Cleveland's obvious roots

The African-American experience in Cleveland is at the heart of our region’s most important issues. Blacks make up more than half the population of the city’s core. But Cleveland is still one of the most segregated places in America, according to the 2000 census.

Addressing the community issues before us — be they the city worker residency requirement, casino gambling, suburban sprawl, retail shopping or public transportation — hinges on the ability of the region’s diverse populations to better understand each other.

And we have national integration models, Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights, right in our own back yard to learn from. (According to the census, the number of residents living in racial isolation in those suburbs dropped: Cleveland Heights, for example, changed from 11.3 percent in 1990 to 6.9 percent in 2000.)

Living in Northeast Ohio provides countless opportunities to experience the heritage of other cultures from sampling international cuisine at Cleveland’s outstanding ethnic neighborhood festivals to accessible and affordable arts events highlighting our region’s heritage.

This month, celebrate Cleveland’s ties to Africa as Alvin Ailey Dance Theater and Children of Uganda visit Playhouse Square Center, and jazz pianist Randy Weston brings his “African Rhythms” to this month’s Tri-C JazzFest.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater This world-renowned dance company mixes popular music, gospel and jazz with high-energy modern dance/ballet fusions. The company has earned a reputation as an ambassador of American culture whenever it performs. Shows are April 7 and 8 at 7:30 p.m. and April 9 at 3:30 p.m. Playhouse Square Center, Palace Theatre, 1615 Euclid Ave, (216) 241-6000,

Children of Uganda Experience the inspiring history, legends and beliefs of East Africa through the performance of this powerful dance company, which is comprised of 20 members age 8 to 18. Accompanied by traditional instruments, the troupe delivers an exuberant performance The New York Times hailed as “first rate.” Catch it April 8 at 11 a.m. at Playhouse Square Center’s Allen Theatre. 1407 Euclid Avenue, (216) 241-6000,

Randy Weston’s African Rhythms For years pianist Randy Weston has charmed audiences with his rhythmic grooves and rich, melodic jazz. Cleveland writer Langston Hughes once wrote, “When Randy Weston plays, a combination of strength and gentleness, virility and velvet emerges from the keys in an ebb and flow of sound, seemingly as natural as the waves of the sea.” Call (216) 987-4400 for tickets to the April 27 performance at Tri-C Metro Campus Auditorium, 2900 Community College Ave. The April 28 concert is free at Playhouse Square Center, State Theatre, 1519 Euclid Ave., n

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