris is so important to the wellbeing of Cincinnati residents,” Kearney said. “She works hard to make sure that health outcomes are not tied to race, gender, or ZIP code.”

Renee Mahaffey Harris. Photo provided

Pastor Damon Lynch III:

●   A lifetime Cincinnatian and champion for the people.

●   Presides over New Prospect Baptist Church as senior Pastor, where he has dedicated more than three decades of service.

●   One of the leaders who created the Collaborative Agreement, which is viewed as the national model for community policing.

●   Serves as President and CEO of the Community Economic Advancement Initiative (CEAI), which develops and executes strategies to empower Black communities through targeted efforts focused on safety, health, and education.

●   Author of Becoming Joshua, a faith-based book centered on economic freedom and progress for the Black] community.

●   Supports AMOS Project, Collaborative Agreement Refresh, and Opiate Coalition of Hamilton County.

“Pastor Lynch has continued to be a positive force for change in Cincinnati and across the country. I’m happy that the City is publicly recognizing his tireless leadership in driving economic stability and safety for the Black community,” said Kearney.

Pastor Damon Lynch III. Photo provided

Dr. O’dell Moreno Owens:

●   Plans to retire from his position as President and CEO of Interact for Health next month, having played a key role in the regional effort to reduce disparities in public health.

●   Earned an MD and a master’s of public health at Yale University Medical School.

●  Completed a residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Yale University Medical School and a fellowship in reproductive endocrinology at Harvard Medical School.

●   Pioneer in in vitro science: established an in vitro fertilization program at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center and was the first to orchestrate a successful pregnancy and delivery from a frozen embryo.

●   Elected Hamilton County Coroner where he used his platform to educate youth about violence.

●   Served as President of Cincinnati State Technical and Community College.

●   Representative on the Ohio Governor Mike Dewine’s COVID-19 Minority Strike Force.

●   Has served on the boards of Cincinnati Preschool Promise, the Cincinnati Fire Foundation, and the Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

“Cincinnati is lucky to have such a passionate, knowledgeable leader working in public health,” says Kearney. “Dr. Owens’ leadership, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, has been essential for spreading awareness about public health and addressing the many health challenges that we face as a community.”

Dr. O’dell Moreno Owens. Photo provided

Joe Mallory:

●   Committed to eradicating racial discrimination and promoting racial equity.

●   Served in the United States Navy, Hamilton County Board of Elections administrator, and as Vice Mayor of Forest Park.

●   Serves as President of the Cincinnati NAACP, and previously as First Vice President.

●   Leads Cincinnati NAACP’s programs focused on racial equity, including the Committee on Criminal Justice, Truth 2 Power Podcast, and the Youth and College Division.

“Joe Mallory’s dedication to achieving racial equity has been so impactful to our city. The Cincinnati NAACP is in good hands under his leadership and will continue to play a key role in the fight for social, racial and economic justice in our region,” Kearney said.

Joe Mallory. Photo provided

Iris Roley:

●   Unyielding activist in criminal justice and a Cincinnati native.

●   Deeply involved in the Cincinnati Black United Front since its inception: as Project Manager, Roley mobilized Cincinnati residents to collect over 400 instances of police misconduct and brutality as well as launched a plan of action in response to two Black men who died in Cincinnati PD custody.

●   Helped spur the Collaborative Agreement and Memorandum of Understanding between the City of Cincinnati and U.S. Dept. of Justice. Served as a consultant to multiple stakeholders in NYC to end the NY Police Department’s unconstitutional “Stop and Frisk” policies.

●   Currently serves on the board of AMOS Project, City of Cincinnati City Manager’s Advisory Board (MAG), and Unofficial Juvenile Court in Madisonville.

“Iris Roley is a force to be reckoned with,” says Kearney. ‘I’m very appreciative of her unwavering commitment to make Cincinnati a safe place to live for all.”

Iris Roley. Photo provided

The Black Roundtable:

●   Composed of more than 20 student-led organizations and aims to serve as a platform to petition for institutional change. Student-leader, Kish Richardson, led the formation of this groundbreaking coalition.

●   Formally submitted 10 tangible demands to the University of Cincinnati Administration that call for fostering a more safe and equitable campus for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) students. Their work has resulted in there being amendments made to the University of Cincinnati Police Department’s collective bargaining agreement.

●  Helped establish the Ohio Black Student Association — an organization that advocates for the advancement of Black students statewide.

Kish Richardson. Photo provided

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